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2019 Maple Syrup Season Planning

Primal Woods Our Purpose

Michigan Maple Syrup, The Making of

If you like knowing not only where your food comes from, but also the “why” of decisions made regarding its production, read on for the unvarnished, inconventient truths.  Primal Woods exists to achieve The Purpose, it is a vehicle for achieving The Purpose.  Decisions made need to be consistent with and support achievement of The Purpose, though maintaining that consistency may at times be inconvenient, which is to say, maintaining consistency to The Purpose may make profitability far more challenging.  I want to take a moment here though, to write about what will not change.  To change some aspects of the Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup business would, in my opinion, run counter to the business’ “reason for being,” as documented in “The Purpose.”  Since I have repeated myself so often, I’ll stop trying to drive home the importance of The Purpose. Read more

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Thoughts On Diet and Health

Diet and Health – A Journey

diet and health

The diet and health bookshelf, part 1

What Am I Going to Tell You?

I’m going to tell you that what you put in your mouth is of paramount importance.  You can make remarkable, and swift, improvements to your health and fitness.  Even at what you might now consider to be “later stages of life.” You are in control.  You can do it.  In fact, you alone can do it.  No one can do it for you, and you cannot “do it” for anyone else.  With that having been said, strap on, we’re going for a ride. Read more

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Portable Sawmill Service Load-Out

portable sawmill primal woods

Preparing For Portable Sawmill Service Work

The key word here, is portable.  Which is to say, you are some distance from the usual support systems of a typical stationary sawmill.  You may not have access to your full suite of tools; on weekends technical support from the manufacturer of your portable sawmill may or may not be available.  And as the Sawyer time is not on your side.  Downtime is the enemy, and everything must be done to prevent it, and respond to it if Murphy shows up.  So, what exactly does that entail? Read more

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2018 Post Season Update from the Sugar House

pure michigan maple syrup

Jonah, Sheila and Carl; kick-ass humans being

2018 Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup | Year in Review

And what a Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup season it was!  It probably included the biggest changes we will ever take on in the Sugaring business; production was up roughly 8X on 2017, and virtually everything in the process was new, or dramatically scaled up from prior years. If you have read this blog for any period of time, you know that I “reflect” fairly regularly on “what went well” and “what didn’t go so well,” with a keen eye on the latter, because the problems represent the bulk of the opportunity for future improvements.  This post will be no exception.  Having said that, without question, the most fulfilling, satisfying, and fun part of the 2018 season, was that we were able to involve a lot more of our local community in the process.  Before I get to the details, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of the people who helped us so greatly. Read more

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Wellpump Failure!

Background

Equipment failures never happen at an opportune time, and this was no exception to that rule.  It was about 0300 the moring of the 21st when Geri woke me to tell me that we had no water pressure in the house, and that day was our first running the new Primal Woods Pure Michigan Maple Syrup evaporator, and all of the associated new equipment.  I had no time for this wellpump failure!  But of course, I had to make time.  That time was this morning, when sap was not yet flowing, and when I did not have enough sap onhand to fire up the evaporator again.

Today’s Actions

Wellhead cover off

The braided line is connected to the body of the wellpump, and ensures that it does not fall to the bottom of the hole if the PEX tubing and wiring break.  Read on to learn more. Read more

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2017 Year in Review – 2018 Goals

2017 Year in Review | Lessons Learned in Primal Woods and on the Homestead

Sawyers chalked up some impressive numbers year-on-year, and maple syruping went well in general.  Also, work on ensuring that folks searching on-line for the products and services we offer could actually find us, was greatly enhanced by doing a significant amount of search engine optimization (SEO) work on the website.  And we learned at a rapid pace.  On the Homestead, we continued to improve the infrastructure, specifically in and under the house, and did a much better job of sourcing our food locally.  So what could possibly have gone wrong?  Plenty as it turns out, and that is really where the opportunities lie.  Let’s have a look.

Primal Woods 2017 year in review

What went well, what did not go well; 2017

Read more

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Homestead Maintenance Planning

maintenance planning MRC (Maintenance Requirement Card)

First 2 pages of an atypical Navy maintenance planning MRC (Maintenance Requirement Card)

The Need for Maintenance Planning

On the homestead, and in the Primal Woods business, there are a lot of “moving parts,” literally, and figuratively.  Of course some of the required maintenance is more important, some less, but choosing to do a particular planned maintenance task, or not, should be a conscious decision.  It’s “okay” to choose not to perform a particular task, or not to do maintenance planning at all, so long as a person is willing to accept the associated cost:benefit trade-offs and consequences.  And I will note; a state of “resilience” is difficult to attain without maintenance plannning and execution.

