Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Boating - Protecting the Canvas Top and Sides

During the late spring and these summer months, we keep the boat top rolled up and the side curtains stowed. I have always hated just folding up the sides because it isn't good for the clear vinyl to be folded or pinched. It causes it to crack and damage easily.

Here is the folded side stowed in the box...

Here is how it looks folded. I've tried putting stuff inside the folds to keep them from creasing or pinching, but it never works quite right.

I did come up with an idea the other day, though...

We took an old "swimming noodle" - the foam tubes Wal-Mart sells for kids to smack eachother with in the swimming pool (and for the dog to chew up all over the yard...). We cut it to size, and simply rolled the boat's side curtain around the foam. Much nicer, and easier on the vinyl!

Much easier to stow away, too. Why did this take so long to figure out... ? Any other ideas out there?

Swarms of Sticklebacks

On the beach last weekend, there were TONS of these baby fish - big swarms and clowds of these minnows all over the Columbia River.
They look like sticklebacks when they swim - a tall and spiky dorsal fin that extends far forward on their back.
Our 10 year old was hoping they were squaw-fish (Pikeminnows), and had big plans to net them, raise them in a pool, then turn them in for the $4 bounty. Glad to see he had trouble catching them and saved us some headache.

Barnswallow Update

The barnswallows are noisier than ever, and the parents are busy keeping them fed.

As you can see, their eyes are WIDE open, and they are getting big!

They quieted right down when they saw the camera this time... they are learning fast. Before you know it, they'll be saying "Cheese" every time they see the camera come out, just like our 2 year old.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Weekend Beach Picnic

The weather this weekend turned out great - time again to hit the river! They opened up Summer Salmon season for only 2 weeks, so we had to give it a shot. The new tow-bar also needed to be field tested, so the kids were more eager than usual to hit the water!

Fishing was dead! Not even a bite. Friday afternoon was breezy and choppy on the water, but still it was nice to be out.

On Saturday we got all of the chores done, and dug 2 loads of manure for Mom's blueberries to be planted in. Not too many nightcrawlers for squaw-fishing, but some...

Here's the crew tending the boat while I park the truck. Good looking boat, and a great crew. We can launch and load the boat with very little effort or barking.

We took the boat out to Cottonwood Island at the mouth of the Cowlitz River. Great beach with lots to do. Swimming, splashing, fishing, and throwing rocks!

After a few hours of fishing with NO bites, we put the tow-bar to the test. We took it slow with only 1 test pilot on a tube for a while, and then put 350 lbs of kids on two tubes to really load it down!

The bar worked FANTASTIC! It kept the ropes up and well out-of-the-way of the motor. No bending or evidence of stress on the bar or the floor mounts, either.

The kids couldn't get enough. After 15 minutes or so, we'd shift them out to give everyone a turn, and they'd be shivering and tired, but wanting more!

Another fun thing we've started doing with the kids... burying treasure! Everybody dreams about FINDING treasure, but how can you find it if noone is ever HIDING treasure?
On this dig, I took the 2 oldest girls. We hiked a long time into the island to find a spot to bury our loot. I told them stories about pirates hiding loot, then only the captain returning to the ship. They quickly decided they could KEEP the loot and ditch the Captain, so I quit telling stories!
I took a string of pearls, a $2 bill, some money from Iraq, Afganistan, and Vietnam, and a silver dollar dated 1793 and vacuum sealed them. I also included 3 DVDs with pictures, video, etc from previous years of adventures. The DVDs also have clues on them for finding other treasure. The girls were dismayed that we were burying pearls...
I told them we'd go dig up the treasure in 25 years... about the time I let them start dating!
As we go out and camp or play on different islands of the NorthWest, we have started leaving clues and treasure behind. Something to look forward to finding with the grandkids.

Then it was back to the river. This time we showed them the proper ways to dismount a speeding tube...
It was a great day. Some of us got too much sun, but that will help us remember sunscreen the rest of the year.
When its nice in the NorthWest, you can't beat it. Anywhere!

