Rained out

by Chuck September 19, 2010

Yesterday I bought 3 sheets of T1-11 siding for the South wall of the greenhouse. I didn't get a chance to put them on, what with going to the Pumpkin Hurl and all, but I figured I'd get a chance today.

Last night it rained. Hard. Like an inch an hour or so. But today dawned bright and sunny and looked like a good day to go out and get the siding on.

About 10:00 I headed out to  get started. Sure, there are some clouds that look like rain to the West, but I should have some time.

Like most projects, I had to gather the tools from various places around the farm, go back inside for a pencil. All the normal stuff that I need to do before I get started. I laid out the siding, made my measurements, plugged in the saw, remembered to turn on the light switch in the chip shed...

And then it started to rain again, Just a few drips. But somehow, I knew. I put everything away, slipped the siding into the chicken coop. And then the sky opened up and it poured. By the time I walked the 150 feet back to the house I was soaked like I was in the shower. Now I'm sitting here watching the rain come and go. Well, not exactly go. Mostly I'm watching it rain, and then rain harder.

 Weather Underground says we might get a break on Tuesday. Maybe I'll get a chance after work to cut the wood and attach the siding.

Update: It certainly did rain harder. For a short time the Monroe City Hall weather station recorded a rain rate of 4 inches an hour. After that it dropped back to 2 inches an hour for a short time. And then it quit. At 10:45 you would have been soaked stepping out the door. By 11:00 the rain had stopped. By 11:30 it was sunny again.

I headed back out to the greenhouse, moved the tools and the siding back to the barn and made my cuts there. Then I hauled the now shorter siding back to the greenhouse and nailed it up. Next I need to build the roof vents.



Sweaters in the raw

by Chuck September 10, 2010

It's taken me months to get it done, but today a shearer finally showed up at our house to shear the sheep. The were starting to look a little ragged around the edges, the last guy who sheared them didn't do the best job ever, and their long wool was starting to look a little green at the ends what with all the rain we've been getting lately.

I started looking for a shearer in June of this year. Back 30-odd years ago when I raised sheep on the family farm that's about the time of year when we sheared, a memory that was reinforced by the flock just West of Duvall, they started losing their fleeces around June too. The first person I contacted didn't show up for our appointment. Didn't show up and didn't call to let us know that he wouldn't be coming. Customer service at its finest. I realize that losing the business of a flock of 5 sheep isn't going to break this guy, but I might have more someday. I won't, but he don't know that...

After that it took me a while to even find another shearer that was willing to come and shear a small flock like mine. Once I did, he only makes appointments a month out, and then he needed to reschedule a couple of times. Not a big deal, but I took time off for the first one and missed some work for the second time too.

He did do a nice job on the girls, he only nicked one sheep, which I remember as being a big deal. I'm not sure how much wool we got, but if it's a conservative 15 pounds each, we have 75 pounds of wool sitting in the garage. On Craig's List you can buy wool for $2.00 a pound, so the 75 pounds of wool will just pay for getting the sheep sheared. Next I need to figure out how to "skirt" fleeces. Sounds like the kind of thing you should know how to do if you are selling wool.



M42 - The Great Orion Nebula

by Chuck September 2, 2010

OK, this is an easy one to find, but for completeness I feel like I need to put it in here. Tonight the air was clear and cold, and after taking a look at Mars hanging bright in the sky I decided to train the binoculars on Orion’s sword to see the Orion Nebula. Here’s the Wikipedia entry.

The naked eye shows the nebula as a bright smudge that makes up the tip of Orion’s sword. Through my 7x50 binoculars the gas clouds are evident, but the most visible thing is the blue glow of the young stars lighting up the nebula. If we get a chance to get the big scope out on a clear night while Orion is still in the sky it should make a fairly easy target.

In fact, I can’t imagine why I haven’t tried for it before…

This is one of the earliest Messier objects that I learned how to find, since it’s right there in one of the most recognizable constellations.

Tags: ,

Backyard Astronomy

M31 - Andromeda Galaxy

by Chuck August 13, 2010

The Persied meteor shower was supposed to be visible tonight (supposed to be, but Astronomy magazine says the best viewing time is around 2:00 a.m. We didn't stay up that late) so Katie and I sat outside in the dark for a while watching for the bright streaks of meteors across the night sky.

We were disappointed by the meteors, in an hour of watching we only saw one large, bright meteor. Not exactly the 60 per hour that the magazine predicted. Since we were out there, however, we decided to get the binoculars out and take a look around.

