The WVO Dream

Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO)

Brent has this crazy dream to run everything off WVO and save the world one combustion engine at a time. Right this moment he’s insulating three colour labled Gates Plantmaster hose. He’s using R4 closed pipe insulation then a layer of R4 reflective HVAC insulation creating a lovely warm home for the three hoses. Next he pushes it into a four inch piece of PVC pipe that will run under the truck connecting the WVO fuel tank to the engine.

He tells me this is super good insulation for the pipe and it should keep things warm helping to run the system longer in the cold winter months.

The basic principle of WVO is that at a certain temperature oil will behave similarly to diesel fuel in powering our 7.3 L Ford F350. We need an auxillary tank to hold the WVO which needs to be heated using something we already have – engine coolant.

The hose that he’s insulating on the kitchen floor takes coolant from the engine compartment and runs it to the auxillary heated WVO fuel tank and an alternative fuel filter located in the insulated box that holds the WVO fuel tank (and filter).

The insulated wooden box is located in the truck bed and has: alternative fuel source, heat from the engine via coolant, a pump to pump the WVO to the engine and a fuel filter. It’s just like a car fuel system: tank, filter and pump.

The coolant heats the WVO and turns it to liquid and the WVO is then pumped via the hose under the truck and into the engine.

Basic concept: heat the WVO to 90 degrees celcius and then pump it into the engine. Voila! Fuel.

This whole system is controlled by an electronic VO control. It measures the heat of the system so it knows when it’s safe to start using WVO. The the VO control says: “hey Ford! Stop using your Dino diesel and start using WVO – it’s hot!”

The VO control is a computer that measures the temperature of your coolant and VWO. It turns on your WVO fuel pump and automatically engages a fuel valve that switches your fuels. It turns on an auxillaury twelve volt heater if your engine hasn’t warmed up your fuel enough. It measures the pressure of the fuel, so you know how your fuel is doing as well as the engine. Finally, it has a handy fuel gauge.

Since the truck is so big and we have to run the hose so far Brent is doing this super insulation. On smaller cars, like the VW or the mercedes, insulated pipe is not even used because you can run the hose above the heat shield or sometimes in the passanger compartment.

We’re hoping to use this system sooner. On average we get 10 miles/gallon, so the sooner we can turn this system on the better our fuel savings.

The big time constraint is that we’re leaving on January 28, 2011! A little over a week from today. Will it be done? Will we be saving the world and driving on WVO?

I think it’s a great dream and I hope it becomes our reality. Fingers crossed! Brent’s going to save the environment and I’m going to save the animals. What a pair!

Next time we’ll discuss his WVO plant.

The Mailbox

There are two seasons in Canada: Winter and Construction.

Snow and snow removal is the big winter thing here in the north, but we get a reprieve from construction due to the extreme temperatures, horrible conditions and frost making everything heave. Often times the snowplows will hit a mailbox and absolutely destroy everything mail related.

This happened here at the farm last week.

I called the town and left a few messages, but never got an answer. After four days Brent and I decided we needed to fix the mailbox. That was a long time to go without mail when the electric bill, gas bill and phone bill was due.

We rummaged around the farm and came up with some scrap steel, tape and baling twine. I fired up the backhoe and Brent grabbed the rest of the tools. Giggling like a couple of kids we headed out to fix the mailbox. One of the tools Brent grabbed was the video camera.

I can’t say much more than: enjoy the show. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Gizmo Squeaks the Pig

It’s a funny title and a funny side story about our little fella Gizmo. For those who aren’t familiar with the farm Gizmo is one of wee little farm dogs. At nine pounds this fella is the perfect replication of a couch potato. His favorite thing is to nap in his heated bed. We’ll get up and within the hour Gizmo will be back in bed.

Once or twice a day Gizmo rouses and becomes a three year old dog. He wants to play and he wants you to play with him. Our friend Kathy gave us a wonderful new toy. It’s about half the size of gizmo, made of soft rubber and makes snorting sounds. This snorting pink pig is a delight to both Poco and Gizmo. Taz finds the pig mildly offensive and will not touch it and moves away so it won’t touch her either.

After Gizmo watched Poco squeak the pig several times he wanted to become involved. After a few attempts Gizmo stole the toy from Poco – often Poco and Taz let Gizmo steal toys. It’s how you treat your little brother.

With incredible effort Gizmo picked up the pig by the rubbery ear and carried to the carpet. I watched as he made several attempts to get his tiny mouth around the belly of the pig and bite. Nothing. He looked as me questioningly, so I pushed on the pig and a little snort sounded. Gizmo went into spasms of delight.

I threw the pig across the living room floor and he was in hot pursuit sliding on the wood, crashing into the chair leg before he was finally able to tackle the pig. He grabbed it by a leg this time and proudly struggled back to the carpet and settled down to make the pig snort.

It didn’t take long before he pinned the pig to the floor and wrapped his little jaws around the soft belly of the pig. Gizmo was making plenty of snorting sounds with the effort. He stood up and used his weight to push the pig into the floor with his mouth where the pig emitted a small snorting sound.

Gizmo erupted into a dance of shear delight. He wiggled in circles of joy and proudly looked at me with his big eyes looking for praise. I called out to Brent to come into the living room and witness our little dude squeak the pig all by himself.

Brent and I have never been so proud. We praised, gave cookies and sat and watched while Gizmo squeaked the pig several times. Obviously exhausted, he went for a snack and returned to his bed. I’m sure he was dreaming about squeaking the pig. For the video:

The Bale Spear

When we acquired Autumn we decided we’d free feed large round bales because it was the easiest thing to do and Autumn is not a glutton. All we had to do was put a round bale out in the field every two-three weeks and she’d eat without us having to throw out flakes of hay several times per day – tough to do when you work 12 hour shifts.

