All posts by Pithole Hermit

I Wood if I Could

Speaking of writing, my Dad, who recently passed away, had written a book back in 1991. So I just finished digitizing it and it is now available on Amazon Kindle.

It’s called I Would If I Could But I’m Wood. It is a fictionalized story of his experiences as an United Methodist Minister as told by a church pew. That’s right. First it is a tree being cut down then made into a pew.

Click the book cover to read a sample.

Coming soon. My Dad’s writings about his childhood growing up in Western Pennsylvania called Ramblings: When I Was A Kid.

New Writing System

I have been using my laptop to write but it just uses too much power. This time of year the sun is too low in the sky to hit the solar panels, and the leaves are still on the trees. Once the leaves fall the sun can once again get through. So I set up a low power rechargeable wireless keyboard and mouse and use my Viking tablet.


Works good and easy to type on with large, round keys like an old typewriter. And uses about 1/10th the power of the laptop. Everything recharges with just 5v USB. I can type over 6 hours on the tablet without recharging. Days before the keyboard and mouse need recharging. So along with my USB power pack I could type for a week without using my solar power system.

30000mAh 18W USB Power Pack.
Can charge my tablet or phone over 6 times.

But now that I’ve upgraded the solar batteries to 200Ah I have lots of power to spare for the dark winter days.

Next I’m going to install a 12v deep well pump so I never have to run the generator except when I need high pressure.

First Day of Small Game Season

Squirrel, grouse, rabbit and quail.

I took Lily out hunting.

Okay. Pretend hunting. Dogs aren’t good for squirrel hunting. It’s hard hunting grouse with a rifle. There aren’t many rabbits around. Coyotes must get them and there aren’t many fields nearby. And I have never seen a quail in this area all my life.

But I just wanted to see how Lily acted when I shot the .22 with her in the woods. She’s not gun shy.

We did see a lot of deer. It is archery season and I have a license but you can’t hunt deer with a dog. Just a nice day to get out.

The Adventures of Pocket the Possum

For over a week now a little possum (about half grown) has been hanging out on my cabins porch. It is now dubbed Pocket.

The first night Lily suddenly woke and started growling at the window. I shined the flashlight out and there sat Pocket on the railing. It froze in the light. Now everyone’s heard of possums playing dead but this one was stuck on the rail and couldn’t curl up, so it just sat there. I kept the light on it and Lily barked but it didn’t move. I went out the door and threw a small stick at it. The stick hit the railing but the possum didn’t move. I went back to bed. In about 10 minutes I heard a thump and shined the light out. The possum had jumped down and was walking away.

The next night, once again Lily started growling. I shined the light and there was pocket right outside the window not a foot from where my pillow was. This time Lily didn’t bark. She just sniffed at it. Pocket again didn’t move. I think we were all getting used to each other. Grown possums are quite ugly but Pocket is kind if cute.

Last night I heard a rattling noise outside and again Lily growled. I shined the light out but couldn’t see anything. So I went outside. I hang my trash bag from a corner post of the porch. I shined the light on the bag and the bag wiggled. A closer look showed a possums tail sticking out of the top. Pocket had climbed the post and must have stuck it’s head in the bag and fallen in. Possums can hang by their tail so it was holding on to the top. After trying to figure out what to do without getting bit I cut the drawstring holding the bag up. The bag fell to the ground. It didn’t move so I figured Pocket was scared. So I went to bed. A few hours later it got light. I went outside and saw the bag on the ground. Pocket was still in it. It is a pretty thin bag so it should have been able to rip it’s way out. I picked up a bottom corner of the bag and dumped Pocket out. Pocket scurried away into the woods. It looked embarrassed.