Our first target was the bright planet that was above the tree line to the West. We assume it was either Venus or Saturn -- I shake too much to see details like Saturn's rings through the binoculars and Katie wasn't sure. It was definitely a planet though, the crescent shape was clear even through my shaky view (Update -- since the planet was crescent shaped it had to be Venus. Saturn doesn't show phases.)

Next we turned back to Hercules and looked for M13 again. It was right were we expected to find it, confirming both our ability to view vague blobs of light in the sky, and our ability to find the vague blobs in the sky.

Emboldened. we turned our sights on M31, the Andromeda galaxy. We were looking in that general direction anyway for the Persied meteors, so it made sense to try to find something to our North rather than the South as we usually do. It took me a few tries. I tried using the end of Cassiopia as guide stars to find the galaxy, but one of the stars was hidden behind a tree so I was using the wrong set  of stars. Once I figured that out, I was able to get the binoculars on M31 with few problems.

By this time Katie had headed in to bed, so after a few minutes viewing, I headed in myself. On the way up I stopped by Katie's room to tell her that I spotted the galaxy, she hopped out of bed and we went back outside to take another look. I needed to find different way to guide her to the galaxy, working off Cassiopia didn't help her. Fortunately, M31 was almost directly above another tree top, so I was able to guide her up from the horizon.

In the 7x50 binoculars M31 appears as an elongated blob of light, quite bright in the center, fading gently to the edges. It occupies a large portion of the binocular's field of view. From our viewing position we could not see M31, nor the nearby stars, with the naked eye, we'll need to find a darker viewing area to see the galaxy without help.

We didn't have the 3-inch reflector set up, so we weren't able to take a "closer" look. That will have to wait for another night.

Tags: ,

Backyard Astronomy

Long haul

by Chuck July 9, 2010

This year Dana convinced me that we needed to take a real vacation in the summer, a vacation where we packed the kids and dogs up and headed out of town for a week. A vacation where we took the boat along for the ride and dropped it in the water and I got to sail as much as I wanted. A vacation in July to Lake Chelan.


I spent my evenings during the week loading up Odyssey and making sure that I had everything that I thought I would need for a trip like this one. The one change that I made was to add a jib downhaul. I’ve never used one, but from what I read it made recovering the genoa easier when you were single handing. Since part of the plan for the week was to learn how to single hand, it seemed like a good idea.

Thursday night and Friday morning I loaded up the truck and tied everything down. We needed to be in Chelan around 4:00 p.m., so we figured we needed to be on the road by noon. In defiance of every other trip we’ve made, we were pulling out onto the road at noon.

Joe was riding with me, and as I headed down the hill I felt a funny “thunk” from behind. I stopped in the two-way left hand turn lane on Chain Lake to make sure that everything looked OK. Brakes plugged in. Safety chains on. Hitch closed tight. Everything seemed to be great.

Why does he bring this up? Think of this as Checkhov’s Trailer Hitch. That was a long digression at that wiki.

Joey and I headed out of town ahead of Katie, Dana, and Kurt in the Sonata, with Katie driving. We headed up the pass, then just as we were going through Baring I hit a bump – and the trailer jumped off the hitch.

Dana was texting me when it happened because one of my lights wasn’t working. All of a sudden there are sparks flying and smoke rising and flames shooting out I’m moving over to the side. Katie thought I’d blown a tire, Dana thought the axle had come off, and Kurt thought the trailer bunks had given out and the keel was rubbing.

Fortunately, the safety chains held and the whole works came to a stop when the truck did. And also, fortunately, there was a shoulder where we were for me to pull over on. Later on we passed an RV that had lost a wheel – they were in a spot with no shoulder and were blocking traffic.

Anyway, back to the shoulder of the road in Baring. We all stopped. Katie and I were shaking a bit – me because I’d almost lost the boat and Katie because she’d been driving behind a boat spitting flames and sparks.

After walking off a bit of the shakes, I checked the trailer. There is a little triangular foot on the bottom of the hitch, that had rubbed almost off – that’s where the sparks came from.

The smoke came from the spare tire. It was on the road and helped support the trailer after it came off the hitch. There was  long streak of rubber back up the highway.

The flames – well the flames came from the handle on the jack. For whatever reason the plastic handle ended up on the road, and the plastic caught fire while it dragged. Once we stopped, the fire went out.

Putting the trailer back on the hitch was straight forward. I had the kids hang on the back of the boat and Dana and I picked up the tongue and set it back on the hitch. After I secured the lock, I put my head underneath and made sure it was locked.

As far as I can tell, one of the wires on the light cable was under the lock plate, and that kept the hitch from locking fully. The reason why the light wasn’t working was because there was a short between the frame and wire under the hitch plate. When I hit the bump it through the tongue up and off we went.

