Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At the crack of noon

I got up bright and early. It's trash day and I don't want to miss hauling my stuff to the road. To prevent bears and other animals from tearing up the bags they always go out at the last minute. Putting bags out the night before would guarantee a mess in the morning.

A mixture of rain and hail was coming down. I hauled in more fuel for the woodstove. After coffee, breakfast and a few chores I went right back to bed. Since I've been sick my sleep schedule is all over the place. With no need to be anyplace, going to sleep when tired just makes sense.

Waking up at the crack of noon I was confused at first. It was darker than it was at 7 a. m.. The clouds thickened up and we have freezing rain. Thought I'd better get this blog post out there while I still can. These are the conditions that take down the local grid. While I'd still have my off-grid power, the Internet would go down.

The roads are ice covered. Some folks are staying home from work. My granddaughter stayed home from school. Last I checked it should end by late afternoon. Hope it does. That would give the salt crews time to sort out the roads.

Hope things clear by this evening. It's pool night at my cousin's and I hate to miss it. I've got my priorities after all.

It might seem foolish to got out at all, but if you wait for perfect conditions you never go anywhere in the winter. This might change to snow and that would be better. Driving on snow is a skill I learned before I had a driver's license. Ice on the other hand can be just impossible.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Before the snow

My motorcycle's been sitting in my driveway. That was supposed to be a temporary stop until I could move it into the basement. Then I got sick and everything got pushed back. It even snowed a couple of times. Due to some mild rain there was only about an inch of snow on the ground.

Since I'm feeling somewhat better I went back to my motorcycle project. In the morning I was able to clear a path to the basement. I pushed the bike across the lawn and down a couple of stairs, where it decided to hang up. Rather than over extend myself the kickstand came down and the bike stayed right there. I was pretty beat. No sense in doing something tricky when I'm not even feeling 100% yet.

I knew a friend of mine was working in the area and wondered if he could come over to help. Cell phone service is pretty sketchy where he was working so I wasn't sure he'd get my message. As it turned out he only had enough signal to register he missed a call. Being in the area he just dropped in.

He was also pretty frozen so I gave him a couple cups of tea by the woodstove. Outside work can be brutal when it's cold. Once he warmed up we were able to move the motorcycle the last 20 feet or so into the basement.

That was a huge relief for me. With more snow and frozen mix only hours away I was worried about ever getting the bike under cover. My lovely wife even suggested wrapping it up in tarps and giving up on it until spring.

Now I'll be able to work on the bike over the winter. In the spring the bike can be driven up some ramps and back onto the road. The bike will need more elbow grease than money so it's a good project for me.

Looking forward to road trips in the spring.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Electric needs change

A buddy of mine called me up the other day. He needed some advice on alternative energy systems. About six or seven years ago I helped him set up an off grid solar electric system. That generally worked out pretty well for him for a number of years. Like anything else, there's a learning curve, but he sorted it out.

Fast forward to now. When he built his off grid house it was just him and his wife. She had a full time job and was out of the house most days. Then they had a child. His wife quit her job and spent a lot of time at home with the baby. Their electrical usage shot up quite a bit. He had a generator to top off the batteries, but sometimes he was away for work and batteries got drawn down very low. That's bad for lead acid batteries and shortens their life.

He's got a good plan to expand the system to meet the increased needs. I gave him what knowledge I had to share. They'll be fine. Fortunately solar panels have come way way down in price.

The thing about off grid living is that you are you own power company. If you need more power, you have to either find a way to make more or reduce your usage. If you don't do those things you'll be sitting in the dark.

It's different when you are tied to the grid. All you have to do is pay more. How many of us have gotten the surprise electric bill? That bill that comes out of nowhere and is three times what you normally use? That happened to me before I put in the solar electric. My well pump had developed a crack in a hose fitting inside the well. The pump would turn on constantly as the system lost pressure. Water at the house was slightly reduced, but not enough to cause alarm so the problem wasn't caught right off.

Due to the excessive number of duty cycles the pump burned out. That was bad enough. Then the electric bill came in and it was more expensive than the pump was. Talk about adding insult to injury. Now my pump is wired up to the solar electric system. If there's an excessive power draw it will show up on my meters and can be dealt with right away.

Being totally off grid has its challenges, but the honking big surprise electric bill isn't one of them.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Things you should know about Canada

Recently there's been a lot of talk about going to Canada. Sadly, not too many Americans know anything about Canada is run. I thought I'd present this little informative youtube to help?


Saturday, November 26, 2016

We aren't out of the woods yet

Thank God for that. Okay, I'm a bit twisted, but hear me out. The normal usage of “out of the woods,” means things like out of danger, difficulty, trouble, and so on. So if someone is out of the woods, they are now safe.

To me that's totally backwards. The woods are my safe place. There's nothing like the warm embrace of a deep dark forest. There's trees for shelter and heat. Water is usually nearby. There's edible plants and animals. It's a cornucopia of goodness. With a few simple tools all a person's basic needs can be taken care of. With the right knowledge and a bit of luck you won't even need the tools. You could start with a sharp rock and end up with a comfortable cabin with a warm fire burning in the hearth.

If you are coming out of the woods that must mean your coming into the city. Cities are full of rules, dangerous people, and tightly controlled resources. If you are willing to play by those rules one can survive and maybe even thrive. It's the price we pay for things like science, high art, literature, and all that jazz. Civilization has its perks, but it does separate us from our roots and a simple easy way of living. Almost all of us pay the price because that's about the only way to survive in the modern world. Few even feel their chains.

Now I know living in a more primitive world had its downsides. There's a reason we gave up on that way of life. Actually, we probably didn't have a choice. The greater populations sustainable by agriculture and civilization overwhelmed more primitive societies by numbers alone.

Be that as it may, the woods still call to me. They are my happy place. Thank goodness they are right out my door.

Of course, there's another idiom that makes more sense to me: Head for the hills. Good advice in troubled times. If there's a lot of woods there in those hills, even better.


Friday, November 25, 2016

The one reason to shop on Black Friday

There's only one good reason to shop on Black Friday: practice for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Zombie Apocalypse is used here as short hand for any major disaster: hurricane, currency collapse, impending war, or even big winter storms. The idea is that there is some sort of threat and everyone will be running to the stores to stock up.

