Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Solar Power - Charging a Car Battery

Last month we rigged up our solar panel to charge a car battery. The battery is for running lights and radio in our new Garden House, and also for the backhoe.

Here is a graph for about 2 weeks of the 10W solar panel charging the battery. There is an impressive increase in voltage on the battery day-to-day... especially on those sunny days. Even the cloudy and rainy days we had showed noticable increase in charge.

There were a few days we used the battery for lights, and also for the backhoe work we've been doing. Other than those dips, you can see the steady charging of the battery. Its working great!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boat Prep - Fixing the Starter on the Big Outboard Motor

Over the last few months, the big motor has been more and more difficult to start. Usually, the starter motor spins, but it isn't engaged with the flywheel and does NOT turn over the main motor.

I thought it was the bendex, which pops up the starter teeth to engage the flywheel. I cleaned off the shaft and it seemed to help... but this weekend it wouldn't pop up at all when we were out on the water. Ouch - stranded on the river! Thats NOT good...

Here you can see the starter motor (vertical) and the copper-colored bendex gear head. It wasn't popping up at all on the river. I took the cover off, and manually spun it up, and it finally engaged with the flywheel and started. We quickly got off the water.

This morning I openned up the motor, and tested the contacts on the solenoid to make sure the solenoid was good. I hate replacing something only to find out that it didn't fix the problem.

Besides - its FISHING SEASON! Of all the times for the motor to need work, Fall Chinook is NOT the time! Get-R-Fixed!

Guess what - the solenoid AND the starter motor checked out good with the test meter... and the motor turned every time!

It because clear that the bendex wasn't popping up enough to even touch the flywheel, but the motor would spin each time.

So... I carefully spun the bendex up manually, and looked underneath at the shaft - a gunky mess! I had been spraying the top of the shaft, but all the buildup and gunk was underneath and inside the shaft. So... I sprayed it really well UNDERNEATH the shaft, and tried it...

... SUCCESS! The bendex popped up easily and quickly EVERY TIME. All the gunk was keeping it from popping up.

I manually popped it up, and cleaned it several times. It appears to be working great now. Yeah! We can get back on the water!

Hopefully it works as well out on the river!

Cow Update - Still in with the Neighbors

We've been keeping tabs on our renegade cow... he's still in with the neighbor's herd of Highland Cattle.

He has settled down well, and is almost tame again. This week we may try to corral him in and return him home.

Stay tuned... this ain't over yet!

Cooking, Cleaning, and EATING Crab

After a slow day of fishing, we went out to Chinook, WA to our friend's place for a spagetti dinner. They had all just gotten back from fishing and crabbing... should have gone out on the ocean. The ocean was rough, but they all caught their limit of salmon, then pulled their crab pots. After 3 hours, their 3 pots had TONs of legal crab!

We used to crab alot in WA - out on Hood Canal by Potlatch. A few years ago it used to be really good (except for the old guffers who robbed out pots, regularly) but has slowly deteriorated over the last 6 or 7 years.

Here's a photo from way back then.

The nice thing about Puget Sound is that the water is usually pretty calm for crabbing.

Here's a nice pot with some keepers!

Crabbing is fun for the kids, and it pays off when all the kids have catch-cards! Crab eating is done best in VOLUME!

Here is a pretty good haul.

Anyway, back to the present.

Our friends gave us a few to enjoy at home when we left from dinner... I should have grabbed more but didn't want to get greedy!

I should have been greedy...

Cooking crab is very time consuming, but its easy. Cleaning them is easy, too. To cook the crab, we simply use a big propane burner and 5-8 gallon metal pot. We fill the pot with seawater (or you can heavily salt fresh water) and boil it. Just drop in the crab and keep them boiling for 20 minutes. We've cooked them in fresh and in salt water, and the salt water is WAY better - the crab are much tastier when boiled in their native salt water.