Deploying the Pole Beans

The garden and fruit are all growing so fast, we aren't going to post updates as frequently. Once the harvest and canning begin, we'll show more info. Another week or two and the bean should be ready for canning!

We did deploy a number of pole beans we started growing in pots. Our 10 year old had a great time growing these more than 8 feet tall last year, and this year we're trying for higher! Look at the roots these dudes put on in 11 days confined to their pots!

We planted 2 of the plants at the base of our porch. The other 2 plants, and the 3 corn plants we put at the base of our 13 foot tall flag pole.

It took some time to separate the roots without breaking too many of them.

Here is the back porch - when they make it 10 feet tall to the top of the porch railing, we'll start adding more pipe and boards!

This is a great project to keep the boy watering the grapes and other plants. He agreed to get the other 'chores' done before tending his beans... it is amazing how motivated and cheerful he is when he has something to keep his interest and be excited about.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Water-ski Pylon Field Testing #1

Now that the water-ski tower is in the boat, I've run through some stress analysis on what loads we can safely put on the pylon tubing and the boat transom.

The boat transom isn't a factor - the outboard is PUSHING on the transom, loading it in compression, much more than the tension a water-skier will pull.

Here you can run through my calculations for a 2" T4-Aluminum tube in bending stress. Using a safety factor of 3, the safe load (maximum) each tube can take is 415 lbs. So the tower should be OK up to 800 lbs of kids... I'd appreciate any feedback or double-check on my numbers!

So... what fun is math if you can't bend or break something, right?

We took some leftover tubing and put it up in the barn rafters... and loaded it up with some weight!

Here we tested it with a 140 lb kid. No bending or breaking yet - though the rafters creaked...

So we put ALOT of weight on... 140lbs + 90lbs + Dad (255lbs) = 500lbs of weight on the tubing, bouncing up and down.

The rafters were moaning and groaning! The tubing yielded slightly... less than 0.1 inches as far as we can measure. I think the bending of the tube was more because of the 'point loading' of the tube on the 2x6 in the rafter, though.

So, our numbers aren't too far off, and we are alittle more confident the tubing will hold on the tower. Now - on to the water!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bio Hack #7 - Whack-n-Hack on the Grapes

This is a 'Bio Hack' in the truest sense. Last fall was the first time we attempted to prune our Grape vines. The vines are 5 years old, and 2 years old, and we had just let them grow and get established.

As you can see, they were doing pretty well, too!

The older vines had alot of grapes, but they were very small.

So... we whacked them back pretty significantly. There are alot of inputs on the web about how to prune them, so we won't detail that here. We cut all vines off the main vine, leaving only one or two sub-vines off the main one. As you can see on our old trellis, we grew our vines tall and long - each is 10-12 feet long and 8 feet high.

I was alittle worried. I fret over my vines more than over my kids...

Here is the harvest off one of the vines last year - before the pruning.

Well, here are the older 2 vines this year, after the pruning. As you can see - they are doing GREAT! Not only are they vigorous, they are putting out TONS of grapes... 2-3x what they did last year.

The grape clusters are also much longer than last year - it appears that the grapes are 'preparing' to be bigger this year. .. hope so!

Look at them all! Last year, 2 vines gave us 85 quarts of juice. We gave the rest away. This year I'm planning to make much more of my grape pie... it was FANTASTIC, and the kids are already drooling over it. We'll post more about that in the fall!

Fruit Update - Putting on some Size

Just a quick post to update on the growth of the fruit. The grapes have started putting on some size - at least the older 2 vines...

Look at all these dudes! It is crazy this year how many grapes the vines are putting out. We thought last year was phenominal - this year will be 2x that!

Not to be outdone - the apple tree is loaded, and putting on size. All the rain and sun we've had in May and June really has accelerated the fruit. Our blackberries and rasberries have bloomed weeks ahead of last year, and are putting out sizeable berries.

Cherries are just about ready. These are Queen Charollett cherries (I think) - they are yellow/red when ripe and better than Bings.