Year after year we hear horror stories about people's bad behavior during Black Friday. Shoppers have trampled people to death and didn't even stop. Pretty horrific when you consider that it's all for silly things like a good deal on a flat screen TV.

Now imagine if they were shopping for essentials like food and water. If people throw out all decency for useless crap that's on sale, how will they behave when life and death supplies are on the line?

If you plan on waiting for the last minute to do your disaster shopping, might as well get some practice in this Friday, when little is at stake. You might get roughed up or even killed, but remember, it'll be worse when people are shopping for last can of beans.

As for myself, I'd rather eat tree bark than shop on Black Friday. Fortunately, I've got a few cans of beans in storage so I don't need the practice.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No gifts. No funny hats. You don't' have to sing a song. I love it.

There's something special about a holiday that only requires some good food, good people and a sense of gratitude.

I'm very grateful that I'm finally feeling well enough to be with people again. Wednesday I woke up feeling mostly better. Still had the occasional cough, but much milder and a lot fewer of them. I survived with a mixture of over the counter medicine and herbal remedies. The regular meds give some relief from the symptoms and the herbal stuff supports the immune system.

One of the neat things about having kids is that one day they grow up and hold holidays at their houses. After almost two weeks of being sick my house is a wreck. Thank goodness we are going over to one of my daughters to celebrate. One more thing to be grateful for.

I wish all my readers a safe and happy Thanksgiving -even if you aren't an American and don't celebrate the holiday. I'm grateful to have you guys too.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

No more features please

So my credit union just sent me an e-mail. They are adding all kinds of “features” to my debit card. Lord save me now. All they are going to do is to make it harder to access my own freaking money. Their current features are bad enough.

Normally I'm accessing my card on-line from all over the place. Since March I've been doing all my financial stuff from either at their offices or from home. About once a week, for whatever reason, the enhanced security features are tripped. They claim they are detecting unusual activity, but absolutely nothing has changed.

Instead of just being able to do my business, I've got to jump through all kinds of security hoops. Their long list of security questions are a royal pain: What's my favorite food? Where did I go to college? What's my wife's middle name? What was the middle name of that little girl who sat three seats away from you in third grade? What's the difference between an octopus? Really hate those silly questions.

Then they have to show me a bunch of pictures and I've got to remember exactly which species of woodpecker I picked for my security pic. Was is the Pileated or the Ladder Back? What am I, a biologist?

If they'd have kept the exact same layout from 1995 I would have been happy. I don't care if it looks like the display from a Commodore 64, I learned how to use it once and that should be enough. If you want me to retrain all the darn time, pay me for my time.

One National bank that I do business with is even worse. For years I dealt with them completely on-line. Then one day I was tired and muffed their security questions and was locked out of the site. Eventually, after going through phone center hell, I got a real live human on the line. She was giving me all kinds of grief. Finally I told here that if they really don't me to pay my bill that's fine with me. She relented and I was able to make the payment -once.

After that, the only way I've been able to pay them is by physical paper check, just like the pioneers. I thought of going through the trouble of reestablishing my on-line access, but gave up on the idea. Now all I do is make sure that bill is the very last one that's going to get paid. They've become number one on my list of companies who'll be stiffed when the budget gets tight. I find joy where I can.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Snow falling on cedars

. . . and hemlocks, and spruces, and pines, and birches, and maples, and beech . . . yeah, it's just snowing around here. It doesn't look like a just snow in the morning and melt in the afternoon sort of thing either. Such is life in the Great North Woods.

I'm slowly recovering from that nasty chest cold. In a day or two I should be well enough to handle a snow shovel. This past week or so it's been all I could do to haul another bundle of bio bricks inside for the woodstove. Actually, some days my lovely wife hauled them in. They are just heavy enough that she uses a dolly to wheel them in. Clever girl. She's been really pushing through her fibromyalgia to get things done. Hope she doesn't hurt herself.

The last good week of decent weather appears to have passed by while I've been sick. The last few outdoor projects are now going to take four times as long. Snow, ice and cold complicate everything. For me, one of the worse is that I've a motorcycle in the driveway covered in show. It should have been in the basement by now. Without snow on the ground I probably could have done the job alone. Now it's going to take three men and a strong boy.

On the bright side, black flies are down to a bare minimum. There's much to be said for all the creepy crawlies dying by the billions every winter. Fire ants don't survive around here. Neither does your average cockroach.

Snow on the ground has eliminated any forest fire danger. That's something to be thankful for. A good snow pack will also reduce the chance of spring fires. If having to shovel is the cost of not burning down, I'll gladly pay it.

If the ski areas can open in time for the Thanksgiving holiday that's a big deal. Should be a good year for them. I'm just down the road from the cross country ski trails of the Nansen Ski Club, the oldest ski club in America. They rely completely on natural snow.

Another bright side to fresh snow is that things have suddenly gotten really quiet around the lake. I'm not the only one being shut down by the weather. It's peaceful.

Part of me is actually looking forward to playing in the snow. It's been years. With any luck I'll be healthy enough to enjoy it.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Gunshots and chaos next door

The sound of gunshots are not all that unusual in these parts. Everyone's has guns and it's fun to shoot them. What bothered me was that fact that it was almost dark. Either something really needed shooting or someone was being irresponsible. Judging from the party that went on down by the lake last night I'm guessing irresponsible. Could be wrong, but that's how I'd bet.

Normally the cottage down by the lake does not have late night parties. They are normally loud people, but not late at night. Siblings inherited the property when their parents passed on. Everything they do around the property requires loud discussions. They aren't even arguing, they just have to talk loud about everything. Outside of being loud they aren't really bad neighbors. Our buildings are far enough away that the sound is normally muffled quite a bit. Besides, they don't live there full time and only use the place occasionally.

Last night, however, the really pulled out the stops. The leaves are off the trees so sound carries better than it does in the summer. My lovely wife asked if I was playing music downstairs. Wasn't me, it was the neighbors. Pretty impressive as the house has 6 inch thick insulated walls which normally keeps things quiet.

I happened to wake up at 3:30 a. m. and they were still going at it. An hour later they finally seemed to be winding down. The weather is turning cold. Yesterday was probably the last time they could use the place until spring. Their water line will soon freeze. As soon as it snows the driveway will be impassable. It's so steep that vehicles get stuck when the weather's nice. Last night was probably an end of the season blow out party. Now they will be quiet for at least 6 months.