Back on the road we were only a mile or so along when we came across the RV that I mentioned earlier. An I thought I was having a bad day. When we got to Skykomish I stopped to make sure everything was still working (it was), so we kept on keeping on. We didn’t have any more problems on the trip. Well, besides trying to get into and out of a parking lot that was too small, and almost going through a speed trap too fast. Normal things.



Is it summer yet?

by Chuck June 21, 2010

I took a four-day weekend this week to get caught up on some of the work around the place. With all the rain we’ve been getting we’re behind on the mowing and trimming – all the grass is too long and the stuff around the fences is out-of-control.

Thursday wasn’t too bad; Dana and I did a few small things around the place, and when the kids came home we started them mowing. Friday Dana and I brought out the line trimmers; between the two of us we managed trim all the grass from the front of the property to the alley. We even cut down all the long grass and weeds on the hill behind the house. In the afternoon we went down to Lowe’s and bought supplies for Saturday’s project: a bunch of fence posts and bags of concrete.

Saturday we started working on the fence around the vegetable garden.  I planted the five corner posts and cemented them in. Around 11:30 it started to feel like it was going to rain so we packed all the tools away and headed inside. Of course, we never got a drop.

In the late afternoon I decided that enough was enough and I took the tractor out into the pasture and started mowing. The sheep are eating a lot of grass, but the pasture is still ahead of them. I mowed off the alley and the top of the hill down to the access road. It’s starting to look better, but I need to get out and cut the thistles off soon before they start setting flowers and seeds.

It’s been a long, cold spring. Today is the solstice – the longest day of the year. More than 16 hours of daylight, but not a ray of sunshine to be seen.



Lazy day

by Chuck May 16, 2010

We got the boat out for our first sail this weekend. We didn’t have much wind so it turned out to be a perfect day for getting the new motor in the water and getting started breaking it in.

The day started off normally. I got the boat ready to go while Dana and the kids did chores around the farm and packed the food and drinks. Joey helped me rig the halyards and the topping lift, he’s getting good at leading the lines through the maze of standing rigging that’s on the deck when the mast is down.

After getting the truck and the boat loaded up we headed down to Everett. As we left Monroe we fell in behind 40-ish foot boat that was being hauled by a semi, complete with a lead car and a follow car. Traffic was backed up considerably behind us, and we laughed about how the people who were passing us were going to be surprised when they found out that the sail boat was not the cause of the backup.

We made it down to the waterfront in good order and stopped at West Marine to pick up a new PFD for Dana. Her old one got damp over the winter and ended up with mildew all over it. She picked up a new pair of sun glasses too.

We headed back to the 12th street launch to rig and launch the boat. The economy is hitting the state’s recreation services pretty hard – with revenue down the state is putting as much money into the parks, so the launch fees were up, and they’ve added a parking fee to the facility as well. Last year it was $5.00 to launch and park, this year it was $11.00 to launch and park on the weekend. It’s only $8.00 on weekdays, but since I’ve only sailed on a weekday once, I’m not sure that’s going to be much benefit to me.

Once we were at the launch ramps we found out that we had hit the ramps at the bottom of a –2.6 tide. The trailer was off the end of the concrete ramp before Odyssey floated free. On the next ramp over a man was launching a 26-foot fishing boat, his truck was off the end of the ramp before the boat floated free – luckily he had 4-wheel drive and could pull himself back up the ramp. Katie helped me bend on the sails and then we headed out into the river, puttering along with the new motor.

We headed out into the river and headed upstream to give the motor some running time. Typically it takes around 15 minutes to get from the boat launch to the mouth of the river, I wanted to have the engine run for 30 minutes or so this first time so I could give it a chance to warm up and start the break-in. As we left the launch I had Joey lower the keel, he had it about 2/3 of the way down when we suddenly stopped – the water level was so low we had less then 5 feet of water under the keel. Joe cranked the keel up and I backed us out ‘til we were free, then I ran straight across the river to the channel before heading upstream again.

We drug the keel across the bottom one other time while we were motoring in the river. I’ve never run aground before, and I managed to do it twice in one day on this trip. Of course, “run aground” is a relative term on Odyssey. We draw 5 1/2 feet with the keel down, but only 18 inches with the keel up. If I hit the bottom we just crank the keel up ‘til we’re free, then head for deeper water.

And usually we don’t worry about running aground at all. Out on Possession Sound there is 75 to 100 fathoms of water under the boat most of the time. It’s only in the river that we need to worry about the depth.