New Chainsaw

I ordered a new chainsaw. The 38cc Poulan I have works fine for firewood. But it just isn’t powerful enough or long enough to mill boards. So I got a 62cc 20″ X-Bull. A no-name chinese saw. A name brand 62cc saw is $400-$500 minimum. This was $109 so I took a chance. I received it and it didn’t start. Big disappointment. Followed instructions. Mixed gas 25:1. Added chain oil. Set throttle. Set switch on. It pulls nice but will not start. Removed spark plug. There is spark. Gas gets to primer pump. With air filter off appears some gas in carb but not very much. Spark plug was wet when removed. Tried adding a little fuel directly anyway. Still does not fire at all. Even tried another spark plug. Even tried remixing fresh gas. Nothing. And I have been keeping other chainsaws running for years but didn’t want to tear this down so I can still return it.

Contacted the seller and they said all engineers are on vacation and might be back in a week to respond. Must be a celebration of a pretty big slaughter by Chairman Mao of his own people to last a week. Or maybe the engineers got called up to shoot civilians in Hong Kong.

My patience ran out so I tore it apart. Found the coil gap about 1/16″. I was taught to gap the coil with a piece of paper so I knew it would never have enough spark with that big a gap. Gapped it to a paper width and buttoned it up. Two pulls and it started. Still not happy I had to fix it brand new but I’ll keep it. I’m no expert and someone without at least a little knowledge of small engines would never have got it going. They are supposed to test start it before shipping. They even warn there may be oil from the testing. But there is no way they could have test started this one.

Chainsaws, or any small 2 cycle engine, are not that complicated. Maybe, as an amateur, I’ll do a basic instruction on keeping one running. Most “professionals” always make it sound harder than it is. I guess that’s so you bring it to them instead of fixing it yourself. I’m not going to tell you the secrets of fixing computers.

Cabin ceiling – updated

I’m sure my one reader (yes I’m sure there’s one out there and you know who you are) is wondering if I only care about the shed and forgot about the cabin. Well I’m back working on the cabin. The ceiling joists are too high and I am having to heat space I don’t use. Plus I want to start using the space for storage of items still back at the house. So I’m lowering the joists. Not as easy as it sounds because the joist are structural and keep the walls from bowing out and the roof collapsing. So I am putting extra side supports plus struts angled down. Here is one joist brought down. The struts are not yet in place and the king board needs extended.

Once all three are lowered and secured I’ll put ceiling panels up with access doors for storage. There should be a lot more space since I’m lowering over a foot. In fact if I need to put too much up there I may add some more joists for support.

Update:

Here are some of the panels temporarily in place. I am not sure if I want them above or below the joist. I like above because I could stain them and hang guns or lanterns from them.

Even with them above look at all the storage space up there.

I have decided to put in four more joists between the existing ones. More strength when I crawl up there and I may even want to have a small room there. The trouble is getting four 12 foot 2 x 6 boards home from the store.

Hickory Nuts

Autumn is getting very close. Mid September. Beautiful days in the 60s and low 70s. Nights in the high 40s and 50s.

I noticed several deer always hanging out in the same area when I walked through the woods. So I finally went over to investigate.

I found a nice Hickory tree. Still producing many nuts on the ground. Some fresh, some ovee a few weeks old. There are still quite a few still on the tree but it is almost past the normal harvesting for Hickory nuts. I gathered a basket to test which ones are better. The hulls are very easy to remove. I’m told the easiest way to tell the good ones from the bad are to put them in water. The bad ones will float.

Most are floating. And yes that is a Halloween candy dish.

I’m not sure I buy that. Almost all of these floated. But then I gathered a lot of overripe black ones so maybe many are bad. About half of the black hulled ones were already rotting inside. We’ll see how they turn out.

Next they need to dry in a well ventilated, rarely warm but not hot, area.

Tomorrow I plan on gathering just fresh ones for eating.

Don’t worry. I’ll leave some for the deer.

Cedar Shakes

I learned something about staining the cheap Eastern White Cedar shakes I got at Home Depot. The stain is supposed to age the wood and give it a gray and reddish look. The procedure I found for making the stain is to put steel wool in vinegar (white, although cider vinegar will work) and let it rust for a day or two. Well after a week the steel wool had barely rusted. Then I figured out to just wet the steel wool with water, and vinegar, then let it sit outside the liquid. Here is what it looked like barely rusted after days in vinegar. The only parts that rusted we’re sticking out of the vinegar.