Other people near enough to be considered neighbors are still doing a lot of heavy equipment work. A guy bought the land down the road from me and his daughter has the place across the street. They seriously altered the land. I've property lots across the street. They excavated right up to the line. What they don't realize is that it had been an unusually dry year for here. During wet years that area has many small surface streams. Their excavation is going to turn into a vernal pool.

My lovely wife's been concerned about our shallow well. We dropped off water samples at a testing lab to see if their excavations caused any contamination. I will be very put out if it did. As it is I upgraded to a better whole house water filter. There seems to be more silt in the water, shortening filter life. I'm hoping the cold snap will put an end to their excessive heavy equipment use.

Most of my land doesn't even directly border these people. I'm just glad I didn't sell the vacant lots across the street from me. No doubt they would have bulldozed everything flat there too.

The place across the street used to be owned by one of my uncles. Unfortunately when he died it the property moved out of the family. Too bad my budget was always too tight to buy more land. I got used to it almost always being quiet here. This past weekend it was everything but.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Friends and soup

It's become apparent that social media actually makes us less connected to people. You know how it is, 300 happy birthdays on Facebook but no one calls or knocks on your door.

There's that old saying: Good friends help you move. Really good friends help you move bodies. It's great to have that kind of friend, but remember: he knows how to move bodies.

I've gotten weird requests from friends and you've got to go with it. What do you do when a guy calls you up and asks you for a bottle of peppermint schnapps and a package of straight razor blades? You show up at his door with the booze and blades of course. Turns out he had a little tool accident and needed to remove some metal shards from his arm. The trick is to drink enough schnapps to dull the pain but not so much that you can't make decent cuts with the blade. Yeah, we were young and foolish.

Most often friends will ask you to show up with more prosaic things like a plumbing tools or a chainsaw. Just hope the chainsaw request is not from the same friend who knows how to move bodies.

I've been blessed with some really great friends. They've been there for me when times were tough. When you don't have much money it sure is nice to have friends. Of course, I've been there for them too.

Sometimes you get surprised. My lovely wife's been off taking care of things while I've been convalescing. One guy heard that I was sick so he sent over some of his grandmother's recipe special chicken soup. Did not expect that from him but it's kinda nice. Can't beat Jewish penicillin.

Social media is fine, I guess. Don't really use it myself. I'm more of fan of meeting people in the real world.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Left or Right?

No, I'm not talking politics. Haven't we all had enough of that for a bit?

I was thinking back to previous years when my lovely wife and I spent winters traveling. We did a lot of camping and not a lot of planning. After a few days of camping we'd pack up and drive to the main road. Then we'd ask each other: left or right? It was pretty much a coin toss which way we'd head.

Sometimes we'd stumble into some amazing places. Other times we'd find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere, darkness moving in, and no place to stay. That's part of the fun. If it always went smoothly it wouldn't be an adventure. Over the years we found a lot of places that were worth going back to. Our traveling was a bit less random as we'd want to end up in certain areas sooner or later.

In more recent years we've discovered that a bit of planning is required for prime areas. If you want to camp in a primitive campground in the middle of the Everglades, a reservation might not be needed. A state park with nice facilities in the Florida Keys where you can camp on the beach . . . well, that's a bit harder to do.

People reserve campsites almost a year in advance. While it's not impossible to pull up to a popular campground and get a site without reservations, don't count on it. The odds are low. Not only that, in a lot of popular places they've cracked down on stealth camping. At one time if we couldn't get into a park we had stealth camping options. In places like the Keys there are very few good stealth camping spots left. The cops are cracking down hard too.

Even though popular campgrounds book up months in advance, we could usually put together a trip just a week or two's warning. That requires a good Internet connection. Just about everybody uses Love 'em or hate 'em, they are often the only game in town.

So, for example, you go to their site looking for a nice week in the Florida Keys. You may find that all the sites in a campground are booked. However, one thing about people booking so early is that there are cancellations. A lot can happen in a person's life between the time they book and the time they plan on vacationing. Those sites don't stay open very long. If you see them, get them.

Rarely will you find a whole week free. Usually 2 or 3 days together aren't too hard. Here's what we'd do. We might end up with 3 days in Key Largo, a couple more days at Long Key, then maybe some more days at Bahia Honda Key. Once in a while we'd bridge a booking gap by taking a day or two in private campgrounds.

We like to stay in the Florida State Park system. They have great campgrounds if you are into nature. Prices are usually cheaper than private campgrounds. Not that they are cheap in the Keys, but everything is relative.

Federal campgrounds can be some of the best deals and discount cards are available for people on disability or retired. Unfortunately there are no Federal Camping sites in the Keys, but there are some in other parts of southern Florida. The remote Everglades campground in Flamingo comes to mind.

A hard winter up north will bring the snowbirds down in droves so campgrounds fill up quickly. While it's fun to decide your route with a coin flip getting a place to stay might be a toss up too. Of course, there's always traveling off-season if you want to ramble at random.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Health Issues

I don't usually make a big deal about my firefighter disability on this blog. My lungs suffered some chemical damage that nearly killed me. Good thing I was never a smoker. Most of the time I live with it. Over the years I've developed strategies to stay well. They don't always work. Unfortunately my head cold settled into my lungs.

The big thing for me now is to try and limit the amount and severity of my coughing. If it goes on too long it starts a vicious cycle where my coughing irritates my lungs which causes me to cough. I don't think I'm going to fall into that cycle this time. Over the years my lungs have improved somewhat.

One fun thing I also have is a little something called cough syncope. When I cough hard my blood pressure drops and I pass out. It used to happen over twenty times a day and went on for months. I could be walking down a flight of stairs, cough, then wake up in a heap at the bottom. I've an old scar over one of my eyes where I fell out of a kitchen chair and face planted on the floor.

I saw a lot of doctors and none were able to do much for me. Treatments that were supposed to make me stop coughing would stimulate coughing instead. They overdosed me on drugs trying to find a level that would work. It was a bad time.

Yesterday I had a short episode. This time I stayed in my chair and didn't get hurt. I'm not going to drive again until the cough is under control.

