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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

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

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.

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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Alaskan Chainsaw Mill Winch Attachment

Installing a Alaskan Chainsaw Mill Winch: Step-by-Step

Why Install a Winch on Your Alaskan Chainsaw Mill?

Controlling and moving the chainsaw mill, in a 30-40 inch diameter log, over the course of several feet, takes effort, a lot of effort.  The powerhead is an 8.31 hp Husqvarna 3120xp; the largest and most powerful powerhead that Husqvarna makes, and one of the most powerful in the world.  In operation, it wants to pull the powerhead into the log, very forcefully.  The powerhead weighs in at 22.9 lbs.  Attached to that is the Cannon Sawmiller double-ended 56 inch bar, which itself is considerably hefty, probably a good deal heavier than the powerhead.  It takes manhandling to move this assembly through the log, not accounting for the weight of the Granberg MkIII 48 Inch Milling Attachment, Helper Handle with Roller, Chain Tensioner, and Auxiliary Oiler.  All of the manhandling necessary can negatively effect the quality of the cuts, and productivity.  Hence, we are adding a winch and other necessary components to the Alaskan chainsaw mill.  The winch will provide some much-needed, and frankly, much-appreciated, mechanical advantage applied to pulling the mill through the log.  Read on for the details. Read more

Planning for 2018 Maple Syrup Expansion

Improvements will be built upon the foundation of the current process, as defined in the “Process Flow-Maple Syrup” diagram

It is is mid-June, and already I feel a bit late in putting together the improvements necessary to significantly scale up maple operations in 2018. This is my first pass at identifying what needs to be put in place to increase production by a factor of 8x to 10x. The number of taps will go from 50-70 in 2017, to 400-500 in 2018.  What will stay the same, and what will change? Read more

The Quarter-Sawing Process, and Problems, Oh No!

The best image found representing the process being documented. “Steps taken to quarter saw a log, a quarter sawn log and a quarter sawn board (clockwise from top left).” Image attribution: https://www.domain.com.au/news/diy-working-with-timber-at-home-20120322-1vllr/

The first step towards improving any process, is to understand the current state of the process, and in my opinion formally documenting that process in words and pictures is a solid foundation for improvement efforts.  It’s important to keep in mind that this process is not the “be all and end all” just because it is documented; it is though the process currently in use. Read more

Revisiting the End of Maple Sugaring Season – Based on Growing Degree Days

Sugar Maple buds, iPhonography through telescope 2017 Apr 04

Of course our maple season ended some time ago, the last sap was evaporated on March 21st; the end having nothing to do with Growing Degree Days and reaching budbreak, but having everything to do with the trees healing the tap holes to the extent that sap flow was stifled. As I looked out the window yesterday though, it was clear that the two mature Red Maples in our backyard were in the process of leafing out, and with the naked eye it looked like the Sugar Maples on the south side of the house were budding out, if not yet flowering or leafing out. Read more

Predicting the End of Maple Sugaring Season – Caveat emptor

Back to the Growing Degree Days (GDD) calculation, and “knowing” that Sugar Maples budbreak between 30-50 GDD°C base 10 (54-100 GDD°F base 50), how then does that help us?  Even predicting the end of the season is of dubious value I suppose, but it seems like a good exercise.  So, I’m just taking a relatively uninformed shot at this prediction; I have not tested the results against “real life” as recorded in prior years, nor have I used records from real life in prior years to inform this prediction.  In other words, caveat emptor. Read more

Estimating the End of Maple Sugaring Season – Based on Growing Degree Days

 

Not so much

Today’s lack of sap flow, in the face of a 50⁰F daytime high, after a low in the mid 20’s overnight, has me concerned.  It certainly seems as if the sap should be running from the taps.  So, I thought I would revisit the issue of Growing Degree Days, and perform the calculation using data from a bit closer to home.  A couple of “revelations,” if you will: there are Celsius, or Centigrade GDD, and there are Fahrenheit GDD.  It is often not specified in literature, and I tripped over this distinction, or the lack of a distinction, in my earlier post on the subject, “MAPLE SYRUPING SEASON – STARTING, ENDING, OR BOTH?”  In the wikipedia entry on the subject of Acer saccharum, aka Sugar Maple, it is written that “flowering occurs in early spring after 30–55 growing degree days.”  GDD Celsius or GDD Fahrenheit not specified, naturally.  Since the units in the balance of the entry are in metric units, with English units noted parenthetically, I finally made the connection that flowering will occur at 30-55 GDDC (Celsius).  If GDDC is then multiplied by 1.8, the result is a GDDF (Fahrenheit) range of 54-99.  Okay, so now that that’s cleared up, where are we now? Read more