Strawberries are still putting out (everbearing), though slower than previous weeks. The plants are spreading out and putting on size, so soon they should kick up production again. yeah!

Barn Swallows have Hatched!

Two days ago the baby chicks started squawking. I love these swallows - they are amazing to watch fly, they eat ALOT of bugs, and they are not the pests that many birds can become.

Just as cuddly as bats, but more noisy!

Hungry mouths waiting...

We've had these old boxes out for years - since we moved in. Glad the swallows took up residence.

This is our response to West Nile Virus.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Boating - Adding a Water-Ski Pylon to the Fishing Boat

Ok, bear with me on this one - it may get long... 'cause we are talking about the boat for this posting.

Here is the back-end of our boat - a 22' North River. Great for fishing, but only okay for towing kids on tubes or waterski'ing. So... all during fishing season we've been trying to figure out how to put a tow tower or pylon in. I've also gotten some good input from the ifish.net forum, from guys who have towers on their fishing boat and some websites for tower mfg'ers.

After all the inputs, here is a basic design my friend and I came up with. I wanted the tower to be easy-in, easy-out. Also, didn't want to make drastic changes to the flooring or boat. Another major requirement was the ability to tow 3 tubes at a time if necessary. Oh yeah, it has to be out-of-the-way, too.

Here is a side-view of the design. Under the flooring of the boat there in the corner are solid bulwark beams, so we have a good point-of-contact for the base of the pylon to keep it from rotating upward. If we could bend the tubing to make contact with the transom, the pylon itself should take most of the stress from the moment forces created by piles of kids screaming "go faster!".

So... my friend came over and brought his tools - a true friend indeed! We are using two 10-foot long 2" Aluminum tubing (T4). Here you can see the first bend coming out of the floor from the frame, bending inward above the battery box, and up along the motor. This bend keeps the pylon away from the ski-step on the back of the boat. Good so far!
It took a couple hours of bending, checking, bending a little more... but it went smoothly.

Here is the bent tubing... (now lets hope they meet in the middle!)

...and here is the bender. We used a 12-ton tube bender. Here we are putting the 90* bend in the tube to come across the top of the outboard and join up to the other side. This photo shows the ski-step on the back of the boat, too.

With the tubes bent and lined up, we made the cuts.

Good friends are rare enough... but it takes great tools to make a good friend great ;-) Thanks Brent!

Here is a diagram of the frame and bulwark features the base of the pylon will be resting in.

There is about 7.5" from the top of the flooring to the bottom of the boat hull, so our plan is to 'insert' the pylon bases through holes in the flooring down 6 inches or so to rest against the bulwark.

Here is a photo showing how the legs of the pylon will insert through the flooring. We removed the original flooring, and cut plywood with mount-holes as a template. Eventually this will have covering over marine-plywood for a permanent fixture.

Also, I'm working on a design for a hole-screen. These holes will work great when the pylon is out for washing down all the blood and fish-slime during fall chinook...

Anywho... after bending the tubing, my friend has taken them back to the shop for welding. Here is the update photo showing the tubes welded together and the flat cross-beam we added for strenght / stability - the perfect place for rod holders!

I'm thinking we will polish the pylon and coat it with Sharkhide rather than powder-coating... any suggestions out there?

And here is the finished tow bar! My friend brought it over last night... Note the three attachment hooks at the top of the bar, for the tow ropes to wrap across the top with the loop coming down and around each peg.
Also, the bases of the tubes have 'feet', to add stability and keep the pylon up off the bottom of the boat and engaged with the bulwark.

It fit on the first try! I was afraid after the welding and cross-bar we would have more bending to do. Not so! The tower dropped right in, is steady and stable, and just as we hoped.

It looks great! This pylon turned out so nice we may never take it out of the boat... just keep it in as a rod-holder / boat role-bar.

Now for field testing it... stay tuned for the field trials. I've done some bending-stress analysis (Bernoulli-Euler Equations, etc) and also some bend testing in the Barn... stay tuned for the results!

