Friday, May 22, 2015

Odds & ends

We’ve spent the week putting shingles on the roof.  Not all day and not every day but that’s pretty well all we have to show for the week.



Yesterday Marilyn & I pulled most of the old shingles off the east side.  We finished that up this morning and got it cleaned up.  Then she went off to art class.  Neighbour Keith showed up this afternoon and we got about 5 feet covered.  We’ve got 2 sewer stacks, a chimney and 3 roof ventilators to work around tomorrow but we should get pretty close to the peak if we have a half decent day.  We may run out of shingles – in theory I bought enough but it sure doesn’t look like we have enough to finish.  We didn’t completely finish the west side so we don’t have an accurate count on how many it takes to do a side.  That was a mistake.

A couple of nights ago I took the little Case that I rebuilt last fall down to the other house with the mower.  It mows great – I think I was easily done in under an hour but the job was not without incident.  I was cutting under some old lilac trees, dodging branches and getting slapped when all of a sudden there was a loud bang and my ear started hurting.  At first I thought one of the dried up branches had given me a fierce whack upside the head.  Then I realized that there was a little blood coming out of my ear and the hurting was more inside than outside my ear.  Eventually I came to the conclusion that – unlikely though it may sound – I must have rammed a little dried up branch directly up my ear canal and punctured my eardrum.  As the little Dr. Singh in Canora said yesterday morning “Are you sure?  That is very hard to do.”  Hard to do or not she confirmed that there is a hole in my eardrum.  Dr. Google says it will take from 2 to 3 months to heal.  Dr. Singh was more optimistic but I’m keeping my expectations low.

Neighbour Keith is a gardening fool.  But he very kindly planted twice as many hills of potatoes this year as he did last year to accommodate our appetites.  He’s very precise – measuring all the time, making straight rows and marking them with little flags.  And he uses a lot of sheep shit – A VERY LOT of sheep shit.   He brought home a whole truckload of bagged sheep shit – who knew that they even put sheep shit in bags? 

He seems to know what he’s doing because he grew one hell of a garden last year.  He’s been helping us with the shingles and then rushing back to his garden so tonight I thought I’d help him out with his garden.  He had a whole area of the garden where there weren’t any of the little flags yet so I put a couple there.  And he didn’t have any in the row with the tomatoes so I put one there.  And then just for good measure I put a couple in between a couple of the other rows. 


Monday, May 18, 2015

Moving dirt

I’m not making any money but I’ve sure been busy moving dirt around.  First off I spent close to a week redirecting rainwater on our neighbour’s yard. 



We dug the black dirt out on the north and east sides of the house and put in about 18” of clay fill.  We compacted that to direct rainwater away from the house and then put the black dirt back over top.  Eventually Keith is going to trench in some weeping tile at the edge of the clay to route the water past the house and into the storm drains.  He’s had a lot of water problems.

I spent yesterday building up the road by the Co-op’s bulk fuel tank.  The delivery truck has been digging some serious ruts.  We’ve hoping that a layer of compacted clay will help there as well.

Today I was east of town deepening a drainage ditch for a guy who says he currently has 4 sump pumps running constantly just to keep his basement dry.  He had a big trackhoe in some time ago to make a ditch but the operator left the trench with a hump in the middle so it wouldn’t actually drain the area it was intended to drain. 

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In those pictures I’m straddling the ditch crosswise and digging over the side of the excavator tracks.  That went reasonably well except when it didn’t.  Occasionally the sides of the old trench caved in and dropped me into the trench.  One all but one occasion I was able to push myself out but one time I got pretty well buried and Monte had to come pull me out.  As you can see, there was plenty of water in the ditch.  I just started at the high end and carried 2 feet of water depth the whole way along the trench.  It was a little hard to see what I was doing in the muddy water but once it started running the water cleared up and I went back looking for obstructions.  There were a few but surprisingly few.