After the 20 minutes are up, take each of the crab out of the boiling water and drop them in a bucket of COLD fresh water. Leave them in the cold water for 5-10 minutes. Now they are ready to clean.

Cleaning crab is fun but messy. Keep a 5 gal bucket handy, and a hose with a spray nozzle. First step is to break off the small, triangular piece of shell from the bottom of the fish. Use your thumb and break it free from the back-end of the crab.

The piece of shell will pop off like shown. BTW, this is the same piece used to tell if it is a male or female crab.

Next step is to take the crab at the back-end again, and pry off the top shell, from the back to the front. It will come off easy, and spill guts and gue all over, so do this over a bucket!

With the top shell off, clean off the gills and most of the gue from inside the cavity and around the outer legs and inner shell. The gills are the longer, squishy white things circling the inner shell of the fish.

Its easy to do, just messy!

Now, take your thumb at the front of the crab and bust off the small feelers and bottom shell, as shown. This is also easy to do.

The final step is to take the hose and carefully blast the rest of the gue out of the inner shell. Be careful not to blast out meat - there isn't much to start with!

It is easiest to angle the nozzle to blast from the back to the front of the channel between the legs and inner shell. Most of the gue comes out easily with a couple short blasts from the hose. Here is the final crab, cleaned out.

Now its time to EAT! Eating crab is a social affair - and should NOT be the main course of the meal. After everyone is done eating, it is great to sit around for an hour or two, eating crab.

This crab was fantastic. We sat around eating as the kids got home late from a church dance, and ate and talked with them until WAY too late Saturday night.

Yumm. Time to get out crabbing again. We haven't done it since moving to Oregon, but its time. Besides, the freezer is full of salmon-heads and fish parts for crab bait - the freezer needs to get cleaned out!

Weekend Fishing - Bouncing on the Water

We took the boat out Saturday to get it all ready for fall chinook fishing on the Columbia in 2 weeks. Glad we did - it needs some work!

The two younger boys went out, so we didn't want to mess with the stress and angry old men at the Rainier, OR launch. St Helens was very windy and choppy- we took waves over the bow!

Fishing was VERY slow - only saw one boat drift off anchor for a fish. My friend reported it was "stinkin' red-hot" up at Rainier... a bunch of new fish coming through and all the boats were limiting out. The story of my life. Oh well - it was nice and we had fun. The big motor didn't want to start, but the little motor (kicker) started right up. I think the starter needs to be replaced. Grrrr.

More Construction - Shop Addtion for the Boat

This week we tore into the grassy area behind the shop, to expand the shop and provide a place to park the boat in out of the weather.

Here you can see the back of the place - still some water barrels to move. The gravel area is where we park the boat today - this will all be covered in dirt and become garden for the berries to expand into.

From this view you can see the boat and van parked on the gravel, and also where we have torn into the grass. The backhoe made quick work of the grass, and the spoil was put into the area where the boat currently is shown. We dug down through the gravel and are building up the topsoil for the black and raspberries.

Our crew worked hard, so we gave them rides. They hadn't counted on the "thrill and chill" part of it... they quickly cowered into the bucket until it came down a bit.

Here you can see where we have leveled off the gravel area - making it less steep for backing in the boat. Also, you can see the dirt piled up on the right of the photo for the berries. There was alot of bentenite in the dirt - I think the previous owner was trying to create a barrier to keep water out of the shop...

The area cleaned up nice.

Here is the boat parked in its new spot. It still takes a few forward-n-reverses to ease it into place... after some practice we'll work it out.

Plenty of room on either side. The construction will pore concrete along the grass edge as a retaining wall, and sheetmetal will cover the back side along the grass. The roof will extend over the boat, keeping it out of the sun and rain. And out of the snow. Then we'll paint it all to match the house. Can't wait to get building...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Funny Fish Finding

Remember that big hog we caught last weekend? Well, it was a bit of a puzzler... after we filletted the fish, we tried to find out if it was a male or female.
As we cut up fish, the little kids always crowd around and chime "was it a mommy or a daddy fish?" Its always fun to look for eggs or milk, and it seems very important for the kids.