And here it is just hours after wetting it and setting it out.

Then I simply add it back to the vinegar. I also add some black tea bags. The combination of these affects the tannins in the wood. Here are some before and after.

It only takes a few minutes to age. Really looks nice and rustic, like an old barn.

Here are some on the roof.

So if you find instructions online to age wood be sure not to leave the steel wool in the liquid. Get it wet and then leave it out.

And the tea bags help to give a little redder tint while just the steel wool will be more gray.

More windows!

The shed is very close to being buttoned up for the winter. Today I added 3 more windows. I think that is enough. A few more small end boards, the gables and finally the doors and it is sealed.

The shed is becoming much more solid than I had planned. It will basically be a tiny house when I’m done. But I should have used the level and square a little more. Many crooked corners.

The Shed Roof

Time to replace the tarp on the roof with some tarpaper and cedar shakes.

First I had to do a lot of leveling and trimming. Then I put on rolls of tarpaper.

Now I am going to put on cheap white cedar shakes. Here’s a sample.

I will either paint or stain them. This is what the same shakes look like on the front of the cabin.

I got five bundles of them. Since I use a very narrow overlap this should be enough. They are really just for a rustic look so full coverage isn’t important. But I’m done for today. I’ll continue tomorrow.

The Gathering

My cabin is located in the middle of mushroom paradise. Good for mushroom lovers but also means mold grows fast in the summer. This time of the year is great for gathering mushrooms. Here is about 15 minutes work.

Some of these I don’t yet know so I won’t eat them, but most of them are edible, even if they don’t taste good. The ones on the left of the basket are delicious. They are Chicken of the Wood and Black Trumpets.

Chicken of the Wood (Sulfur Shelf) and Black Trumpet mushrooms

I fried them a little bit in coconut oil and then mixed them in cream of chicken soup. It is delicious.

Chicken of the Wood actually has the taste and texture of chicken strips. Really. Black Trumpets have a smoky, woodsy taste.

A Dehydrator

Here’s something I have been thinking about for some time.

Solar Dehydrator

A dehydrator. The picture says solar but it can actually be used over a wood stove by just using the upper box. The lower sloping box is just an air duct with a glass top. The inside will be painted black and the absorbed sun rays will heat the air. The heated air will rise up to the upper food rack box. Then the air and moisture will vent out the top at the back. To use it over a wood stove I will put a small fan to keep the air moving.

In the photo the dehydrator is not quite finished.

The End of an Era

I haven’t posted in some time. I haven’t felt much like it. Well, last week on August 23rd my Dad died. He was ready to go. I was not quite ready for him to go. He was 87. I already miss him a lot. If it wasn’t for him showing me the wonders of nature, taking me hunting, camping or just laying out under the stars, I would never have developed my love of the forest. And so many other things.

Off-grid Refrigeration – a cheap and effective way

Okay. I have finally decided to develop an improved refrigeration system. Here’s what I’ve been using up until now.

Basically, it’s just a stock pot with a wet t-shirt thrown over it for evaporative cooling. And filled with well water, which is actually between 48 – 50 degrees. So it keeps it pretty decent for vegetables but it’s not good enough for long-term storage of perishables. I need to get the temperature down to about 40. Or lower

Since I want it to be off grid I’m going to have to make it 12 volts so I don’t have to run my inverter.

And using a regular compressor driven refrigeration unit just uses too much power for the solar panels I have .

