Posts

Well Pump Pressure Switch Repair

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Homesteading DIY: Well Pump Pressure Switch Repair

In recent months, I’ve had to file the points (contactors) in the well pump pressure switch on a few occasions, after loss of water pressure to the house.  I finally decided to replace the contactors in the switch.  Our pressure switch is made by Square D, and while you can buy the entire switch, I decided to see if a contactor repair kit was available on

Amazon, and sure enough, it was.  You will need to switch part number to search for the appropriate repair parts.  Our switch part number is 9013FSG, located inside the switch cover, and the corresponding Square D Replacement Contact Kit 9998PC241 worked perfectly; $12 more or less, delivered.

If a fella wants to spend more time on the homestead than off, spending less money is important, which brings us to yet another homesteading DIY project.  This one is relatively small, it took me a couple of hours, and as usual, it was my first time out.  If I have it to do over again, it could probably be done in 30-45 minutes.

Once you have the parts on hand, and you’ve notified the significant other that there will be no water pressure for a bit, it’s time to get started.  Read more

Wellpump Failure!

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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

Cleaning the Central Boiler Classic Edge Reaction Chamber

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Cleaning the Central Boiler Reaction Chamber – Homestead Maintenance

Central Boiler tools

Tools required (left to right): shovel, Central Boiler cleaning rod and hoe, plus the sheet metal wheel barrow

Cleaning the Central Boiler Reaction Chamber – Step by Step

As pictured above, you will need a shovel, the Central Boiler-provided “cleaning rod” and “hoe,” and something to use for moving the potentially still-hot ashes, when cleaning the Reaction Chamber.

Step 1: When ready, open the bypass damper and power off the control.

Central Boiler Firestar II control

Open the bypass damper and power “off” the control

Read more

Homestead Maintenance Planning

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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

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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

Resilient and Sustainable Fresh Water Systems

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sutainability and resilience defined

Sustainability and Resilience at Primal Woods

It’s safe to say I think, that these two words, resilience and sustainability, pretty well define our long term goals for the homestead.  The first three areas in need of attention that come to mind are shelter, and specifically heating the shelter, food, and water.  I have posted relatively frequently on all of these, and the focus of today’s post will be water.  My most recent post in the resilience and sustainability catgories was Sustainable Heat – Year 2 of Our Journey.  I also wrote some on these subjects in my Late Winter 2013/2014 post, and in the 2016 Year in Review post.  Well, as it turns out, we have come a long way, but we are still quite far from the goal line.

As I think about it now, both in retrospect and in looking towards future needs, we are probably furthest along in achieving the twin goals of sustainability and resilience, with the provision of fresh water.  This might be because we froze the Well House and the Studio in our first winter; the Well House systems were not permanently damaged, the PVC supply plumbing serving the Studio was shredded in its entirety, and that is not an exaggeration.  If you have ever heard of or seen a “spiral fracture” of bone, that is what each and every bone in the PVC skeletal system suffered.  Suffice it to say, the system was not the least bit resilient. Read more

Making a Living, and a Life

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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? Read more

White-Tailed Deer Tree Stand Safety

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Fall Prevention and Tree Stand Safety

Tree Stand Safety – Background

Hunting is obviously not one of our three lines of business, Sawyers, Sugarers, or Soapers, but it is part of what I refer to as Primal Woods Life, and it is About Us!  Indigenous peoples have not been particular about food, other than to ensurethat it was safe and nutritious, so they ate what the land had to offer; plants and animals.  In the midwest, White-Tailed Deer are a part of the fat of the land, and so they are a part of how we now sustain ourselves.  If you want to know more about White-tailed Deer and their conservation, check out the post I wrote, Top 7 Messages from The Land Ethic Reclaimed.  Hunting safely is about your Health, and it is about your Community, including your family and friends.  I argue that you cannot afford to get hurt, and your friends, family and community cannot afford for you to get hurt.

Tree Stand Safety at Primal Woods

Part and parcel of hunting white-tailed deer in this part of the country, are tree stands.  Now I religiously wear my safety harness in all ladder stands that I hunt from, regardless of height, which ranges from 12-15 feet.  I don’t care who you are, a fall from that height can hurt you, badly.  However, the safety harness only protects you once you are in the stand, not when climbing to, or descending from the stand.  We inherited a high “hang-on” stand from a tresspasser a few years ago, and this stand requires some additional safety considerations.  The seat of the stand is about 25 feet above the ground, and access is not via a typical ladder, but rather by use of a “climbing stick,” which is strapped to the tree.

tree stand safety fall prevention

Yup, that qualifies as a long drop

This tree stand requires 16 feet of climbing stick, and another 8 feet or so of “tree steps,” which are screwed into the tree.

tree stand safety tree step

An example of a “tree step”

Tree Stand Safety – Fall Prevention

Now, let in be said, I’m not a big fan of heights.  And I am certainly not interested in falling from 20 or 25 feet while trying to access this tree stand, or worse yet, while climbing down from this tree stand in complete darkness and the dead of winter.  So, today I installed the Gorilla Gear Fall Defense G-Tac Fall Defense Line Tree Rope.  That’s a mouthful.  It is the larger rope on the right side of the climbing stick in the photo.  This piece of safety equipment uses a curious knot, called a “Prusik Knot,” which you can slip up or down as you climb or descend, but which pulls tight and arrests your fall if the knot is put under tension by the force of your fall.

tree stand safety Prusik knot

Prusik Knot in the Gorilla Gear Fall Defense Line

A carabiner attaches your safety harness to the Prusik knot when climbing or descending.  The green and white in the larger black rope is reflective.

The other rope in the picture, on the left, is what I call a haul rope.  Again, this is tied off up at the stand, but is equipped with carabiners at the ground-end to allow the hunter to leave his gear on the ground, attached to the haul rope; freeing his hands for climbing.  Then, once the hunter is safely situated in the stand, with safety harness attached, the gear is hauled up.  So both ropes, for fall prevention and for hauling gear up to the stand, are important from a safety perspective.

Ok, all for now.  I just wanted to get out a quick note, asking you to care for yourselves, and by association, your family and friends.  Take safety seriously.

All the best, and kind regards,

John

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Peach Trees – Actions against Peach Tree Borer

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A brief update on 3 of the fruit trees, the peaches, planted in June of 2016.  The details of all of the fruit and nut trees and shrubs can be found in the blog post “FRUIT & NUT TREE AND SHRUB WALK-AROUND JULY 2016.”  It’s safe to say I have provided all of the trees and shrubs planted with near-zero support.  So far we have only lost one peach, the “Flamin’ Fury,” and that was last year; it did not look good from the git go.

Yesterday I was prompted to check the remaining peaches for peach borer by my friend PJ.  ‘Shor ‘nuf, they appear to have recently been at the O’Henry Peach, and perhaps less recently, and less aggressively, at the  Loring Peach. Read more

I’m a List Guy

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Yes, I am even one of those that will put something I have already done on the list just so I can check it off!  So last night I woke in the wee hours, and could not get my mind to shut off.  And today is tapping day of course, and I have procrastinated, of course, so now I am up against it, of course.  What’s new, that is the story of my life more or less!  To shut my mind off, I make a list of what is on my mind; this took about an hour fifteen, then I was able to get back to sleep.  See the image of my list below, or find the pdf, with clickable links,  HERE.  Now I need to power through the list, wish me luck! Read more