In response to my recently well-documented failures to perform some required maintenance, Central Boiler Heat Exchanger Maintenance for example, I went about looking for some sort of free “app” or program that might support my maintenance planning efforts.  No such luck.  I found a lot of work order planning tools, some with free versions, most overly complex, with functionality I don’t need at this stage, and none that I thought would meet my needs at low cost, i.e. no cost.  So, I am going about doing it the “old fashioned way,” the “Navy way,” and developing a maintenance planning system, or Planned Maintenance System (PMS) as it was in the Navy back in the day, maybe it still is, for the Homestead and Primal Woods.

Maintenance Planning: Free and Easy

Well, maybe not easy, but cheap for sure.  I am simply starting with a spreadsheet, and the various equipment manuals that we have around us, either as hard copies, or as digital downloads.  And, I’m not trying to pull all of this together at one time, it will come together in the ensuing weeks and months, as I pull out a manual to do maintenance, or as I encounter of breakdown.

Maintenance Planning spreadsheet for the Homestead at Primal Woods

Maintenance Planning spreadsheet for the Homestead at Primal Woods

Let me just point out a few things relating to the structure of the spreadsheet, which itself will be improved as experiences informs change.

Columns:  The first two I am using to categorize and subcategorize the tasks.  You could do more or less of this, but I enjoy some way of sorting and filtering maintenance planning items.  Column C contains labels for the various dates, and the individual task descriptions.  Column D and beyond, the Week Number and date range within which particular tasks will come due.  I have come to prefer the European-style Calendar Week approach for maintenance planning; I don’t need daily resolution on this calendar, but I want something a bit more precise than monthly or quarterly.

Rows: One row for each maintenace task, categorizing and subcategorizing the tax, describing the task, and providing the the cell comments, a reference to the safe source describing how and when to perform the task. I am not feeling the need to develop Maintenance Requirement Cards just yet, but the one I included at the top of the post is worth a look <wink>.  Yes, it gets that bad! <smile>

Body: In the body of the spreadsheet, where you can currently see “Due” in various cells, “Due” will be replaced with the Date that a particular maintenance task is completed.

Maintenance Planning: Future

A beauty of a spreadsheet, and there are many, is that it can be changed and improved relatively simply and quickly.  When the process is substantially proven out in the spreadsheet, it could be recreated in a database, with canned reporting, input forms, etc.  Who knows where this might go over the years, but regardless, the spreadsheet is a good starting point.  Also cool, is that I put this spreadsheet on Google Drive, and I can edit it, in other words make entries, using Google Sheets from my smart phone.  Or not; print it out, stick it on the wall, use a pencil, or update the spreadsheet on your laptop/desktop.

Example: Central Boiler – Check pH and Nitrite levels

Central Boiler Nitrite Test Kit p/n 40

Central Boiler Nitrite Test Kit p/n 405

You will see in Row 10 of the spreadsheet, “CB Check pH and Nitrite levels.”  It was due the week between Christmas and the New Year, though that date was discretionary, I just wanted to get it done “soon.”  As it turns out, soon was yesterday, January 4th.

The date moved out because we did not receive UPS shipments due to the weather for several days; I was awaiting the Central Boiler test kit.  But that’s beside the point.  The maintenance was performed, and though the task was simple I documented “How I” did it in a 6 minute YouTube video.  I know from my own experience, that sometimes it is very beneficial to see someone else do it, and some people consume information better visually than in written words.

Doing it for the first time, and making the videos as I went, it probably took me a little over an hour.  Next time it should take me less than 15 minutes.  I wrote earlier about more important and less important maintenance items; well maintenance to the water quality in an outdoor wood furnace, aka outdoor wood boiler, definitely falls in the “more important” category.  Have a look at the video if you like, and thank you for reading, and for watching!

All the best in 2018, and kind regards,

John

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Central Boiler Heat Exchanger Maintenance

Classic Edge 750 Vertical Heat Exchanger Maintenance

Before – During – After Cleaning of the Classic Edge 750 Vertical Heat Exchanger

Maintenance is Not Sexy!