So I’m going to use thermoelectric cooling devices. Peltier chips. What they do is when you apply voltage one side gets hot and the other side gets cold. They can lower the ambient temperature by anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees. So since I’m only needing to go 10 to 20 degrees, I should be able to accomplish this. I could buy thermoelectric coolers pre-made but they won’t fit what I want to do. Because they only lower the ambient temperature, if it’s 90 degrees out it will only go down to maybe 60 degrees. But if I can submerse it in my well water, and change the well water regularly, the ambient temperature would effectively be 50 degrees. Which means I could get down to 40 with no problem anytime of the year. And also during the winter I could still use the storage system and just use the temperature outside to refrigerate like I have been doing. So I have two peltier chips on order. They’re not that expensive. About six bucks a piece. One is just for backup. I’m only going to use one and I’m going to put it on top of that stock pot so the cold is on the inside and the heat dissipation is on the outside and then a fan blows the cold around inside and I will insulate the pot outside.

The basic parts. An old peltier chips is shown on the right.

I could have used just a store bought cooler and cut holes in it to put the peltier unit inside but I like the idea of the metal container. I think that it will hold the cold longer when it’s not running if it’s insulated from the outside. And also I will submerse the bottom into the cold water. I may just get a round cooler and put put the pot inside the round cooler. And have the benefits of both.

In addition I plan on something that almost all of the inexpensive thermoelectric coolers for sale, don’t do. I ordered a cheap $5 temperature control module, that runs on 12 volts and very low power usage, that can sense the temperature inside and turn on the thermoelectric unit when it needs to be and turn it off when it doesn’t need to be on.

Most of the $50 – $70 thermoelectric coolers don’t have thermostat control. They just get cold or if your reverse the voltage they get hot to warm things up. They don’t get real hot, but you can keep food warm in them too. So my unit will actually be able to do that too if I want to heat it up, but I can’t imagine why I want to do that. But here’s the unit that I ordered.

Temperature Control Module

It’ll be here tomorrow. So I’ll update this post as I complete it. I have to cut a small square hole in the top of the lid of my stock pot. Mount the heat sinks on either side of the chip. Mount fans on top of that.

The fan on the bottom is to circulate the cold air. The fan on the top is to dissipate the heat and if it works out, I may just develop a way to circulate water through the heat part. So I don’t have to run the fan and just use a gravity-fed water to circulate through and cool the top heat sink. The better the heat is is disappated the colder the other side gets.

I always have to try to limit the amount of electricity I use, otherwise I’m going to have to go buy more batteries and more solar panels.

Because of my years doing computer repair, I have plenty of heat sinks and fans from old computers. So I don’t have to purchase those.

The drawback? Peltier chips are not very efficient. (ie. power in for result produced). But since they use such little power the amount of power lost doesn’t matter. And a large compressor does much more than I need, so I wouldn’t be saving anything.

Oh, and by the way. Those peltier chips that take electricity and make heat and cold? They also work the other way around. If you make one side hot and the other side cold they produce electricity. Not very efficient but they make a product which is a pot with a peltier chip mounted on the bottom. When you put cool water into the pot and put it on a campfire it can charge a cell phone. I think the ones I saw were called PowerPots.

UPDATE:. He is the nearly complete refrigerator with the insulation out side. The insulation is not permanently attached yet. A little more testing but so far it works pretty good.

The Beaver Pond

I took Lily for a walk today down to a branch of Pithole Creek. It is the closest creek to my cabin, maybe 15 or 20 minute walk, but I have never been to this spot before. When we reached the creek I was surprised how large it was. I’ll be going back to go fishing. We worked our way downstream and it suddenly got wider. Then much wider.

Beaver Lodge in center

It was a beaver pond.

This huge tree was a favorite target of the beavers.

Chewed tree with dam in back

The dam looks pretty old, but solid. And no freshly chewed trees seems to indicate the beavers are gone.

Plastic Siding

My plans for making siding boards for the shed fell through when I was unable to get the tools and the hand tools I have didn’t work well. Also, since my jeep’s suspension is pretty well shot I don’t want to haul too much weight, so buying boards was out. So I used plastic sheeting.

Won’t last long but at least it keeps the tools inside dry.