Our weather is scheduled to warm up tomorrow and that coincides with me being ready to start changing out the shingles on the house.  I finished up replacing the fascia boards tonight and I think that was the last thing holding up starting on the shingles.  So tomorrow morning I will strip about 5 feet on the west side and get at it.  There was water damage to the gyproc in the kitchen when we moved in which we think had to be caused by a roof problem.  I can’t see anything from outside but there is an area that is soft which roughly corresponds to the area that was damaged so I’m prepared for some roof repair in addition to the shingle replacement.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Waddaya gonna do now?


So the Notley crew met for the first time yesterday.  We’ve seen this play before when Smilin’ Jack’s orange crush moved through Quebec creating the NDP official opposition in Ottawa.  But its one thing to be in charge of being a thorn in the side of the Harper government and quite another thing to be in charge of one of the economic dynamos of the Canadian economy.

We’ve got friends with a business outside Calgary.  One of the partners is shell shocked.  The other is in denial.  Nobody thought this could happen in Alberta.  But it did and ultimately the people get the government they deserve.

As the big zero has demonstrated south of the border, a government dedicated to tearing down business can do an incredible amount of damage in just four years.  This is one time when we can hope for a resilient bureaucracy that is smart enough to wait out the amateur act that is about to unleash itself in Edmonton.  

Four years because, if Albertans re-elect the socialists, then they deserve everything they get.  Fool me once – shame on you.  Fool me twice – shame on me.

Meanwhile in Saskatchewan what’s bad for Alberta won’t be all bad for us.  We can count on at least a few head office relocations from Calgary to Saskatoon.  Saskatchewan’s star has been rising for a while now – the eclipse in Alberta will only make it easy to see.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

They’re multiplying like rabbits


This little guy was on Kijiji for about a month before I showed him to Marilyn.  I had pretty well convinced myself that it was silly to get a third (fourth if I count the Roper) garden tractor.  But its kind of a classic and Marilyn thought it was cute.  I do too.  Plus the guy who owned it was almost giving it away and it has 4 brand spanking new tires on it.  So we took off early Monday morning, met some friends for lunch in Winnipeg and picked up a 50 year old garden tractor in St. Vital after lunch.  Then we had coffee with some other friends in Brandon, spent the night in Russell and came home Tuesday.  On the way home we stopped in Yorkton and picked up enough shingles to redo the roof at 515.


That’s a stationary “elevator” engine that sold last weekend just north of town.  I think they also called them a “hit and miss”.  It was quite a performance getting it started but once it was running it chugged away quietly for about half an hour until it was sold.  Starting it involved a grain auger strategically positioned so that the auger engine could be belted to the hit and miss.  The problem was that v-belts don’t track very well on flat pulleys but the crew persevered and got it running.

  I believe “hit and miss” comes from the fact that they are a 4 stroke, single cylinder, very slow turning engine.  As a 4 stroke they need to make two complete revolutions for every power stroke so the non-firing stroke is the miss and the power stroke is the hit.  Engines like this used to power the iconic grain elevators that marked every town in western Canada.  I don’t remember them but clearly many people in the audience at the auction sale could remember hearing them run every day.


Aside from running to Winnipeg to pick up superfluous garden tractors, I’ve been busy helping our neighbour improve the drainage in his yard.  Until recently the program was that water entered from the back alley, flowed through his garden, under his deck, down the wall and into his basement.  He’s understandably not enthused about continuing that system so we removed his deck, lifted the concrete slab and step under the deck and stripped back the topsoil on the north and east side of his house.  Then we hauled 4 loads of clay and today we backfilled around the house with clay.  He’s been tamping that close to the house and I packed most of it with the Scat Trak.  There was over 2 yards of gravel under his concrete slab – in places it was more than a foot deep.  That was further serving to channel water toward his basement.  The clay underneath the gravel was a classic prairie frost boil which the little Scat promptly disappeared into as soon as we got the gravel cleared away.  Right now we’ve got a fairly solid clay cap about a foot thick over top of the boil.  I’m not sure that’s a good long term fix but he seems happy with it so I guess its his yard & his problem.



Friday, May 1, 2015

Crime in Buchanan

We may be experiencing the beginning of a geriatric crime wave in our little village.  The prime suspects are 70+ year old Nick and the old woman I live with.  First some background.

