Saturday, July 26, 2014

Workin', Workin', Workin'!

Last full day at the Bolt Hole and it was a busy one. First I wen tout into the woods once more to haul in three (or was it four?) ATV loads of firewood I had set aside while cleaning up some of the logger's slash. Most of what I set aside was birch, cherry and red maple. Already seasoned and ready to burn.

Aside from having to carry the firewood from the places I cut it to the ATV (about 20 yards) the only problem I encountered was when a brush limb along the trail swept my glasses away! Of course I couldn't see them and was afraid to step anywhere for fear of stepping right on them (like Ralphy in Christmas Story). Anyway, I shut down the ATV and engaged the brake then carefully extracted myself from the area on foot and went back to the truck where I had a spare set of glasses. Back to the ATV and I immediately spotted them about 3 feet behind the machine right about where I thought they might be. *Whew!*

I did make a dent in cleaning up the mess over the last three days, but only a dent. There's lots more to do if I can get to some of the heaps of slash. Lots of rocks and marshy areas (created by the logger!) that will impede my getting out there. Compounding the problem is that there was a hell of a wind storm early this summer that blew down some additional trees. Many of those still have their root ball and leaves. The largest I've spotted so far was one red maple that must have measured 20" in diameter at breast height. The deer are already nibbling at the leaves of that one. It can wait for another year....if I can get around it.

Then, this afternoon, I pulled out the brush hog. Mark had asked if it still ran. It did two years ago when I last had it out but I was a little worried that it might not after sitting so long. Imagine my surprise when it started right up! I wasn't surprised that it soon stopped. (Ethanol gas doncha know!)

So I started to drain the old gas out and found plenty of water--maybe a shot glass or so--in the first pint of gas I took out. I also had to repair the gas line as the rubber hose had a crack in it. Duct Tape to the rescue!

Fuel line repaired, I put half a tank of no ethanol fuel in the brush hog and then played with it for an hour trying to get the right settings on the thing-a-bob that controls the whatchamacallit so the engine wouldn't stall every five two minutes. Struggled with the cussed thing for that entire hour but I did get some of the tall grasses Mark had not cut mowed down. Finally got it purring (sorta) when it ran out of gas!

(As an aside, I thought Mark had been using a riding lawn mower he showed me back in April, I was wrong. Someone stole the tires off what was an otherwise piece of junk that ran on bailing wire and Duct Tape. They were worth more than the whole machine. Mark junked it and had been using a push lawn mower. As a result, he was only cutting the lawn to the west of the house that was visible form the road. That left the back yard and the lawn to the east to grow. And grow it did! Most of it was 12-16" tall.)

Back to the garage to put another half tank of gas in the machine and then it really purred! I spent the next hour and  half mowing down the grass and making hay! It will lay there for some time as I am too pooped to rake it up!

This retiree's life is too damn hectic! I need a vacation.

Tomorrow I'll be pulling up stakes and heading back to the Aerie with the ATV in tow. There are chores to do down there too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This and That

Last Friday I had to go to the DMV to get my photo taken for my drivers license renewal. I dred going to the DMS as most sane people do. Normally it's a place of nightmares...or at least it was in New Jersey. Long waits, confusing signage, unhelpful, snide clerks who believe they are doing you a favor by just showing up...that sort of thing was the norm in NJ.

Our little DMV office in Wellsboro is open just three days a week (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) and I thought it would be pretty crowded so I went over at 8:30 AM when they open the doors. Turns out I was very, very wrong.

Wednesday is the day they have set aside for tests. Saturday is a catch-all for everything else. Friday...ah, Friday. That's the day they do nothing but photos. I was third on line behind two older women. The only delay was waiting for the laminating machine to warm up. In and out in a flash (no pun intended).


Monday, Terry and I went over to Murphy's Blue Berry Farm and picked a tad over 14 pounds of blue about an hour. (Terry beat me by about half a pound.) We like to go on Mondays because Murphy's is closed on Sunday so the bushes have an extra heavy crop of ripe berries when you get there bright and early (8 AM)  on Monday morning. Although we rolled into the parking area at 8:10, there were already a dozen or so folks, whom I'll call professionals, hard at it on the eastern end of the berry patch. Murphy's pays these folks 80 cents a pound for their effort. We paid $2 a pound for the berries we took home. (Is "blue berries" two or one ("blueberries") word?)