Well, we couldn't find eggs OR milk in the fish! This is the first time we've encountered this... was it a male or female???!!!???
Here's the guts... can you tell?
Well, we decided to ask the experts - there is a FANTASTIC forum on the internet for all-things hunting and fishing... www.ifish.net.
We asked the experts, and within a day had several very good reponses. Here is an example:
"It's clearly a buck,and yes, the organs below the thumb are immature milt sacs. The fish is, in my estimation, a very large feeder fish that would probably have returned to spawn next year. ...
Did your fish have a silver lower jawline on the outside? Once a chinook's lower jawline turns from silver to black, biologists say the fish is no longer "bright", and that the turning of the jawline to black marks the beginning stage of a chinook's spawning migration,and this usually happens in saltwater, not in the river. [Bright as defined by biologists is NOT the same as we fishermen define "bright"; the bilogical definition has much more to do with sexual maturity,rather than scale color th eway we fishermen characterize a 'bright' chinook']SO, if your fish had a silver-colored outside lower jawline, AND his milt sacs were as undeveloped as they were shown in your photo, my feeling is that the fish was an exceptionally large "feeder chinook"; who knows, maybe he was destined to be a Wilson River winter chinook, or a fish that would have spawned in 2010 as a 51 pounder or something like that."
You can read the entire thread here: http://www.ifish.net/board/showthread.php?t=264159

Meat Chickens are Growing!

The meat chickens are doing well - really growing visibly fast!

The older male chicks we first got are now more than 2 weeks old, and are very active and easily excitable. They have started growing small combs on their heads, and their wing feathers are growing out and quite developed.

At the 2 week mark, we weighed a male chick and a female chick that is only 1 week old. The male was 8.1 oz, and the female was only 4.0 oz - pretty good growth for just 1 week!

Tanning a Rattlesnake

We finally got around to tanning that rattlesnake hide that we found while rafting the Deschutes River 2 weeks ago. Wow - only 2 weeks ago... feels like months ago we were on the river!

Here's the snake, and the boy...

It was pretty easy for him to quickly peel the skin off the snake, and scrape the meat, membrane, and blood off the hide.

Usually we soak the snakeskins in a mixture of de-natured alcohol and glycerine... but we haven't been able to find the glycerine around town.

So... a tip off the internet pointed us to use Anti-freeze and soak the hide in it for 3-4 weeks. Makes sense - a-freeze has all the ingredients we usually use... and we have it around already.

Here's the hide in the a-freeze. After a day of soaking, we've turned the hide inside-out to get a better soaking.

In 3 weeks we'll pull it out, clean it and rub it with hand lotion, then sew up the ends and fill it with sand for a realistic feel.

Company Picnic with a Moster Slide!

We attended a company picnic out at Cedar Ridge near Vernonia, OR and had a blast. It was blazing hot out... nearly 100*F and sunny, but there was lots of water.

Good food, too.

There were lots of activities and things, especially for the kids, but all of us wanted to stay in the water.

The only thing that got us out of the pool was the MONSTER waterslide! This bad boy was 250' long! It was a great slide. A few of the sliders almost ended up in the Nehalem river at the base of the slide!

Even the little guy went a few times. The only thing taking him away from the slide was going back to the pool... back and forth, back and forth...

A great day of fun. The only way to spend during these HOT days of summer in the Pacific NW.

More Rabbits on the Farm

Our rabbit has had more babies!

Here is momma keeping guard over the brood.

At least 3 of the babies are dark like their pappa. Its tough to see them very well with all the fur and hay in the nest.

I tried to get closer to them for a photo, but momma was protective - she barked, charged, and tried to bite my hand! It was more like a headbutt - didn't actually use teeth on me.