Our neighbour Keith is very deaf.  He has some spectacular hearing aids that he wears on an apparently random schedule.  I’m never sure whether I need to shout or whether a normal conversation is possible.  My confusion is compounded by his standard deaf person tendency to pretend he understands even when he hasn’t the faintest bloody clue what you just said. 

Yesterday we tore out his deck, the step that the deck had been covering and a substantial portion of the concrete slab surrounding the step. 




The little loader handled the deck remarkably well.  We didn’t put so much as a scratch on the house.  We don’t have any pictures of breaking up the slab but it was a bit of an adventure.  I didn’t think we had any hope without sawing it first but I managed to get a bucket tooth wedged under a corner, pried it up and had Keith stick a log under the corner.  After that it got easier and eventually I got the entire 15 foot wide slab coming up but it has a lot of steel in it so it refused to break clean.  I ended up folding over a 10 foot section on itself but that necessitated a change of plans that left Keith scrambling to clear a place for me to push the folded slab onto.  When I finally pushed it over it fell with a mighty crash but the steel held and we ended up with his slab folded in half.  We’ll eventually cut the steel with a grinder but that’s not the point of the story.

Somewhere during that mad scramble to clear a path for the falling slab Keith lost one of his hearing aids.  That put him in a frenzy this morning which culminated in him locking himself out of his house.  He realized he was locked out when he returned home to get the hat he had forgotten in his rush to leave for Yorkton.  I’m not sure why he was going to Yorkton.  The first we knew about his distress was when he rang the doorbell just as I was about to start a conference call this morning.  After a short visit he left for Yorkton, I went on my call and SWMBO launched her crime spree. 

Evidently Marilyn went out to wander around Keith’s yard in search of his missing hearing aid and Nick stopped to visit.  Nick is kind of the unofficial supervisor of everything that happens around town.  I’m not quite sure how that conversation morphed into the two of them breaking into Keith’s house but that’s apparently exactly what happened.  They used our ladder and Nick, who is surprisingly spry for any age, let alone 72, squirmed through the bathroom window.  Once they had the house open Marilyn called Keith to confess to their crime.  Only in Buchanan would a pair of geriatric criminals confess to the crime before the victim was aware he had been victimized.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring is springing in Buchanan

Its been a while and we’ve been busy – sorry about the extended interval since my last post.

We made a flying trip to Saskatoon, Prince Albert & Nipawin last week.  Marilyn had some meetings – I went out to Shellbrook to visit Ken and we both had a good visit with Al & Grace.  We had been really pissed at the fridge that came with this house for a really long time.  We never could figure out why it insisted on dumping about a cup of condensation out on the floor every day.  So when we were going to Saskatoon anyway we took the truck and brought a fridge home with us.  Marilyn put the old one on the local Facebook buy & sell page as a free fridge and within an hour had four candidates willing to come pick it up.  We could never have sold or even given it to anyone we know but when we were giving it to someone we will never see again it seemed OK.  Of course we told the new owner how annoying the fridge was but it looked really good and its hard to believe it could be as annoying as it was.

We also brought home 40 little raspberry sticks from Boughen Nurseries in Nipawin.  I fired up the Kubota excavator, scratched out some shallow trenches by the little house and planted our new raspberry patch.  Then Marilyn called Richard to come turn the water on at the little house and we discovered that the main shutoff valve had exploded over the winter.  Actually “we” didn’t discover that – Marilyn discovered that when she got soaked by a fountain coming out of the incoming line from the street.  So today I went to Preeceville and got a few plumbing bits so that we could get the water turned on without getting soaked.

This was also the week when the mayor organized a work party to build our neighbours a ramp into their front door.  Irvin has something wrong with his back which is taking away his use of his legs.  I’m not sure that anyone knows exactly what the problem is but the symptoms are that he is increasingly wheelchair bound and that wasn’t workable without ramp access to the house.  So about 10 of us got together over the course of the last 3 days to build a ramp, put railings on the sides of it and lay carpet on it.  It looks pretty good despite the qualifications of the crew.