At home we put two cups of berries in a quart freezer bag ending up with 16 bags for our larder and about three cups left over for immediate consumption. (Ice cream, cereal, vanilla yogurt, bakes in muffins, added to or on berries go with lots of things.) Since we still have lots of jars of blue berry jam, strawberry jam, and, thanks to our friends, grape jelly, we're probably not going to be making any from these berries. Come August when the blackberries on the hillside start to ripen I'm likely to try some blackberry jam, however.


After berry picking, I took the title to my ATV over to the notary to (finally) get it registered. I've had the Yamaha Pro Hauler since 1991 but never got it registered because I was just using it on my own property in New York and Pennsylvania. New York regs say it doesn't have to be registered if being used for "agricultural purposes or not for hire snow removal on your own property." Well, the 34 acres in New York is not listed as agricultural and any CO or State Troops with a bee in his butt could make a case that hauling firewood out of the forest in July and August or a deer in October or November--even on my own land--does not meet the letter of the law.

Of course, I also had to pay the sales tax which I did not do back in 1991. At least this time it went to PA and not NY or NJ which is where I lived when I purchased the thing. (The dealer--in New York--told me I didn't have to pay him the sales tax but could be liable for it when/if I registered the ATV. He also told me that, at that time, using it on my own property would not warrant registration.)

I also had to stop at the local Allstate office and get the dang thing insured. Hellow! I'll not be taking it on any joy rides with souped up teens and twenty-somethings guys. Heck, it's only 250cc and was meant to haul stuff through forest and glade. The 1989 Yamaha Pro Hauler was one of the first if not THE first ATV that could be classified a UTV. Seats one but it has a three foot by three foot deck behind the driver to haul just about anything from hay to firewood.

By getting the ATV registered and insured, I can now take it up the hill in Pennsylvania and legally ride through the state forest. Not that I have any intentions of doing so--too damn dusty!, but if I wanted to, I'm now legal.


So today, Tuesday, I loaded the ATV on the utility trailer and drove up to the Bolt Hole to 1) see what needs repairing. (Not "if anything needs repairing" but "what needs repairing." There's always something.) and 2) do some more work cleaning up the mess the logger left behind. Other than a quick one day up-and-back I did in early April, I haven't spent any time at the Bolt Hole since the end of the first week of July, 2013. Little thing called "bilateral knee surgery" has kept me away.

Fifteen minutes into the trip north, I suddenly remembered that I had left the gas can for the chainsaw back in the Aerie's garage. *sigh* I decided to soldier on and scavenge a can from the supply in the Bolt Hole's garage. I'd also take a larger can to get real gas (no ethanol!) to use in the lawn mower and other small engine beasts.

One thing I noticed upon arriving at the Bolt Hole was that Mark has been doing a great job cutting grass with the wreck of a riding mower he purchased last summer. The second thing I noticed upon opening the door was all the cob webs. Would have made Indiana Jones feel right at home. With all the bewebbed tombs, catacombs and caves he travels--many sealed for eons--one has to wonder what all those spiders who spin those cobwebs eat?

The first thing I did was fire up the well pump and check the system for leaks. One year three pipes (PVC) had cracked and the basement was a shower until I got the pump turned off and did all the cutting and splicing. This year...nothing! Not one leak. I turned the cold water faucets off in the sinks and shower and waited for the hot water faucets to flow freely before shutting them off, too. Time to turn the hot water heater on. You do NOT want to turn it on before you fill the tank. Fifty-five degree water hitting a hot heating element inside the tank produces a very ominous "PING" telling you it's time to turn off the pump, drain the system and replace the heating element.

I needed to get some tools from the fist floor utility room/closet so I could open the basement window for ventilation purposes but the damn latch (old fashioned thing that drops a bar into a notch) would not open. I finally had enough jiggling and lifting on the handle to see that this was not going to work so I picked up the splitting maul that stands by the front door and gave the thing a shot. Popped open like nothing. I then removed the latch from the door and the catch from the slightly worse for wear door frame. THEN I could go back to the basement to open the screwed shut window and install a screen.

Now I could unload the ATV and put it in the garage, park the trailer in the barn, scrounge around in the garage for (and clean out residue from inside of) a couple of gas cans, and then head back down to get some premium, no ethanol fuel from the Citgo (Nice and Easy) station.