Over time I've learned how to manage my condition, mostly though alternative treatments. A martial arts instructor friend of mine taught me a lot of breathing exercises that help. Certain herbal treatments are useful. Keeping the humidity high helps. Even cough drops work better than the heavy duty drugs the doctors had me on. My condition should improve soon, if I'm lucky and take care of myself.

While I was convalescing I decided to check out my health care insurance for next year. Once again, due to a technicality, I don't qualify for a subsidy. The price of insurance has gone up again. Right now I don't think I can afford even the cheapest plan available to me, so that ain't gonna happen. Let's see if Trump can do better or if he's just spouting off.

In the mean time I'm going to put some of the cash I was paying to the insurance company into savings.

Could I lose everything due to medical expenses? Yes, but the minimal insurances close to my price range won't prevent that.

Guess I'm going to have to take full responsibility for my own health.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Road lifestyle

Cities and towns are passing laws against people who live on the road. Sleeping in vehicles has been outlawed in a number of places. It's getting harder to find a place to sleep where cops won't harass you. It doesn't sound like too big a deal as usually they just make you move on, but being unable to get a good night's sleep takes its toll. Even if you don't hear that knock on the side of your vehicle at 2 in the morning, your sleep is light and troubled.

It's not all that easy to move on sometimes. A lot of people living in vehicles have jobs but their jobs aren't enough to pay for decent housing. Heaven help you if your vehicle is having mechanical trouble.

There are two types of people who end up living in their vehicles. There are those who end up doing it for a lack of better options. Others do it on purpose, for a variety of reasons. They could do it out of a sense of adventure. Some decide to move into a vehicle because they see they won't be able to sustain a “normal” lifestyle.

Those who go in with a plan usually do much better than people without better options. They pick a vehicle with room to sleep. Often they are quite comfortable, with solar panels on the roof, a way to cook and even bathroom facilities.

Even well prepared people are suffering from the new restrictions. While it's possible to dry camp out in a National Forest somewhere, people still need to come into town. People need supplies and services. We also need to interact with other people. Not everyone is a hermit.

It's easy to be a vagabond when times are good, especially in a rich western nation. When times get tough, things close down. The more precarious a middle class life becomes, the harder they work to separate themselves from the poor. Maybe they don't want to be reminded that they are only a paycheck away from living in a van themselves?

If you got some sort of RV living in a reasonably priced campground has been an option for a lot of people. Unfortunately, a lot of private campgrounds are pricey. Some are so exclusive as to prohibit RVs that are more than 5 years old. State and Federal campgrounds have time limits. I met one guy who did a rotation between a state, federal and a dumpy private campground.

There are still plenty of places to live in a vehicle. There are techniques that help a lot too. One way is to look like a tourist rather than a homeless person. One big trick is to keep a canoe on the roof of your vehicle. Ask the locals how the fishing is. With a canoe on your roof you have a reason to hang around boat ramps, some allow overnight parking.

Times are getting tougher for the road warriors out there, but there are still places and techniques that make it work.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Travel vehicles

My lovely wife and I have traveled with a number of different vehicles over the years. At the time we decided to live out of a tent and do car camping, we really did not have the right car for it. When our daughter went to school she had a little Dodge Neon. Once she graduated and started to make money she decided to upgrade to a new car. My lovely wife and I ended up with the Neon.

I'm not fussy with what I drive. My “image” does not depend on my transportation. The car had roof racks to carry a canoe so it was all good. Our first season I'd added a small receiver hitch to carry a cargo buddy. I figured we needed all the extra cargo room we could get. That winter the car was loaded down pretty heavily -canoe on the roof, big cargo box hanging off the back.

The next season we eliminated the cargo buddy completely. We'd pared down our stuff some. Other gear we packed in dry bags and stuffed inside the canoe on the roof. The little car rode much better.

What I was really wishing for was a classic VW camper van. Maybe it's the old hippie in me but I really liked the romance of those old mini-vans. My lovely wife and I looked at a number of them. One of the things that slowly started to change my mind was that a lot of the vans we looked at had blown engines. Then I found one in great shape.

The woman who owned it was stuck on a price and I was stuck on a lower price. I had cash in hand. Her husband really wanted that cash, but the van was in her name. No way was she going to budge. I left as the marital disharmony was reaching a fever pitch. That's the closest I came to buying one. Considering how underpowered and unreliable they are I probably dodged a bullet.

Right after that I got into running diesels on Veggie. We had an old Mercedes Benz 240D converted to run on WVO. With a small utility trailer on the back for veggie oil our range was 3000 miles. Loaded up with a canoe on top and all our camping gear, it accelerated like a fat man jogging. Eventually it would get to highway speeds. Still died on the hills, but we loved that old car and put 400,000 miles on it.

Later we ran a Ford F250 on veggie. That was a pretty good camping rig. Once we got into sailing it was a great tow vehicle. Unfortunately it was susceptible to rust. I changed both fenders and did a lot of patch work. Then we started to have drive train problems so we let that go.

That's when we won an ambulance at auction and turned it into the veggie van. It it's a good camping rig, fun to drive, and pulls the sailboat well. That's out current set up. It's pretty comfortable with a full sized bed, 12 volt cooler, microwave, and solar electric power.

Once in a while we find ourselves going back to more minimalistic camping. My lovely wife has a Nissan Versa Note. The little hatchback has roof racks for camping gear or a canoe. In a way it's a lot like back when we camped with the Neon all those years ago. We are still fond of tent camping. My lovely wife thinks tents are romantic and who am I to argue with that?


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Motorcycle Project

Monday temperatures climbed from the mid 20s to the low 50s. It seemed like a good day to give the motorcycle a bit more attention.

The day before I'd rinsed most of the crud out of the fuel tank. The fuel lines were replaced and two in-line fuel filters were added. The fuel lines need to be trimmed and secured, but the temporary install allowed gas to flow to the engine.

The make or break item on the old 1974 KZ 900 is the engine. I wasn't about to do a complete engine rebuild. Was going to run or not? Once the gas was flowing I hooked up a battery pack jumper and tried to start it. The good news is that the starter turned over. However, the engine did not start. It gave a small cough. Maybe two out of four cylinders fired once and it was done for the day.