The costs so far are minimal - $84 for the aluminum tubing, and about 4 hours or so of 'work'. I owe my friend a couple fishing trips for this one, or better yet, I'll pull him on a waterski ;-)

Bio Hack #6 - Three Sisters Garden

Ok, this one really doesn't count as a 'hack', since this is how the original Indians would grow their crops...

We read about this "Three Sisters" garden a while back in a book about Tecumseh and thought it would be cool to try. The Three Sisters refers to the growing of Corn, Beans, and Squash together in a garden plot for a mutually benefitial arrangement.

First step was we mixed a bunch of Horse Manure up with garden dirt, and mounded the mix into a mound about 3 feet diameter and 18" or so high.

The Indians were fond of putting small fish in with their seeds, so we took an old Shad (about 2 lbs) and chopped it in half - for the 2 mounds we made.

Here we are burying the Shad into the mound, rather unceremoniously. Just get in there, and make our corn grow!

And grow it has! As previously posted, these corn seeds are ones we dried from last year's harvest. The other mound is with store-bought seeds, just to hedge our bets. The corn was planted in the top edge of the mound - about 16" in diameter. Now that the corn is up, tonight we will be planting Green Pole Beans around in the sides of the mount. The beans will add nitrogen to the soil, and we will let the beans climb up the sides of the corn as they grow - thats why the corn gets the head start.

The final step in the planting is to put in squash around the base of the mound. The squash is to help provide ground cover and save moisture, and also to discourage animals from the beans and corn. We're going to try pumpkins instead, and they are already planted and growing well. We will encourage the pumpkins to cover the mound.

Stay tuned to watch how well it works! It has been a great way to help the kids come up with ideas of what else to grow together. Our garden is already organic... now it is a bit historic!

BIO Hack #5 - Corn Seeds from Hybrid Corn

We've been wondering over the years if our garden corn, grown from store-bought seeds, could be used to grow new corn.

So... last year we had a few cobs drying around the house for decoration. When Mom was done with her "Fall Parties" we took the corn cobs and dried them by the woodstove. We removed the kernels from the cobs, and stored them in the basement where it is cool and dry...

...and planted them this spring. The little plants have come up fast! Here you can see some of them that we've planted in a "Three Sisters" garden. We piled up dirt with Horse Manure, put a shad (fish) inside the mound for additional fertilizer, and the corn germinated very fast. You can see the fencing we put around to protect the corn from Crows...

The next question to be answered is... how well will it produce more corn? Stick around and lets see!

Rose Festival Left-Overs - Sailing Ships on the Columbia

On a side-note... a couple of ships from the Portland Rose Festival have been making their way downriver this week. We were driving through Rainier, ORegon back from the coast this weekend, and saw the ships out shooting their cannons. Lots of pirate talk going on out there...

...the ships look great. There is ALWAYS something cool on the river to see!

Garden House Construction

We've been wanting to put in a garden shed for a long time...

With fishing slow right now, and the $ saved up, we decided to pull the trigger. We shopped for a year or two, looking at Tuffsheds and others at Home Depot, etc and came up with one we liked - 12x16 feet with a loft.

We are under 200 sqr feet, so no permit needed... yeah!

After pricing materials and designs, we opted to build it ourself - with the help of a friend. It was great having Buc up for two weeks, and he really gave the construction a quality touch.

We used 1 1/8th inch plywood on the flooring - very strong and solid. Custom trusses also added alot. The best part is that the door is almost 7 feet tall, so no ducking required!

The kids had fun watching and running for tools, etc. The place is so nice, we can't call it a shed, but are calling it our Garden House.

We put in extra windows - to maximize ANY sun we get here in the NorthWest...

Here you can see the upper loft - almost 3/4th of the shed has a loft above it for storage.

Here's another shot of the loft. Oh, it makes a fun playhouse, too.

The inside is really nice. Eventually we will have shelving around the inside, with a deep sink and drain.

And here is the final result, painted and roofed. Now we'll be putting in a ramp, trim, and flower boxes on the windows.

The project was completed just in time, too - summer Salmon season opens today! We'll start posting new adventures again...