I had stopped there on the way up to pick up some groceries (OJ, eggs, bacon, butter, English muffins) and noticed they had the right stuff (non-ethanol gas). This time I also picked up some bug repellant (left it in my fishing bag), ant killer, and a few other odds and ends. But, damn it! I forgot to pick up coffee! I've got plenty of tea and one or two coffee bags (like tea bags) but that won't last me long.

Back at the Bolt Hole (and kicking myself for the forgotten coffee) I proceeded to vacuum up as many of the cob webs as possible. All the dead bugs' wings (bodies must have been eaten by shrews and/or mice) also got sucked up.


So here I sit at the Bolt Hole with (few) cobwebs thinking of the work I've ahead of me tomorrow out in the woods. If the predicted T-storms arrive first, I've plenty to do inside in the form of cleaning with sponge and mop. (I wonder what it was that died under the tarp folded in the living room? No bones remain but a nice six-inch diameter smear of dried goo decorates the floor.)

In the meantime, the pitter patter of tiny feet on the tin cans on the shelf reminds me I've got to go bait some mouse traps. I'll try some zucchini bread tonight but should have some bacon fat soaked paper towel for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back from our fishing expedition to Gouin Reservoir in northern Quebec.

Joe and I had a good (not great) week at one of Caesar's North Camps fishing for walleye and northern pike. This was a new cabin/area on the reservoir for us and we had some difficulty finding the pockets that held large numbers of walleye but succeeded in locating at least one area that held enough to keep us interested.

Being one of the southernmost cabins, there were also more boats from other camps/outposts than we were used to. What was strange/different was being asked (in French) by some of these other fishing parties where they might find the walleye. A clear indication that we were not alone in our quest. I blame the relatively poor fishing on:
1) the lunar phase (A waxing moon culminated in a full moon on our final day.),
2) the wind (Strong winds out of the south and west passed over a vast expanse of open water creating whitecaps and 2-3' swells--so strong one day (we called it "Windsday") that we were not able to get out 20' boat with its 20hp motor out of our protected cove. We were forced to fish in more protected areas or risk water sloshing over the transom.)
3) the rain (Lots and lots of rain--we had only one day without any rain and several periods where it was a veritable monsoon with walls of rain cutting visibility to 10-15 yards--if that. Luckily, we did not get caught out in those!

It was also clear that some of these folks--if not the vast majority--did not fly in to the area but used a boat launch somewhere reasonably close. One does not show up in a 25' fiberglass boat with a 175 horsepower engine if one has flown into a "wilderness" cabin!

The cabin in which we stayed was snug and warm. It had bunks for four people, a hot shower and indoor toilet, propane stove (with an oven) and propane refrigerator. (A veritable antique of a fridge but it served its purpose even if the freezer was very, very slow to actually freeze anything.) We only had one leak from all the rain and that was, thankfully, in the kitchen area and not the bedroom.

The few from the dock looking west. The Cabin Cove was a long skinny cove protected from the strongest wind/wave action by a pair of sand bars on the south end. It stretched about a half mile from those sand bars to the back end to the north and provided some pike fishing.

The 20' fiberglass boat with its V-hull and 20hp engine was a workhorse as we ranged far and wide in search of the (mostly) elusive walleye. We went about 4 kilometers to the west, 5 kilometers to the east and 3 kilometers to the south shore of our area of Gouin Reservoir. Caught some fish in all areas but, as I said earlier, never found the huge concentration we were hoping for. Perhaps they were around some of the exposed islands a kilometer or so out in the Big Water where we just never felt comfortable anchoring.

We would fish a couple of hours in the morning before heading back to the cabin for lunch and a break--and, hopefully, to clean the morning's catch. After lunch we would head out again, usually in a different direction, for another four or five hours of fishing then back to the cabin for dinner. If we didn't stay out too long in the afternoon, we would go out for another two hours or so in the evening. We usually caught something on each of our forays.

A stringer of walleyes and one pike. That's me in this photo.

Joe with the same fish.

Any walleye we took had to be between 14 and 20 inches to be a keeper. We caught a few shorts and several that were too long. The largest was 22" and weighed 5 lbs. The walleye were our primary target and supplied us with two of our dinners. They also filled some freezer bags so we could bring home our limits of eight walleye each. We caught a total of 60 during our stay.