Monday I cleaned out the air cleaner and tried again with a freshly charged battery jumper. This time it fired on all four cylinders then died. A second attempt had it running strong. Once it warmed up a bit I opened up the throttle some. That's when the end of the muffler flew off. It had been repaired many years ago. While in storage the muffler had rusted just below the repair in a neat circle.

No problem. That's one of the things I needed to replace anyway. The big thing is that the engine purrs like a tiger. Everything else is fixable. I'll replace the battery and drive it into the basement. There's some electrical stuff to sort out. While the headlight works, only one directional lights up. That's the sort of thing that takes more time than money to sort out.

It appears there are now no major issues stopping the project. I'm not looking to restore it showroom perfect. The idea is to get the old bike usable for not a lot of money. Since the engine kicked over, that looks within reach. Over the course of the winter I can purchase any parts needed.

You should have seen the smile on my face when that big engine woke up. Happy memories.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Bad news for firearms sales

Obama's presidency was one of the best things to happen to firearms manufacturers. They could throw guns out of the back of a truck and the guns would be sold before they hit the ground. Whenever Obama made a speech that even mentioned the word guns, sales would go up.

Well, now the Republicans are in power. Everyone's going to relax. A lot of people are going to wake up and find they have more guns than they will ever need. Not only will they not buy new guns, they might even sell some of the ones they do have. Instead of preparing for a gun grabbing Hillary apocalypse, they'll have do things like buy groceries and pay the rent.

It's a good thing it's only Liberals protesting in the streets. Had the tables been turned the protesters would be Conservatives. Unlike the Liberals, those folks are armed. They'd be waving around things other than harshly worded signs.

What's a firearms industry to do?

Fortunately, all those Liberals also have Second Amendment rights. All the industry has to do is to overcome Liberals distaste for guns by stressing their hatred for Trump. After all, will Trump's police protect their rights?

So I'm thinking of starting Sixbear's Firearms School for Special Snowflakes. How's that for a business idea? Might have to work on the title.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Under the weather, up in the mountains

There are a few outdoor projects I'd love to button up but they will have to wait.

I've been pretty low energy the last couple days. Picked up a nasty cold and with my damaged lungs that can always be serious. Basically, I'm just keeping warm and hydrated plus getting plenty of sleep. At one time I'd have pushed through it, but then it takes that much longer to get better. Since I don't have to push right now, I'm not going to.

Hope to feel better in a day or two. My lungs have healed somewhat from my firefighting days. At one time I'd pick up a cough in October and it would hang on until May. I discovered that warm moist sea air was just the thing for my condition. That's one big reason we started to spend so many of our winter days in the south.

Since our shipwreck last winter we've been in recovery mode. Finances have taken a bit longer to recover than planned, but we are making progress. Part of the issue is that we've had to spend more money on winter prep: everything from heating oil, to snow tires to warm socks. I woke up to snow on the ground Saturday. It melted, but it's a sign of things to come.

One of the things I like to do is to search the Internet to see what sailboats are for sale. We are lucky that we enjoy smaller boats. They've fallen out of favor so there are some good choices on the market. It's funny how boats that years ago were considered big enough to travel around the world in are now too small for anything but weekend coastal cruising. The seaworthiness of the boats have not changed. People's expected level of comfort has gone up.

My lovely wife and I still enjoy simple boats. There's a lot less that goes wrong on them. When things break they are easier and cheaper to fix. I'd rather be sailing than waiting for a special qualified mechanic or for exotic parts to come in.

We've been watching a lot of sailing on Youtube. It's a bonus when they are sailing places we've been or places we want to go to. Sea turtle and dolphin watching never gets old. There's something special about a sunset on the water. If you happen to have a rum drink in one hand and a lovely lady in the other, it's even better.

Of course sunsets here in the mountains are special too. Moonlight on new fallen snow is magical, like something out of a fairy tale. We'll be just fine until we hit the water again. The little Oday 19 is on the trailer and almost ready to go. Having that escape pod sitting handy gives me comfort.

With any luck this cold will soon pass and I'll be ready for action again soon.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Are you ready for the crash?

Last chance to get your preps in order. Just because the election cycle is over doesn't mean the business cycle has been repealed. It won't help to blame the Obama administration or to blame the incoming Trump administration. The election may have some affect on the timing and determine some of the winners and losers. It won't stop it from happening.

The fundamentals do not look good. Everyone's debt is too high. Good jobs are disappearing. We have the basic problem of too many people going after diminishing resources. A huge problem is income inequity. When there's a tiny minority with all the money and power that's a good harbinger of trouble. Most financial programs tell people not to worry. They have all kinds of reasons things will be different this time. One question: how has their track record been? Those financial shows are not there to warn people. They are there to do two things, entertain and sell things.

The average person is in for a ride. Make sure you have stored up enough for your basic needs. When everyone is scrambling to the stores for food, water, and gasoline it's much safer to stay home. Relatively minor things can cause runs on essentials. If there's a real disaster, things are going to get ugly.

Gasoline prices are low right now. Is it a good time to buy that big truck your always wanted? Nope. If you need a vehicle I'd recommend getting one with good gas mileage. If you can substitute your car with a scooter that gets 115 mpg now would be the time. Gas prices could go though the roof quickly. A currency collapse could do that. War could do that. Heck, a few well placed hacks in our distribution system could sow chaos.

How are you set for food production? My lovely wife wants to turn me into a farmer. My ancestors came to this country so they wouldn't have to scrape in the dirt. I'm not a big fan of gardening. That being said, it looks like my lovely wife is going to get that greenhouse she always wanted.

What's your security like? Do you trust the people around you? Are you significantly different than your neighbors? That might be a problem when scapegoats are needed.

This is your wake up call. Right now half the country is paralyzed because the Democrats lost. The other half is jubilant that the Republicans won. Neither group is particularly focused on the dangers ahead. The President is not the person you should be overly concerned about in the coming days. He'll be fine. You should look to yourself, your family, friends -your tribe, to be ready for the days ahead. It's going to get real folks.

I'm not trying to panic anyone. Panic doesn't get the job done. All I want is for people to take a hard look around. Watch for the signs. It's not going to hurt to be ready for trouble. Think local and put ideology aside. You don't have to agree with your neighbor's politics to get along with them. Really.