Anyway, the trip out was uneventful. There was so little wind and so little traffic that the mouth of the river, normally a washing machine of chop, was almost flat. We motored out a ways and raised the sails. At first we had enough wind to move the boat along at about 3 knots, but pretty soon it fell to nothing and we were going nowhere at all.

I fired up the motor and we chugged over toward the flats off Jetty Island. Along there we found a bit of breeze and Dana sailed us a couple of miles north along the flat. When we tacked around we ran out of breeze again, so I started the motor one more time and we motored around ‘til it was time to come in.

The weather was fluky all day. There were clouds moving over head but they kept going to the east until they pushed up against the foothills. To the west it was a warm, sunny day – to the east it was dark grey and forbidding.

Around 3:00 the weather took a turn for the worse so I turned us around and started in. By the time we got into the river it was starting to rain, so I struck the sails and the halyards as we cruised up the river – by the time we were at the boat launch we were ready to go on the trailer as soon as the motor ran the fuel out of the carburetor and the rudder was out of the water.

After that we got the boat ready to head home and drove back to Monroe. The closer we got to home the worse the weather became until we ran into Monroe in a thunderstorm.

Not a bad first sail, and I think the first time we’ve been in the water before the end of May. Looking ahead on the calendar there’s not a lot of free weekends, but I’m sure we’ll get at least one more chance to sail before we head over the Lake Chelan.



And they're off...

by Chuck May 10, 2010

I turned off comments. Again. I'm not sure that I've ever received a single legitimate comment on this site. For that matter, I'm not 100 percent sure that any other than me has ever looked at the content on this site. In any case, I'm tired of going through 500 comments just to delete them all. It's not even fun to read the fake comments anymore.

And to the person(s) who use some form of "Your Web site is ugly" as their comment-spam comment: Really, find something else to say. It's bad enough that you are polluting the Web with comment spam to begin with, but to add insult to the injury? If I was the kind of person who believed in Hell I would be the kind of person that hoped for a special place for you.




by Chuck April 10, 2010

Somehow I managed to lose the sail track stop for the main mast’s sail track last year. I’m not sure when it happened, but I do know that when Dana and I took the boat out by ourselves last summer the stop was no longer on the boat.

I’m actually surprised that it took so long for the old stop to disappear. It just rides in the sail track all the time, eventually it was going to fall out either when I was towing the boat or when I was putting the mast up and down.

Heck, I might have put it in my pocket when I was unbending the sail after going sailing and forgot where I put it when I was done.

Anyway, I managed to find the stop on the West Marine Web site. The stop is $9.00, and shipping is $9.00. Not so eager to make the purchase, frankly. The West Marine Web site has a neat feature, however, that shows you if your local store has the part in stock. If it doesn’t, you can have the part ordered to the local store for pickup and not have to pay shipping.

Turned out that our local West Marine had the stop in stock, however, so I was able to pick one up after a short drive to Everett. Joey and Duchess rode along – Joe is getting to be kind of fun to have around. He’s almost as big as I am (he’s bigger than Dana) and he has the same sense of humor as the rest of us.

Anyway, the new sail slug is sitting on top of my sailing gloves so hopefully I’ll remember to pick it up the next time I get a chance to head out.




by Chuck March 28, 2010

Repowered my sailboat today.

That certainly sounds like a complex undertaking. Most of the time that means lifting a big diesel engine out of the bilges of a sailboat with a crane, and then dropping a new one in with much sweating and swearing.

I went and bought a new outboard and hung it on the transom instead of getting the old one out of the garden shed.

We decided to take advantage of a cash windfall to finally buy our own outboard. I’ve been using my father-in-law’s for years -- I’ve always felt a little guilty about that. Now I can take his back to him (if I was a really good son-in-law I’d give him the new one, but he’s had this motor for years, knows how to work on it, and Dana isn’t sure he’d like to have the new one).

The old motor is an 8HP two-stroke Evinrude. The new one is a 6HP four-stroke Tohatsu. We typically used 3 or 4 gallons of gas a year in the Evinrude, from what I hear we’ll use even less with the Tohatsu. It runs a little rougher (it’s a single cylinder) but it’'ll have move torque and run quieter.

It also come with an alternator. It puts out 6 amps, not much, I’ll admit but enough for running lights and to keep a battery topped up. Maybe now I’ll actually put an electrical system on board. Or at least a battery…

I told Dana that I was looking forward to going out and motor boating. She said “have fun with that.” So yeah, the main reason I have a motor on the boat is to get from the launch to the place where we put up our sails. But there have been times when I just wanted to get out on the water and putter around. This might be my ticket.



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