Pike were also on the list and we would go trolling or cast to weed beds in the many coves along the shores. For us to keep a pike it had to fit the 25-30 inch slot we established. (I don't think there's an actual legal size, but those were our standards.) We caught lots that were smaller (12-20 inch fish) and three which were over 30 inches. The largest was a 34" that probably weighed in the 7-7-1/2 lb range. We did have to harvest a 31" that weighed in at 6-1/2 lbs. It was severely injured in the landing/unhooking process and would not have survived if released.

Our licenses allowed us to take up to 10 northern pike each but we ended up bringing home just three of the 40 fish we caught.

We established a clear division of labor. Joe did all the cleaning of fish, food purchasing and cooking. Joe also did most of the fish catching. I did all the packaging of fish, cleaning (dishes, etc.), and driving--whether it be on the road or water. The 620 mile drive up took about 13 hours including a brief nap along the way. Heading home was just about 12 hours (no nap). And we got through Ottawa with no trouble at all. That's a first for us in some 18-20 trips we've made to Caesar's.

There was a nice fish cleaning station set up in the shade of a fir tree that included running water to clean the table and fish as you worked. Skins and carcasses would go back into the lake or out onto the sand bars. The gulls (herring gulls and ring-billed gulls) and a bald eagle would clean up those. We primarily used the lake as our disposal but our neighbors were feeding the gulls so when they left....

Putting the remains as far from our cabin as possible assured us that no bear would come nosing around. Even so, the one night we put the skins and carcasses on the sand bar to watch the gulls squabble and the eagle swoop in for his share, there was a bear on the beach a half mile or so from the sand bar.

Being an avid surf fisherman, Joe has lots of experience in fileting and skinning fish. His tools of the trade include two sharp knives and a steel to keep them that way. A can of Deep Woods Off can be a necessity if the mosquitoes and/or black flies are bad. The other thing that's a "must" is that can of beer. Sometimes that one can can become two if it's been a productive day on the water.

Saturday evening, we got things prepped for our departure on Sunday. Everything in the cabin got squared away, our paper/plastic garbage got burned as per instructions, the floor got swept, and all our gear--fishing and otherwise--got packed up. We had bee told to expect Ollie between 7 and 8 AM Sunday morning.

When we woke at 5:30 AM everything looked good. The cove was glass. It was overcast but not raining.

By 6:00 AM there was a slight breeze out of the south--the direction from which our flight would come.

By 6:30 AM it was raining steadily and by 7:00 AM it was raining hard.

Our flight did not arrive between 7 and 8 AM. We sat out on the porch and read while we waited--and waited. Joe ran out of reading material. I had found a tome by Tom Clancy and FredrickM. Franks called Into The Storm. It's about the actions of General Franks and the Army's VII Corps leading up to and during Desert Storm. It's very interesting and very long. I started it Windsday morning and was up to page 500 before the plane finally arrived to pick us up.

Joe made another pot of coffee and we sat some more as it continued to rain. We ate some left over kielbasa for lunch. And sat watching it rain.

Finally around 1 PM the rain stopped. Not long afterwards there was the sound of a plane flying from the south--the first we had heard all morning. During the week there were a dozen or more planes flying within earshot--except for Windsday.

At 1:30 PM Ollie's Cessna set down on the Cabin Cove and taxied over to the dock.

Ollie hopped out and apologized for being late as it had started raining at Clova at 6 AM and never stopped until around 1 PM. Two new fishermen got out and they unloaded their gear from the plane. They had packed the plane the night before in anticipation of an early departure!

While Ollie did a quick post/pre inspection and orientation for the new comers, Joe and I moved our gear to the dock so it could be loaded. When Ollie got everyone squared away, he and Joe loaded the gear as I went over the map with the new guys showing them where we had had some success during the week. We were in the air heading back to Clova by 2:00 PM.

At Clova, we quickly deplaned and got our gear into the truck. Ollie was loading the Cessna AND the Beaver with another crew that would be heading out. (He told us he had at least five crews that were supposed to be going in/coming out. He and his third string pilot--number two was in the bush refurbishing a cabin--would be in for a busy afternoon!)

The Cessna back at the Clova dock.

Ollie's Beaver at the Clova dock.

We had flown out to the cabin a week earlier in the Beaver, known as the Workhorse of the North. What a beautiful plane! It amazes me that they actually stopped production of the de Havilland Beaver back in 1967 after just 1600 had been manufactured. Now, almost 50 years later they are THE plane of the back country and deservedly so!

By 2:30 PM we had the Tundra gassed up and were on the road south with plenty of memories and a cooler filled with fish filets.