Friday, November 11, 2016

The Vagabond and the Homesteader

For me there are two ways to get to know the world. One way is to travel it. The other is to sit by the river and see what comes my way. Both methods have their charm.

I've always been interested in different people. We are born into a limited set of circumstances: a family with a certain social position, in a particular religion, and in a geographical area. That is what we we think of as normal. To others it might seem exotic, but it works both ways.

Normally this time of year I'm the traveler. Sometimes in November I'm in motion, either traveling down the road or on the water. If not actually traveling by now, I'm preparing to travel. My mind is filled with thoughts of routes, motion and equipment.

Circumstances and choice have put me in the role of the one who sits by the river. While the role is not new to me, it's been sometime since I've played it. My focus has been less on the skills of the vagabond and more on the necessities of being a homesteader. Much of my time and treasure has been spent on the mundane yet important duties necessary to thrive in a northern winter.

Old Einstein was right. It's all a matter of perspective. Is the person in the boat really rushing past the shore or does it just look that way? Could it be that the boat is standing still and the world is revolving beneath him? The end result is the same.

The worse part of being a vagabond is leaving so many people behind. Yet the very act of travel brings one into contact with new people to befriend. There's also the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family who live far away. The homesteader may have more friends and family in their daily life, but the chance to meet new people is limited. No wonder that so many cultures put great emphasis on hospitality towards the traveler. The value of differences is recognized.

There was a third path, but it's not as common in the modern world. Migratory tribes used to be common. Perhaps at one time that's how a good part of the human population lived. It has many of the advantages of the vagabond and the homesteader. There is the advantage of seeing new places and meeting new peoples. Yet at the same time one is surrounded by ones own culture and community. Unfortunately today we have the poorest expression of that dynamic: the tour group. Oh well, such is life.

There's a saying that no matter where you go, there you are. The biggest journey happens within. Whether we stay at home or travel the world, it's the backdrop to the greatest adventure.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Recurring fuel problem

The dirty diesel problem reared its head in the veggie van . . . again. I'm getting pretty tired of it. The short term fix isn't all that hard. There's access to the fuel line at the side compartment where the veggie tank is. The idea is to remove the diesel fuel line at the six port valve and blow the crud back into the tank using a small air compressor. If I'm at home where I can do more work I can then drain some diesel from the bottom of the tank and remove some of the dirt.

I had a really nice plastic pan that was perfect for catching the dirty diesel. Unfortunately, I left it outside and a bear poked a bunch of holes in it with its claws. They never mention that problem in the car magazines. Once it's repaired I'll drain some more dirt out of the system.

The diesel fuel line plugged up at a bad time. I'd just left a friend's house near the Massachusetts border. That part of Rt. 93 is always busy and to make it more interesting there's a lot of construction going on. Really did not want to pull off the side of a busy highway in a construction zone.

Fortunately my friend had given me some waste veggie oil he was saving. Unlike the veggie stored in the back of the van, it was at room temperature and liquid. The veggie tank has to be hot before the veggie fuel will flow properly. Since the veggie my buddy gave me was already liquid it didn't take too long to get to operating temperature.

Once the engine started to sputter I said a quick prayer, crossed my fingers and flipped the switch for the veggie tank. The engine stopped sputtering and slowly picked up speed again. It was less than a minute before we were back at full highway speed. Thanks to having two fuel systems the van made it back home without any more problems.

Now all I need is a bit of nice weather to work on the van. I am making progress getting the crud out of the diesel tank. For a while it was so dirty the sending unit plugged about every 10 miles. Now it takes hundreds before it clogs up. It had been long enough that I'd thought the problem solved. Oh well. I'm keeping my tools and 12volt compressor in the van.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Plan B

Okay. To be honest, I really didn't expect Trump to win. With that in mind I thought the only realistic thing to do was to figure out how to survive a Clinton presidency. Welp . . . so much for those plans. Don't get me wrong. I really hated Hillary but expected her to win anyway. Trump didn't thrill me either. Definitely a lose lose election for me.

Obviously one of the first things I'm going to have to do is to figure out how to survive without health insurance. Getting rid of Obamacare is a Trump priority and I believe him. With a Republican Congress that's ready to repeal the program, it will happen pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any sort of agreement on what to replace it with. In the short term I'm guessing nothing at all. Put me in that category of 20 million people about lose insurance.

On a more local level the election has put my pension in great jeopardy. My state pension has been under attack for years, and now those who've been attacking it have been put in control. The throw the disabled, widows and orphans under the bus crowd came into power with the Trump surge.

You know how people say they will move to Canada if their party loses? I know a couple who've loaded up the RV and are at the border today. Heck, one of my daughters is taking her family up to Canada this weekend. She's wondering if maybe Canada is a better a place to raise a daughter and is checking it out. A guy I used to work with has land in New Newfoundland and full time residency. He's ready to cross the border at a moment's notice.

Revolutions are messy, and that's what this is. Expectations are high -too high. How long will people wait until they get restless? Revolutions have a nasty way of eating their own. Eventually things will sort themselves out, but there will be more losers than winners for a while. I'm not trying to be negative here; just passing on some lessons of History. Revolutionary leaders are quick to eliminate some of the very people who put them in power. It's how they consolidate their position.

Really hope things improve for the better, but I'm making plans for the rocky short term.

Some Trump supporters are going to hate this blog post. Keep in mind I've always tried to pass on survival tips. I want everyone to keep their eyes open and see where things are really going, not where they hoped they'd go. Actually, if I'm wrong about the short term disruptions I'll be happy.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Night Plans

This election has been a circus full of creepy clowns for sometime.

I heard a political joke recently.

Hillary and Trump are in a sinking life raft in the middle of the ocean. There is no hope for rescue. Who survives?
The American people.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about our choices this year.

There is something about election day that does encourage me. I'll be watching the results come in surrounded by friends and family. No idea what the future holds, but I'm glad to have my tribe.

Keep a tight grip on your emotions and lets see where this wild ride takes us.


Monday, November 7, 2016

It ain't getting warmer

By early November those of us in the North Country have got to come to terms with the idea of winter. Nothing like turning the clocks back, plunging us into eternal night, to bring that home. Sure, you gain an hour in the early morning, but I'm a night owl. Dawn is a wonderful way to end the evening, not start the day.