We purchased the large round bales from our neighbour and farmer down the road. This was our first experience with the high density bales. The high density bales weight about seven hundred and fifty pounds, where the low density bales weight about five hundred and fifty pounds. Obviously the high density bales are, well, denser. Thicker. Harder to puncture.

It was a good cardio workout to manually roll the round bales into the field and it would have been quite manageable if we’d only had to do it every few weeks, but we took in two horses for a brief period of time to help out a friend.

We were now going through a round bale every three days. I didn’t mind the cardio, actually I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I could do by myself. I needed help from the heavy equipment.

Brent and his best pal Tim decided they’d build a bale spear to go on the front end loader of the backhoe. Tim is welder, so between the two it should have been easy.

Unfortunately, not much on our make shift farm is easy. The steel rod they used wasn’t sharp enough to pierce the high density bale and, if it did go in it would bend immediately. The spear was warped after it’s first use and never picked up a bale.

It took several weeks, much internet research and a few phone calls until they found the solution. It was suggested that they use an axel off a heavy duty truck as the spear.

Brent and Tim were excited when they made the trip to the local scrap yard in search of their future “bale spear”. They came home with a handful of scrap metal and an axel off a piece of heavy equipment. It took some time to cut off the end with a torch and then grind it down to make it smooth and pointy.

Several days later Tim came by and welded the new holder onto the top of the backhoe front end loader (sorry dad). The new bale spear was ready for use. After a few attempts, some sharpening and refining they managed to pick up a round bale.

The welds held. The spear did not bend. The bale was moved with a combustion engine.

We got the bale spear working three days before the two boarder horses left for their new barn.

Isn’t that always the way?

Now, we move the bales around with the machine simply because we can. Special thanks to my farmer neighbour Steve for the axel idea. It would have cost about $300-$500 for a factory made bale spear or fork and the boys managed to do it for about $40 – not counting time and labour. Thanks Tim!!

January 2011 Winter Storm

The winter snow storm rages like an irritated itchy rash outside the window of the old farm house. I just came inside after spending a few hours making sure all the animals were nicely tucked into their shelters.

Charlotte and Ginger (the pigs) are in the barn buried under a pile of straw. Nugget is nesting on top of Charlotte because there’s no better way to keep your feet warm than by standing on a warm pig. Missy (chicken 2) is wandering around the stall, scratching and pecking finding little treats under piles of hay and straw.

I put a thick layer of straw down for the ducks and with their feathers they curl together and settle in to the sound of wind rattling the windows of their little shelter. Full dishes of food and a quick trip to the pond for a drink and they’re happy.

We had three horses for a couple of months, but we’re back down to one. Autumn. My sweet giant girl with a gentle nature and huge heart. I load the truck up with eight small square bales of hay and drive through the snow out to the horse shelter. The two goats and horse are already inside and the building is warm with their body heat.

I add a fluffy layer of fresh straw to thicken their bed and offer three piles of “inside” hay. There’s a seven hundred pound round bale outside, but it’s in the middle of the field and in the middle of the wind. After a little scuffle to decide who gets to eat from which pile the two goats and horse settle in for a good snack. The food helps product heat and the heat keeps them all warm.

I stood quietly watching Nelly, Billy and Autumn enjoy their inside hay. The smell of horse, straw and hay was a pleasant fragrance and better than anything I could buy in a store. I watched as each bit of hay was picked up by dainty lips and drawn into the cheeks. Their loud chewing sounds were a comfort.

I felt the warmth spread from my belly and into my heart and I thought this is what it must feel like to be deep-in-the-gut-happy.

I bundled up the dogs in their warmest coats and took them outside while I shoveled several paths for them to run. They played, got wet, happy and then cold. We’re all back inside now.

Each dog has selected, and is napping in one of the three heated beds. The sound of Gizmo snoring inspires smiles and giggles. Gizmo is double chicken winged in his bed with both back legs shooting straight up in the air. No wonder he’s snoring, sleeping on his back.

I filled the wild bird feeder and I can see blue jays and cardinals enjoying the seeds regardless of the weather.

It seems like today is a really good day to enjoy the farm. I love a good snow storm.

Poco to the Rescue

I haven’t be able to write since we lost Willow. I thought I needed to write about losing her and everytime I thought about writing it made me so sad. It was a vicious circle and I lost because I’ve really missed writing.

I missed writing about the holidays and how much I missed my parents. I missed writing about our quick trip to Florida and taking the risk to drive an unfamiliar 1986 mercedes the fifteen hundred MILES home. I missed writing about the horses.

I was having a lovely soak in the tub tonight with a glass of chilled white wine and a cheap paperback when I looked over the side of the tub and saw Poco sleeping on my pile of clothes. His face was calm and serene. His breathing deep and even. His soul was at peace.

I remember when Poco came to the farm a shell of a soul. His eyes were wary, empty and full of pain. His body emaciated, his fur matted and filled with filth, his skin infected and he shook. He shook all the time. That was two years ago.

Today, he sleeps with a fully belly, warm and loved on a pile of dirty clothes. His face is calm and his body is relaxed. He looks happy. Even without the knowledge of his trauma his face would bring me peace and love and joy. His eyes gently closed and his black nose wet with health. It bolstered me. It helped heal my sore spirit. Even in his sleep he gave me strength.

Now, I can write about Willow. I can write about loss knowing there is life that goes on: happy, healthy and full of love. It’s amazing how I think I’m helping them when really they’re helping me.