Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter Driving

Here in Halifax, we don't often get winter in the true sense of the word. Here along he coast, most storms has some element of rain or ice pellets, often with very little snow. Still though, it's unpredictable, and winter city driving can be treacherous. Making things more complex, my old van is rear wheel drive, and even though the engine's in the back too, there's not much weight or traction back there. Properly rated winter tires are hard to find so I'm trying to work out a compromise. I have a pair of those mud and snow (M+S) rated tires, but they are not the best. Normally, I just stay put if the roads are bad, but I get concerned about getting stranded out somewhere while the weather turns yucky. So I'm trying something old fashioned: Tire Chains. I picked up some at Princess Auto recently. i saw them there last year, but the $99 price tag made me procrastinate until the other day I saw them marked down to $25.08. Bingo. They are a funny design, with two ratcheting gizmos for self-tightening.
I had yet to install the M+S tires, so I figured I should check the fit...
They fit just fine, so I went ahead and put the tires on...
The chains install quickly and easily, without having to do any jacking or moving. My plan is to keep them in the vehicle, and hopefully if I get caught out in miserable road conditions, they'll help get me home. See below for an installation video from the manufacturer...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Root Beer 2012

I've rambled on about this before, and normally it's a last minute thing. HomeMade Root Beer needs a full week or so to carbonate properly. In previous years, I often got around to making it just in time. This year I had it ready by December 1st or so. The downside (isn't there always one?) of course is that the first batch is almost all gone. No big problem, I'll make another one.
Fortunately, a good friend gifted me with a nice green milk crate of 16 large reusable bottles. That made the second batch a much easier undertaking since the extra bottles meant I didn't have to wait for the first batch...not that I had to wait long :)
I did have a slight issue with the bigger bottles though; see the red circle in the picture above, where the bottle is touching the metal shank of the capper. I was a little hesitant to apply pressure, thinking it might smash said precious bottle. I got around it by using a different capper (it pays to have more than one of most things) that did not have that block of wood attached to the base. I could have removed the block, but that's work :)
 Anyway, the first batch is all but gone, and the second will be ready to drink by the weekend. My prediction is that at the rate it's being inhaled, I'll need a third batch before Christmas day, not a bad problem since I'm one of the guilty parties...belch !!
The old standard was HIRES Brand extract, but that seems to have vanished. For the last few years, all I've been able to find is this ROYAL Brand. However, it seems to taste just as good. This year it's gone up to about 6 dollars a bottle. Add a bag of sugar, yeast, and bottle caps, and the cost is between 10 and 15 dollars.That;s not really "cheap" when decent President's Choice Draft Root Beer can be had for 50 cents a litre. Then again, it's not about the money  :)


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Red Neck Wood Rack

One of the dirty little annoyances associated with using wood as a primary source of heat is the mess it makes. In my case, I generally store it in one corner of the basement while the stove is in the other corner. During the process of carrying it from there to here, lots of pieces of bark and debris end up along the trail. This is picked up by the various size 12 & 13 socks that frequent the area and tracked everywhere. I needed a tall and narrow transport/storage device, and I'm lazy if not clumsy. All of this combined and resulted in my prototype mobile wood rack. A cheap stand-up dolly, 3 "acquired" milk crates, and some nylon tie-wraps resulted in this:
I need to attach a 1 x 3 or so to the bottom crate to help it sit a bit more level, but so far so good...


 This beauty has been roaming around Central Newfoundland lately. I just grabbed some photos of it for fun...

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