With that in mind we finally got around to pulling the raft out of the lake. Last year my son-in-law and a friend did it as I'd been down to Florida since September. This year there were three of us and overall it went well. By well I mean we got the raft on dry land and no one fell in the lake. When the occasional snowflake blows by you really don't want to go for a swim.

While we were doing that little job my lovely wife was putting the lawn and garden to bed. She discovered that there is some fall plant, we aren't sure which one, that triggers allergies. After her little project she had to take some allergy pills and have a little rest until they kicked in. Eventually we will discover which plant, or plants, cause this seasonal problem and eliminate it.

For a brief while the temperature got above freezing. That's when I took the opportunity to give the motorcycle a quick scrub down with detergent and a brush. Once the worse of the gunk was cleaned off I pulled the fuel tank and the battery. The battery is long gone, of course, but the store wants the old one in trade. The fuel lines were cut to hasten the removal of the gas tank. Those lines all need replacement anyway. The tank is in surprisingly good shape -very little rust at all.

Sometime this week were should have a few days above freezing so I'd like to get the bike started. If it runs, I can drive it into the basement. Then I'll have all winter to pretty it up. A few of my friends have been inspired to fix up their motorcycles so we can all go riding in the spring. That's something to think about during the dark days of winter.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Minimalist Rider and Madness

Yesterday I dug out my old motorcycle with the idea of getting it road ready for spring. It was a monster bike in its day, but there are modern bikes out there that will pass me like I'm sitting on jacks. However, the old bike climbed Mt. Washington and could easily break highway speeds. How much power do you really need?

Then you get guys like Ed March. Just a head's up. While he's funny as heck, he's also more than a bit rude.

To sum up, this guy's been all over the world riding a little Honda c90. Ed shows how to adventure travel for small money. Once again going simple has its advantages.

Ed did inspire me. No, I don't want to ride a Honda 90 all over the world -exactly. I was thinking that I could pick up something like a small scooter on Craigslist. It would be a blast to go on an extended trip around New England sticking to twisty old back roads. Small scooters that get crazy good gas mileage combined with stealth camping would make for a pretty interesting cheap adventure.

After watching Ed's videos I really don't have any excuse.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Winter Project

Does this look like a winter project or what?

It took some doing but I was able to drag my 1974 KZ 900 out of the shed. The shed is only 4 X 8 feet. A frame from a parts bike was also stored next to the “good” bike. There wasn't a lot of room to work in there.

Years ago the shed was slapped together from some scrap lumber someone donated to me. The rot got to it. Both wheels had dropped through the shed floor. They were also flat. Just to make it even more interesting, the wheels would not turn as the brakes had rusted a bit. If I remember right the bike weighs about 550 pounds. It took everything I had to drag the bike out of the shed.

Once out of the shed it was possible to pump up the tires. The clutch cable was frozen, but a bit of force got it loose. Because the back wheel wasn't turning I thought it might have been locked into gear. That wasn't the case. The drum brake has a bit of rust and just did not want to turn.

The shed is located up in the woods and the tax assessor never found it. Good thing it was downhill to the house and there were wet leaves on the ground to help the bike slide. By the time I got it to the pavement the wheels were turning. The front wheel freed up completely, but the back still dragged. At least I was able to push it down the driveway.

The bike is filthy. According to the license plate the last time it was on the road was 2002. When I parked it I thought it would be on the road the next summer. Then life happened. It was stored with a full tank of stabilized fuel. I'm not sure how long stabilized fuel is supposed to last, but it certainly isn't 14 years. There's about a ¼ tank of foul smelling goo left.

One good thing I did was spray WD 40 in all the cylinders. The kick starter was able to easily turn the engine over. At least the pistons are free.

I'm going to clean up the fuel tank, change the fuel lines and the motor oil. Then I'll drop a new battery in it and see if it turns over. If it runs it will go down into the basement where the rust, grime and electrical issues can be dealt with. The seat is stiff and cracked, but I've a replacement hanging in my basement. In fact, I've got a lot of decent items from a parts bike.

The tires look good. The chain and sprockets had been replaced the year it went into storage. It's not my goal to do a full restoration. The plan is to get a drivable bike back on the road -hopefully for not a lot of money. After that I've got to decide if I want to ride the darn thing or sell it. To be honest, digging out the bike brought back some great memories so I'll probably ride it.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Something with a handle

One of my cousins joked that you should never buy anything with a handle. That always means work.

Guess I didn't listen as I just bought another snow shovel. There's nothing wrong with my old shovel. When I saw one that looked good I had to buy it. You certainly don't want to be caught without one when it snows four feet overnight. (I continue to question my decision to remain here most of the winter)

Even better than having backup tools is being able to issue them to friends and family with strong backs. Nothing makes a job go better than a few more willing hands. If someone's willing to pitch in, I'm going to make sure I have enough tools to go around.

When the kids were still living at home we had a massive ice storm. School was closed. The grid was down. The kids needed something to do. I issued them all handsaws. They gathered and cut up big piles of dead branches the storm took down. They cut enough wood to keep the kitchen woodstove going. I believe I tended the coffee pot.

Right now I'm in the market for a lot of handles. All my backup axes, mauls, and sledge hammers need new handles. The quality of replacement handles has gone way down, but the price sure hasn't. Making them from scratch is an option, but time consuming. Maybe I'll just have to bite the bullet and buy some. Next time the local lumber supply has a new shipment I'll dig through the pile and hopefully find some that aren't half bad.

I'm at the point where a lot of my tools have no backup ready to go, and that's a bad thing. At least I'm set on snow shovels.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Keeping the home fires burning

Things are different this year. When I usually head south for the winter getting ready for winter is more focused on getting the boat ready. This year my lovely wife and I are committed to being here for at least part of the winter. That requires winter prep.

My house is primarily heated in two different ways. There's an hot air oil furnace and a couple of woodstoves. Our favorite woodstove is the cookstove in the kitchen. Not only does it make the house toasty warm, we can cook on it and watch the pretty flames though the glass door.

For many years I did not get regular heating oil deliveries. The oil delivery company requires a minimum delivery of 100 gallons. That's a lot of money for a furnace that was rarely used. Instead of regular #2 heating oil, off road diesel works just fine. A trip with a couple 5 gallon fuel containers to the local gas station handled my limited needs just fine.