Today I fired up the little Scat Trak and started excavating for another neighbour’s drainage project.  Keith has had a lot of trouble with water in his basement.  At one point the water pressure under his house built up to the point where it raised the middle of his basement floor by 6 inches.  Last year he had that all dug out and rebuilt.  Now he wants to change the surface drainage around the house so it doesn’t happen again.  The starting point for that project was skimming off some topsoil and sod around his house which is what we did this afternoon.



My biggest news for the last week is that I have finally resolved all my computer “issues”.  After we got home I got my prime laptop and my backup working so that I could use either of them but there was still something wrong with my prime machine.  It wasn’t throwing any error codes and there wasn’t anything showing up in any of the various Windoze performance monitors but it also wasn’t completely right.  Fairly regularly it would just go off somewhere on its own.  By “Fairly regularly” I mean at least a couple of times every hour of use and more often at least one incident every five minutes.  The activity light for the hard drive would light up solid and the keyboard/mouse would become completely unresponsive.  It would stay that was for anywhere from 5 seconds to a couple of minutes.  I did a few software tweaks which didn’t do much more than stop the “not responding” message that Windoze likes to display.  The machine just clearly had a mind of its own and it was extremely annoying, bordering on impossible to use.  The only remaining possibility that I could think of was a failing hard drive but none of the hard drive utilities that I have showed anything wrong with the one I was using.  Finally I bought a new drive off eBay and restored the system onto that drive.  Its been like I have a new machine ever since.  This computer hasn’t worked this well for literally years.  So I’m very happy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Springtime in Saskatchewan

We’re getting two springs this year.  It never really was winter on the coast but by the time we left, they thought it was spring.  So we got to see a lot of the trees, including the cherry trees, in full bloom.  Now that we’re back home it is slowly turning from winter’s grey to spring’s colours.  The trees still haven’t budded out but yesterday I saw crocuses and the robins are back so spring can’t be far off.


I spent most of yesterday and the day before at a couple of local auction sales.  That’s what I like to do in the spring.  I don’t buy much other than an auction burger but I always see someone I know and have a good visit.  The sale on Friday was all the way down at Lemberg which took longer to get to than I expected.  There was one of my favourite little Case garden tractors in the sale which I wouldn’t have objected to buying but, when they finally got around to selling it, the bids quickly surpassed my estimation of its value.  When they finally quit bidding it was at $4300 which is easily double what it should have sold for. 

The tractor in question was a 448 which means it was likely built in the early 1980’s.  This one had a Linamar engine in it but I don’t think that Case ever installed any Linamar badged engines so it must have been repowered at some point.  It was in decent shape – not showroom by any stretch and it showed signs of having been recently washed.  I think it probably slobbers oil as badly as any of the older Cases like to do.  There was certainly plenty of grunge left under the hood on top of the hydraulic reservoir where the kid doing the washing didn’t bother to look. I’ve got two similar tractors – the one I repowered last fall is essentially the same machine now that I put the Linamar engine in it.  The other is nominally a smaller machine but about the only real difference is the Kohler engine.  I haven’t got $3300 in the pair of machines and that includes the replacement engine plus the 2 Onans I have sitting on the shelf plus the carcass of the Roper that I pulled the Linamar out of.  If someone walked by and offered $2500 for either of my machines I’d run all the way to the bank in Canora to get his cheque deposited before he changed his mind.  Auction fever I guess.

The sale yesterday was a local consignment sale.  In other words it was 4 acres of junk with a hotdog stand in the middle.  The auctioneer was on par with the equipment he was hired to dispose of.  When I arrived in the morning they were playing Ukrainian polka music over the auction speakers.  Not that there’s anything wrong with Ukrainian polka music but in this case they were singing in Ukrainian too.  You don’t hear that everyday.  Or possibly it was Polish.  I’m not in tune with the fine points of difference. 

Last night we went to the long awaited Buchanan Black Box Theatre presentation of Spamalot.  It was every bit as good as we could have hoped for.  We didn’t get home until 1:30 which is about 3 hours past our normal bedtime but it was well worth it.  Saturday was the last night so the cast was unwinding and nobody was in a hurry to leave.