Monday, November 29, 2010

Beach logging for firewood

One of our priority fall projects is to lay in a big supply of firewood. There's nothing like being out shoveling snow all day and coming in to a warm lodge with a nice fire going in the wood stove. Keeping Jennifer at or near her comfort zone is also very important for marital tranquility.

Jen joined me on one of rare dry days we had in October. I had scouted out a few logs I wanted to get, but rough water in Chatham Strait changed our plans. We went instead to one of the bights that is actually inside Warm Springs Bay and was protected from the strong northerlies.

On the beach, I take a hammer to check the condition of any log that looks good. If it rings, it's good wood. If it thunks, we leave it right where it is.

Some logs are small enough that I can roll them down the beach with a peavey.

If they're too big, I tie a line around the log so I can pull it off the beach with the skiff when the tide gets high enough.

These logs are ready to go--I'm just throwing the tow lines into the skiff. When I have all the lines on logs, Jen will come in and pick me up.

We pull the logs into the water one at a time.

When the logs are all floating, we tie them to a bridal on the stern of the skiff and start the long, slow tow for home.

Towing logs is a lot like herding cats--they usually want to go a different direction than you want to go. We had a lot of trouble with the big log on the left--we finally cut it loose and just took the others in after doing two long slow 360's. We came back for it after dropping the other logs off at the lodge. We had to tie it alongside the skiff to be able to tow straight.

I like to get back to the lodge just before high tide.

That allows me to get the towlines up by the woodshed and pull the logs up as much as possibble before the outgoing tide leaves them high and dry.

This was a good day of logging on a nice high tide!

If the tide's not high enough to float the logs to the woodshed, I use a chainsaw winch (you can see it next to the big plank in the photo) to pull the logs up the beach. In the good old days, my back didn't mind carrying the rounds by hand (or should we say by back) up to be split, but those days are gone.

Bucking up logs before the tide comes back in.

Splitting rounds with a maul.

The wood stack fell over three times until Jen came out and helped me do it right. The only thing more fun than stacking wood once is stacking it 4 times!

We had a stretch of nice dry weather in late November and were able to get the tarps off and the wood nice and dry. We're running out of places to stack it, so I'm sure we'll have enough now for the winter. Good thing too, as the weather is supposed to get colder in a few days with snow in the forecast. Life is good!

Jen's Patented Clothes Dryer

A mind is a terrible thing and Jen's never sleeps. Here at the lodge, we spend a lot of time drying clothes. Any time we go outside, when we come back in there are hats, gloves, coats, rainpants and sometimes boots to dry. We have a couple of proven methods we use, but on a trip to Home Depot in Seattle, Jen decided that we NEEDED a new improved clothes dryer and started throwing bits and pieces in our cart.

Jen assembling her new improved clothes dryer after I helped by drilling holes to her specifications in a piece of aluminum ducting. We call it the JCD (Jen's Clothes Dryer). No, that's not a crown on Jen's head, it's a king crab on the wall.

Adding the WCAD (Wet Clothes Adhesion Devices) aka clothespins.

The finished product, ready for hanging by the wood stove. It looked great, but unfortunately during the first test dry, we found it didn't work--putting anything on it threw it off balance and the clothespins would slide off the dowels. I thought that it could be modified, but Jen immediately lost interest and went on to her next project (which remains classified).

In the meantime, our old tried and true clothes driers (TTCD) are working like champs. This one hangs near the woodstove. Wet hats and gloves dry completely overnight. By the way, we've discovered with rubber gloves that you have to dry them fingers down so the moisture can heat up, rise and vent from the glove. No, that's not a real eagle.

The JED (Jen's Exercise Device) also makes a very handy clothes dryer. The only problem is a conflict when Jen wants to exercise, but that hasn't been a problem so far this winter.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How does your garden grow?

Our first two winters caretaking, I tried to grow an indoor vegetable garden here at the lodge, and my garden didn't grow very well. In fact, it didn't grow at all. This probably had something to do with the fact that I didn't have any real grow lights and Jen didn't like the idea of a garden inside the house (where the plants need the warmth). So I tried the garden up in our hydro shed (the building where our electricity is generated) and I don't think anything survived very long after sprouting. The last two winters, I didn't even try to grow anything.

This fall while we were in Seattle, I went out and bought an actual grow light with 4 flouresent bulbs. I put the light, seeds, and other supplies in one of the boxes we shipped up to Sitka.

I put the "garden" in the shower of the bathroom we don't use. This opens to the main part of the lodge so does get some heat from the woodstove. A week later, we had seeds sprouted.

Three days later, we had little green things getting bigger and reaching for what they thought was the sky.

A week later, the plants were fat and happy and our second crop has sprouted.

Here we are at six weeks and we have two types of lettuce, green onions, basil, and cilantro about ready to harvest. And to think they laughed at us at the institute.......

October at the Lodge

Jen and I are spending our fifth winter caretaking the Baranof Wilderness Lodge in Warm Springs Bay. The lodge is on the east side of Baranof Island (the opposite side from Sitka) and we will be here from early October until around May 1.

Loading up boxes at the lovely Condo Nasty. It's amazing how much stuff we "need" to keep Jennifer comfortable and happy for seven months.

It's about 90 nautical miles by boat from our slip in Sitka to Warm Springs Bay. We left early in the morning to catch the flood through Sergious Narrows and made it to the dock at the lodge about 11 hours later. We had boxes stacked in all available space below, several 150 # propane bottles lashed on the deck, and the cockpit full of supplies, including a new hot water heater.

Offloading at the lodge.

We have a small hydro-electric plant for power at the lodge. This gives us some electric baseboard heat, but the wood stove gives us most of our heat when the weather gets cold. We try to get as much wood cut in October as we can so it will be as dry as possible before we burn it.

There were still lots of blueberries around when we got here. I spent a couple hours picking these beauties up by the Baranof River one drizzly afternoon. The picking was very easy because all the leaves were already gone.

October was very wet and windy. We had over 22 inches of rain in October and several days with high winds and waves inside the bay. I took the lodge's 19 foot skiff over to the state float at the townsite on Halloween and almost disappeared between the waves. I would not have wanted to be out in Chatham Strait that night!
Our rain gauge showing almost 3" of rain. We record rainfall, high and low temperatures, and snowfall every 24 hours.

Sadie Creek running pretty high after a few days of heavy rain. The creek provides our hydro-electric power and domestic water.

Sadie Creek below our bridge running into Warm Springs Bay.

A few of our resident Harlequin Ducks winter in the bay.

We have a large group of river otters who hang out around the lodge. We have seen as many as eight running around the dock and they swim back and forth between the lodge and the "town" float. (We call the dozen cabins at Baranof "town")

Jen getting ready to cut Hank Short's birthday cake. You can see why we don't encourage her to experiment in the galley.

Feral Bueller's Photo Gallery--a glimpse in the life of a formally feral cat who really loves living at the lodge!
Feral leads the way up the ramp as Jennifer's bike is offloaded.

Heading up to the lodge along the boardwalk.

Jen and Feral are excited to be back to the lodge.

Looking for mice in the grass.

Mouse located and nuetralized!

The shrew who roared! (It didn't do him any good)

I never realized how many mice and shrews there are around until Jen put Feral on a diet. Feral decided to take responsibility for her own meals and she's been nailing the crap out of the little critters. She now spends a lot of time in the grass waiting for something to move, and seems to get one within minutes of going outside every day.

Halloween is Feral's favorite holiday!
This is either Count Dracula or a French cat with an attitude.

She likes to wear a different outfit each day before the trick or treaters arrive.

"It's Alive!"