Right now heating oil is about half the cost of what it used to be. With that in mind I decided to get the oil tank completely filled for a change. One nice thing about the furnace is that we can leave the house for a few days and it stays warm. When we used just wood we'd either come home to a very cold house or had to have someone come by to feed the stoves.

I've some storm damaged hardwood trees that need to be cut up. They are dry and should make great firewood. The problem is that it's a tangled mess. There are broken tree tops hung up in other trees. It's too dangerous to handle by myself. (at least that's what my lovely wife tells me.) I'm stuck waiting for my tree guy to show up.

In the mean time I've burned some junk wood I've had around the house and Bio Blocks. They go by various names but they are basically the same a wood pellets for pellet stoves, only much bigger. They are designed to burn in regular woodstoves. The blocks burn well, are clean, and easy to work with.

This one is what one looks like in my hand.

I found out one of the local lumber yards will deliver if you buy it a ton at a time. This is what a ton of them looks like, all wrapped in weatherproof plastic. The lumber yard gave me a little flag to stick in the ground to indicate where to drop the pallet. The lift truck driver did a great job working in tight spaces.

The ton of blocks will hold me until my wood is cut up. I'm feeling a bit better about the winter.

This week I also bought 4 snow tires for my wife's car. Some people try and get by with all seasons. Heck, that what I would do myself if I was going to be here for only a small part of snow season. This year it's worth doing it right. Real snow tires on all 4 wheels makes all the difference in the world when conditions get nasty.

Of course, I'm still going to make sure the boat is ready to go if we decide we've had enough of winter. The heating oil and Bio Blocks aren't going to spoil.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

More Adventures?

I'm searching for an adventure. I'm always searching for an adventure.

That's how my lovely wife and I ended up doing adventures in small sailboats. We had been doing a lot of camping and canoe trips. Her shoulders wore out and needed to be rebuilt. They did a great job, but we weren't going to spend 10 months out of the year canoeing anymore. Still, we both love being on the water. Sailing was a good option for us. We got the quiet that we enjoy on canoe trips without all the paddling.

Don't worry, we are still planning sailing adventures. We are pouring over charts, guidebooks and on-line resources. My lovely wife and I are debating what improvements we are going to do to our boat. Some of that depends on which trips we ultimately decided on.

Some of my ideas for adventures don't interest my lovely wife at all. That's fine. If I want to disappear for a month or two to follow my crazy dreams that fine with her. We will miss each other, but after 38 years of marriage we don't have to spend every minute together to have a solid relationship.

A lot of adventures are outside my limited budget. That's why you won't see me on a chartered trip anywhere. Anything that requires a significant investment just won't happen. As much as I'd love to learn how to fly small airplanes, my budget says no. Fortunately it's a big world with many possibilities

Lately I've been researching a lot of trips for small motorcycles or even scooters. They aren't big enough for highway travel so everything takes place on back roads as slower speeds. That's not a bad way to travel. Right now I'm following some guy who's on a multi year trip from Alaska to Argentina on an old Honda 90. Yes, it's crazy, but that's half the fun.

Right now I don't even have the money for a second hand scooter. I do have my old 1974 KZ 900 that I might be able to get back on the road for small money. A long trip on a 40+ year old motorcycle might be adventure enough.

If I go alone I could do some more long canoe trips. Perhaps an extended trip in my 12 foot homebuilt sailing scow might be just the thing?

When the weather is crappy and I'm stuck inside, that's when these ideas roll around in my head. Not sure if I'll get to do any of these things. It's said that life happens while you make other plans. Then again, if you make no plans at all, nothing happens.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Pipeline Explosion, expect shortages

This is a quick heads in case you haven't already heard. The Alabama gasoline pipeline exploded. Crews working to repair the damage from weeks ago had an accident setting the pipeline on fire. At least one worker is dead and 5 others injured. This is near the place where the pipeline broke a few weeks ago. Then only one pipeline was shut down. This new accident closed both lines.

Expect shortages in the Southeast. Hope you all learned from the last time this happened.

Good luck!


When are you leaving?

I hear that question all the time. Apparently people have gotten used to my lovely wife and I heading south each winter. Maybe they can't wait for us to be gone? I hope that's not it, but we aren't everyone's cup of sunshine so who knows?

About every other year we leave in the fall and would be gone by now. Other years our kids and their families are available for Christmas so we stay until after the holidays. This year even my daughter who moved to California will be with us. That will be nice. After that? Who knows?

Since my dad passed away last fall there's no hurry to go south to visit him. Now that he's gone I'm glad I made the effort to see him in Florida as many times as I did. The other main reason to go to Florida was the sailing and camping. That's still a draw for us.

For quite a few years the high cost of home heating made it more economical to head south. With the heat, power, and Internet service temporarily shut down, the house wasn't costing us anything. A mixture of staying with family, friends, camping and living on a boat kept our Florida costs low. This year it appears that our heating costs will be reasonable.

The oil tank is full and I'm expecting a wood delivery this week. That should keep us going for some time. I've an appointment for new snow tires for the car so that will be taken care of. The house is more weather tight than it's been in years. I must admit to having let things slide when I knew we weren't going to heat it anyway.

There's some business I'm involved in right now that's easier to take care of in person. If it proves lucrative enough I might end up putting more of my time into it. Since we got back last spring we've been available for friends and family in need. It's been a pleasure to be around for them. We've also been very fortunate to spend time with our many friends, both old and new.

Some of my friends are already down to Key West. They moved into the military campground the first day it opened. It's good to see what they are up to. Unfortunately, since neither my lovely wife nor I are Vets or active military we don't qualify to camp there. That's fine. They earned it. I chose a different path in life. I must admit, hearing of their Key West adventures tempts me to take the boat down the Keys. There are some sweet anchorages for a shallow draft boat.

So when are we leaving? Not today. Not for the rest of the year. After that, our options are open. By then we'll have some idea if we even want to be far from home or not. Our van, boat and trailer will be ready to go at a moments notice, but that's just being prudent. It's a pretty sweet bug out rig if need be.

The current plan is to stick around for a while but be ready to leave at a moment's notice. In a couple days we can go from shoveling snow to sipping sundowners on a beach. Good to have options.