I took the message and backed off.

Here is one of the little ones that squirmed away from the nest. 3 of the babies moved out a ways from the nest, so we were able to get a look at them. At least 3 are dark, and we think another white one in there.

It was a hot day, and they all seemed to be doing ok on their own. We did move them back in with momma at dark.

Did you know rabbits have 2 sets of reproductive organs? We didn't, but are expecting a 2nd batch of babies soon... we'll see!

Cranking Out More Spinners

We had a blast 'field testing' our last batch of spinners for Salmon fishing. Pleased with the success, too. With so many fish in the river right now, its hard NOT to catch something... but 11 fish on one spinner is great!

Here's another batch of spinners we have made to restock the ones lost over the weekend. Unfortunately we haven't been able to track down more of the red/white blades we like, but we'll keep looking.

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Meat Chicks

Welp Hatchery sent us 17 replacement chicks for the ones that died last week. It was very nice of them, and we are very happy customers - they were great to work with, understanding, and eager to resolve the problem.

Instead of males, we agreed to take female chicks this time. They are noticably more calm and peaceful than the males. One was dead in the box on arrival, but none of the remaining chicks have had a problem out-a-da-box.

After 10 days, the male chicks are over 8 oz in weight, and we are now only feeding them during the day - removing food at night. They are very active and aggitate easily. They are fast and eat like pigs! Feathers are appearing and they are GROWING.

The female chicks are at 4 oz at exactly 1 week younger than the males. They are calm, docile, and even easy to handle. They are all doing well, and don't seem to get aggitated or pick at eachother as much. Though they grow slower, they seem to be the easier birds to raise, already.

The Wary Cow Has Been Captured!

Finally! Reports came in on Sunday that the wild steer, roaming the hillside and leaving landmines in his wake has been contained within a fence. At long last!

Though his freedom lasted less than a week, it has felt like much longer. He is now in with a neighbor's herd of cows, and the good neighbor has gratiously offered to let us leave the steer be until he calms down. It has all worked out well, with little damage and alot of new friends in the neighborhood.

Stinkin' cow...

More Construction Projects to get Ready for Winter

There are a few other projects to start and finish before winter gets here...

We broke ground on an addition to the shop. This is where we will house the boat to get it out of the weather. This is just prep-work before we bring the backhoe over. We called blue-stakes and got all the utilities marked, so the adventure should be easy... right?

The other project is to fix up the chicken coop. Ever since we finished the Garden House right next to it, the coop has needed a re-vamp. It is very unlevel on the slope, so we first need to jack-up the end, here.

Pretty easy to jack it up - just needed a lever with alittle weight on it...

All the digging brought in the hens - they are efficient machines at eating up the spiders and bugs!

Here you can see how we slipped in one of the blocks. Its tough to see because of the fencing we stapled around the edge to discourage predators from digging in.

The fencing has worked well to keep the hens from digging out, too.

Here is the final state - two blocks under the downhill side, and the coop is nice and level. Ready now for the siding and trim.

Stay tuned...

Eating Our Spoils

The best part after fishing and work in the garden is... the eating!

Look at the slabs coming off that big King we caught - he was a beauty.

That night we feasted on fresh corn, squash, and carrots from the garden. Fresh BBQ'ed salmon fillets were just right. We also had fresh bread from the wheat the girls ground up, too.


Picking More Beans - The Perdy Ones

There were some more chores to do at home this weekend. We've had alot of cooler weather and even 2 days of heavy rain - time to get the beans picked and drying.

Here the coach is training the new freshman on the finer points of bean-pickin'.

These beans were fun - very pretty and easy to find in the bushes. You can see, many of them have already started drying...

We got alot of them off of the single row we planted.

We took the pods and spread them out to dry in the Garden House - of course we needed a bright sheet to spread them on!

As they dry, the pods are splitting open and dropping out the colorful beans. Hope they taste as good as they look.