Beginning the New Year – Similar to the Old Year!

Yesterday was the first day to get back into the routine here on the homestead. Of course, there is only a simulated routine – circumstances always dictate what we’re up to. We began with a treat. Grandpa had received a new waffle iron for Christmas, and was interested, if not eager to try it out. We were more than happy to eat his experiments. As such, we were up and out of the yurts and sniffing around their dining room table shortly after Kenny got up.

Grandpa had a few issues with the waffle iron, noticeable really only to him, as I found them to be delicious, and in no need of improvement in any department. It has fewer cavities for butter, syrup and jam, but the ones it does have are larger – a fair trade off in my opinion.

In any case, Mummu and Grandpa filled our bellies with tasty, warm food, and our minds with morning conversation.

Grandpa and I agreed to tackle our original bush trail – no real snow was predicted for the upcoming few days, so we decided to press on and try to recover some more large logs from across the ravine.

I left the festivities to warm up water (to pour down the well and hopefully free up our water supply), as well as to start up the new generator (apologies to the two-stroke haters – I really look forward to retiring that generator once it has served its purpose). The new generator started after a good twenty pulls. About a pull for every degree below zero it was. This is still a big improvement over the 120 that the four stroke required.

As an experiment, I ran the generator near the dojo tent, and with an extension cord, plugged in the tractor, which had a short 120volt cable hanging from the engine block. I wasn’t sure what that cord could be for, as it attached directly to the engine, rather than wrapping around the battery or something like any block heaters I had ever seen before.

My instincts were good though, as within a few moments I could feel the warmth around the cable, and after about fifteen minutes Grandpa arrived and announced that he couldn’t comfortably touch that part of the engine.

Still, the tractor required a bit of coaxing to start. I let it roll out of the dojo tent, spewing black diesel smoke, where the air was fresher for the operator, and it could have more of a chance to warm up.

I called Donna back to the yurts to report in for hot water duty – a challenge she accepted with better humour than I expected. As my readers know, she is a very long-suffering young lady who sure is willing to put up with much :).

A stock pot and two kettles went down the well, then another stock pot and two more kettles went down the well. Then I set off through the bush to deal with the water later – nothing seemed to be moving yet, but I figured that the ice block must be rather thick after we had been gone for the holidays. At least now we have a new high bar for stovepipe temperature that can be achieved without incident.

I offered Grandpa the option to take the tractor back to the bush. I like to let Grandpa operate the tractor when he is helping because I don’t think it’s right that he has to walk everywhere while I ride in comfort, and also because he is much braver at taking the tractor into new and precarious places than I am. I’ll let you formulate your own ratio as to what balance those two reasons have – am I being more noble, or more fearful? I don’t know the answer to that myself…

Grandpa accepted, and we were off. We made great progress, until we got across the ravine and hit our first serious incline. Grandpa had been prepared though, bringing along his hand-cranked winch right away with the understanding that this was inevitable. We quickly hooked up the winch and were able to coax the tractor up the first slope. As I dismantled the winch and chains, Grandpa continued up into the bush. I grew to understand why he wears mittens in this weather – my insulated gloves are still no match for the temperature, and I can assure you that pulling your fingers into the palms of a glove, and trying to use it as a mitten, is not very effective. Alternating which hand had finger use, I managed to unhook the winch and carry chains and accessories up to where Grandpa encountered the second incline.

We also conquered this obstacle with little difficulty, and managed to turn the tractor around and skid out three logs.

Back at the yurts, Donna managed to get more water up near to a boil, at cost of the temperature going from this:

To this:

Actually, the first thermometer was recorded in our fridge in the back yurt, reflecting how cold things must have gotten while we were away. The second thermometer is located above the doorway between the two yurts, so it is always a few degrees warmer than elsewhere.

I poured down more hot water, and still no go. Grandpa left for his lunch and I dismantled the water line to see if the blockage was in a previously discounted location. When Donna was plugging in the pump, I could see that a fair bit of water was actually being pumped out of the well, so the blockage must be further up than I thought possible.

Opening up the line 100′ from the well, I tried my basic test of blowing through the hose towards the yurts. You can imagine my surprise when I couldn’t! It was a mixed feeling – did I have two ice jams? One down the well, and one further up?

I asked Donna to plug in the pump again as Grandpa returned from his lunch. With trepidation I listened at the open end of the pipe. I thought I could hear water gurgling.

The mental image of a gush of ice water pouring into my ear convinced me to hold my hand over the end and feel for escaping air. Just as I did this, my hand got treated to the aforementioned ice water.

Exciting! Sort of… I didn’t have to go down the well! Now to find the blockage… I broke out my new fishtape, and discovered the blockage was upstream about 20-30 feet, at a spot where the line curved around between two logs and was suspended in mid air. I’m sure I checked it with the level and it was still on an incline, but there was no way the fishtape was passing.

Grandpa and I set Donna to heating more water, and decided to return to the bush to retrieve some more logs. This time I took the tractor seat, and managed to fortuitously climb the first incline in four wheel drive without having to bust out the winch.

After making a six point turn in the middle of the bush, I was turned around and we hooked up two more logs. This was exciting!

I returned the logs to the skidway, and then Grandpa and I started back on the water line. In spite of pouring kettle after kettle of hot (gradually becoming warm) water on the spot where the blockage was, we were unable to get the fish tape to move any further. Eventually Grandpa returned home, and I poured out my last kettle and still hadn’t gained an inch.

I left the fishtape in the line, and then headed up to the yurts to bring the buckets down to the opening in the water line, to fill them there.

This worked just fine. I got Donna to start a load of laundry then, and refilled the buckets for a future load. When she finished that load, there was still a basket to do, so I figured we shouldn’t quit now, and we agreed to do the second load while we were already in that mode. Although the water from the well was liquid, it rapidly turned to slush once in the buckets.

It was exciting to see the water pump successfully from the machine on the first go – I was certain that it would be too frozen.

I filled up the buckets again after she poured them out into the washing machine, and then closed up the water line.

Donna wondered why I didn’t continue trying to free up the main line, but I declared that I had had more than enough of pouring kettles onto the line with no success. I think I will cut the line at the blockage to get a better grip on the problem. Then reconnect it after picking up some connectors in town.

As I went to close the other end of the water line, I realized that I couldn’t move the fishtape – the kettles must have melted a bit of water, which refroze around the fishtape when I left it in place for the past hour or so.


Back to the yurts for a kettle, with images of my fishtape and water line left in this position until spring.

I poured out the kettle on the blockage again, and then worked out a few frustrations tugging on the line until with a final “Uff”, freed it.

I coiled it up, covered the end of the blocked line, and headed inside to help prepare for supper.


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