Tuesday, January 16, 2018

2018 A Pasture Odessey

My God, it's full of stars wasps!

Saturday, we went out to a friend's pasture to cut down some dead trees for her, and to collect the firewood for ourselves, our pastor and one of our elders.  The pastor  and his family all came along to help.  The elder's family however was battling the current flu plague, so they wisely stayed home!

We got to the area, it really is lovely there in winter.  I love the colors of the dry grasses...
We scouted out a likely suspect tree, a large dead and twisted oak, one that had fractured along the twist lines.  It was really rather lovely to look at, and to imagine what forces had caused the splits without knocking down the tree.  It didn't appear to be lightning, as there were no burn scars, and the lightning struck tree I have seen looked like it exploded (steam explosion).

DH went to town, sounding the trunk with a hammer, and then firing up the Stihl 311 and beginning to cut.  This took awhile, as the wood was tougher than expected.
Eventually though, it began to go...timberrrrrr!

We went over to the downed tree, looking for the best and safest ways to limb it out.  That's when we saw them...thousands of them!  The splits in the tree were home to a colony of red wasps!  YIKES!  And DH is allergic! And I couldn't recall if I'd left his Epipen in the cooler...
One lone wasp...

And some of his buddies!

And some more!

And even more wasps!

I looked inside the trunk only to see handfuls, literally, of wasps trying to get moving in the cold.  Thank goodness it was cold out, and they were mostly dormant!  No one got stung at all.

We got it limbed out, but stopped short of finishing cutting the main trunk up.  We were all tired, and running chainsaws when tired it not a wise idea!  Plus it was warming up, and so were the wasps.  We have decided to go back Friday, in hopes of them having vacated the tree, or if not, then we will hose them down with cans of Hate, (aka wasp spray).
Limbing it out.
Then on Saturday we will go back with a trailer and load it all up.  We might even take a second tree down Friday if we are all feeling energetic enough.  That would hopefully see us through this winter for wood.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Worth every penny, aka best bang for the buck!

This post was DH's idea, and I liked it so much I decided to run with it.  Having been a single income family for the last 16 years, since I quit the wageslave market to stay home with our first child, we have learned (sometimes the hard way...) the value of frugality, and the wisdom of living debt free.

This post is going to concern itself with some purchases we have made that have so proven their worth to us, that we wanted to share our experiences. 4 come to mind in particular, and although 3 of the 4 are directly related to one another, that does not diminish their value one bit.

The Fiskar's 8# splitting maul.  We bought this when we decided in 2016 to build up a woodpile for our fireplace.  DH grew up helping his dad split wood the old fashioned way.  His dad's favorite was the Monster Maul, but since I'd be using it too, we opted for the 8# Fiskar's which reviewed well.  It does a good job of splitting wood, especially with DH swinging it.

The Isocore handle works as advertised.  It really does reduce felt impact shock.  It is also extremely durable for overstrikes, especially if you have to use wedges.  This maul has a hammer poll on it, so it is safe to use with wedges.  That first year, I used a LOT of wedges!  To be honest, we beat the snot out of this maul!  So much so, that we eventually broke it!  Not the handle, mind you, the head broke.  It cracked at the cross-bolt they use to ensure the head is secure on the handle.

Now you may wonder why we recommend this maul even though we broke it.  Here's why--the wood here is very dense hardwood, a lot of it so dense that a hydraulic splitter has trouble with it, especially if it is knobby wood.  We used this maul with wedges most of the time.  That's hard useage.  When we spotted the failure, I went online and submitted a warranty request.  I called the Fiskar's customer support number three days later, where the rep informed me they had a replacement shipping out that day.  Two days after that, Santa Claus in Brown dropped off our new maul.  That's good customer support, and a good warranty!

The replacement maul isn't seeing as much use due to the fourth item on my list, so it will probably last the rest of our lives.  We both still enjoy splitting a few rounds by hand.  Makes a heck of a stress reliever!

Stihl chainsaws.  Yes, we drink the Orange Kool-aid here.  Some folks like Husqvarna, some Jonsred, or other premium brands, but we favor the Orange.  Even their light duty/homeowner grade stuff works.  We started out with a small 170, but donated that to our friends in dog rescue, as it was light enough for Roy to use easily, even with his arthritis.  We then got a 180c(promptly adopted by me), and DH's big 311 (more saw than I can comfortably manage). We then added a used older 180, as we tend to use the smaller saws more than the big 311.  That way both of us can run a saw at the same time while limbing out downed wood.  If you need a good saw, and can find one used, buy it!  And if you can't find one used, don't fear buying new--they're worth the coin, and hold their value well too.

The Gorilla Cart.  We got this at Lowe's.  It wasn't cheap, costing in the neighborhood of $130 regularly, but can be had for less if you catch it on sale.  Since DH and I have very different tastes in wheelbarrows, we thought this would be worth trying, since the Monkeys could use it heavily loaded too (one pulls, two push).  It comes with fat all-terrain knobby tires, slots in the sides of the bucket for side panels if you build some, and a handy dump handle.  Yes, this thing tips to dump the load out if you wish.  The dump feature is really handy if you are hauling dirt or gravel.

The best tip I can give you, if you buy one, is to follow the instructions during assembly.  Yes, some assembly required!  When they say fit it ALL together first before tightening anything down, they mean it!   If you start tightening the nuts and bolts before fully assembling it, you will have problems.  But once you have it all together, it just hauls!

The Huskee 22 ton splitter.  What can I say?  I love this thing!  Yes, I enjoy beating logs to death with a maul or splitting axe, but being in my second half century now, it behooves me to think long-term here, and to do things easier, faster and smarter when I can.  Especially when heating the house with wood.  I'm gonna guess we will go through 4-5 cords of wood this winter.  That's a lot of wood to have to split by hand!  Thus, when we found a used splitter on sale locally, we made a sweet deal for it.  New, they run a grand or more, for the base 25 ton models.  Higher tonnage equals higher prices too.