Say it ain’t so.  Upon reflection, it seems to me that be it in the workplace, or in life, the steady Eddy gets little credit.  When things work, or go according to plan, well, of course that’s what we expected.  When things fail however, the fixer gets all credit, a big pat on the back, and is called in the next time there is a failure.  It’s even less glamorous in this life; because I have no one but myself to blame in the event of failure, and then I have to fix it, too. Read more

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Making a Living, and a Life

What Making a Living Looks Like from Here

Massive lifestyle change; that’s what it looks like.  Living closer to the land means that the days of a single-point source of income is only history, and has little, and hopefully no place, in the future.  There are at least a couple of reasons for that, the first that come to mind are:

  • Time.  In the end, that’s one of the few things you have, and precious little of it.  A “job” simply takes too much time away from everything else that matters; family, friends, community, health, the land, and so on.  A job is what I call a “mutually exclusive circle,” which is to say that usually, your family, friends, the community, your health, and that of the land, are not a part of it, they’re not inside the job circle.  Where does that leave those people and things?
  • Earning money at a job is taxed heavily, relatively speaking.  That means that what you earn is significantly devalued simply by virtue of how you earn it, especially if that something results in a W-2.  The Feds take a big fraction, the States follow suit.
  • Then, most of what you buy with what you earn is also taxed, the earnings on your savings, if any, are taxed, etc.  And let’s not forget the systematic devaluation of the dollar.  All-in-all, it’s a Win-Lose proposition, and the earner/saver is not on the Winning side of the equation.
  • Resiliancy?  Not.  With a single-point source of income you are generally employed at the whim of your employer; it’s called “at-will” employment; your will, and more importantly in this context, your employer’s will.  You can be let go for more or less any reason, or no reason at all, eliminating your single-point source of income.
  • Passive income.  Nope.  With a job, typically, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.  Especially as we age, it is important to have streams of income that do not require our active participation.  You know, like book royalties, or rent from that spare space in your barn; gifts that keep on giving.

At least that is the belief system I operate under.  So what does that mean?

Primal Woods
Read more

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Alaskan Chainsaw Mill Winch Test Run

Testing the Alaskan Chainsaw Mill Winch

Let me just say this about that!  The winch attachment to the Alaskan chainsaw mill works great; I don’t know how I have managed without it.  It eliminates much of the strenuous physical labor otherwise required.  The quality of the cuts is improved, as is productivity.

Alaskan chainsaw mill winch attachment

Winch attachment to Alaskan chainsaw mill complete

Lessons Learned – Alaskan Chainsaw Mill and Winch

  • Fifty ft of rope is probably more than needed 99% of the time, that is enough for a log close to 25 feet long; we took about 16 feet off during the test to make more room on the winch spool.
  • The rope is either routed over or under the handle of the Granberg, in the run between the pulley and the winch; under the handle seemed to work best, but this may be an opportunity for incremental improvement.
  • Nails are sufficient for anchoring the pulley to the end of the log.
  • The first 6 inches into the log, and the last 12 inches or so, are cut without the aid of the winch.
  • Keep the attachment points for the winch, and carabiner at the end of the rope, as low as possible on the Granberg MkIII Chainsaw Milling Attachment; “racking” the mill, which is to say, tipping the mill towards the far end of the log, can occur, causing the chain to cut deeper into the log.  In deeper cuts, where the “thickness rails” are far above the bar, pay particularly close attention to this possibility.
  • As the log narrows, and/or as mill closes on the pulley, the carabiner attachment point will likely need to be moved towards the center of the log, to maintain roughly equal tension on the ends of the bar nearest and furthest from the powerhead.
  • When Alaskan chainsaw milling, bring plenty of gas/oil mix, and plenty of bar and chain oil; in a 30 inch diamter, 8 foot log, both tanks on the powerhead were close to empty at the end of each cut.
  • And this is a lesson you do not want to learn the hard way; wear appropriate safety gear, including hearing and eye protection, gloves, and chainsaw chaps.

See the Alaskan Chainsaw Mill Winch Test

If you have not already, check out our post on adding the winch, Alaskan Chainsaw Mill Winch Attachment.  If you are thinking about engaging the services of a sawyer, check out our related post, How to Find and Work With a Local Sawmill Service. And don’t forget to check out our Sawyers page, for related blog posts and YouTube videos.

All the best, and kind regards,

John

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