city’s old hand pumper

OHIO'S OLDEST PUMP WAGON
OHIO’S OLDEST PUMPER BUILT IN 1850″
“CONNEAUT FIRE DEPT.”
pump wagon front
pump wagon front

Now I know that this is totally off topic for the Trillium Center, BUT, as a bit of a Luddite I’m not exactly sure how else to do this.

Recently I went to a Historical Society meeting here in town and volunteered to help sort thru some of the boxes of stuff sitting in back. At the meeting, the folks mentioned that they had recently acquired the City’s old hand pump fire wagon. When I was working at the Museum, we started going over what was what with the thing.

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our old pump wagon
our old pump wagon

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pump wagon rear
pump wagon rear

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there is a 4″ female fitting mounted to the rear of the wagon

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the pump II
the pump II

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a section of pipe is missing from the inlet (at rear) to the base of the pump where we find another 4″ female opening.

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the pistons
the pistons

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the pistons jugs measure 9″ in diameter. it appears that some sort of cover is missing from the tops of the jugs

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pump pistons
pump pistons

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.the piston heads measure just shy of 9″ in diameter, the leather rings are missing and there are 2 cups at the end of each 20″ ‘rocker arm”

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the pump
the pump

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the curved pipe, with comes out of the base of the pump as a trapezoid, finishes at another 4″ female fitting.

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front of wagon
front of wagon

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when it was bring rebuilt, the connecter hose/line from the curved section, thru the front wall of the wagon and the fitting found there were misplaced

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pump handles
pump handles

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.I did not measure the pump handles, mostly because they are crazy heavy and stashed behind the old Cataract Hose Company wagon.

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the overall dimensions of the wagon are as follows:

111″ (9’3″) long

31″ (2’7″) wide

48″ wheel width

86″ wheel base

front wheels are 31.5″ in diameter

rear wheels are 36.5″ in diameter

I’ll be updating this story as it progresses

The Trillium Center Photostream

After several years of hard work, the Seed Gardens at the Trillium Center are finally beginning to look like the vision I’ve had in my head of creating a sanctuary for plants and people. We will share photos from our projects, events, and everything beautiful about this corner of Ohio at Flickr. Our first set of photos was from 2010, when Charles and I went to Haiti on a team of nine people to provide disaster relief at a hospital in St. Marc. Those photos are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94872676@N08/sets/72157633619402145/

Our recent set of photos is a mosaic of plant life here at BLD farm and some of our favorite places, such as Conneaut Creek. View them here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94872676@N08/sets/72157633619868827/

Really the best thing to do is to come visit and see the plants yourself!

The Story of Our Logo

The Trillium and the AntCharles and I met a member of the Beehive Collective recently and learned more about their community building work. The Beehive Collective is most commonly known for their posters that  tell stories about social and environmental justice issues. The idea is that their work will “cross-pollinate” throughout various communities and campaigns to increase awareness of the interconnection between social and environmental injustice and inspire creative approaches to problem solving and community building.

As we learned more about the work of the worker bees in Maine, we found similarities in the work that we are doing. Our metaphor for the work we do involves another busy insect, the ant. The ant and trillium story is on our Home page. The worker bees in Maine are involved in community redevelopment and restoration projects that benefit the entire community. One of their momentous projects was the restoration of the Grange Hall.

To make a long story short, I asked if anyone from the collective would be willing to create a logo for us that tells the story of the ant and the trillium. And of course, they were quite willing to help out. The trillium flower is the central aspect of the image. A couple of budding trilliums reach out from the sides, and from the lower leaf an ant approaches seeking the buttery trillium seeds. At the bottom right is a cross section of a seed pod. The image was created by Christina Mrozik, member of the Beehive Collective.

As our story says, we are hoping to plant seeds in the hearts and minds of our participants so they can carry those seeds off from the Trillium Center and out into their communities. Click on Calendar, Projects, and Stories to learn more about what happens at the Trillium Center and BLD farm.

Chickens get a new home

I’ve been putting off writing this. It’s a bit late compared to when some of it happened. Sorry about that.

Where I left off was with a new floor and the chickens living in the barn loft. Not where I wanted them to be but that is where they were. Pooping thru the floor onto whoever and whatever was below them. But whatever. It’s not like I was using the loft for anything. Or the barn for that matter. Anyway…

pile of stall walls
pile of stall walls

The first step was to drag all the stall walls in that I thought I was going to need. At first I figured to return the barn to a similar configuration to what it was before the new floor. By that I mean a central hallway with enclosed areas on the north and south sides of the barn. Looking over the stall panels I had taken out of the barn and one that came from an old grainery I had helped a

coop walls in progress
coop walls in progress

friend take apart, it looked like only minor modifications would be needed.

Once everything was inside, the cutting began. Cut cut cut, drill drill drill. A little head scratching and some DEEP thinking and I had a wall. A little screen to keep every one inside who belongs inside and a those who need to stay out, out. The results felt good. Add a door and reset the old slide lock from what was the goats pen and voila! It’s a coop. Well. Not really. But well on it’s way to being one.

coop wall final
coop wall final

In the past, out in Montana actually, I came to the conclusion that birds need to sit on branches not milled lumber. Why spend money on lumber for them to roost on? Especially since their feet are designed to wrap around round things, not rectilinear things. (oooo, big word) Back once upon a time, I dragged an entire tree into the coop for the birds. It filled most of the space. The birds seemed to like it even if it was damn near impossible to get to the back of the coop.

For whatever reason, Ohio, or at least this part of Ohio, doesn’t have the kind of trees that I used back then.  I think it was Cottonwood. Regardless, I knew I needed to support the roosts from both ends and rather than attach anything to the block wall,

wall hanging with branches
wall hanging with branches

which would be an instant limitation, I just took some old rusty range fencing that has been laying around here for a while and stapled it to the wall’s top plate. The branches could then span from the grainery wall across to the fencing on either the north or west walls. My next step was to tie all the branches to the fencing and at every point where the meet each other. This turns the branches into a coherent matrix and spreads the weight of the birds thru the entire system. It was still a bit too cold for the birds with daytime temps in the 40’s and below freezing at night so the heat lamps went up into the ceiling as well. I brought the old nest box in and placed it beneath the eastern window. I called that finished. Birds will roost in the western windowless section and eat/drink/lay eggs in the eastern part with 2 windows.

It was finally time to get the birds out of the loft. And anyone who knows livestock, especially chickens, knows that they don’t like change. They quickly get used to their “World” and that’s that. Our challenge was to get 42 birds down thru the opening in the floor. Initially the plan was to grab them and box them up and carry them down to the coop. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? They of course would have none of that. The first step in any case was to clear out the loft of everything they could hide behind. Some time ago an acquaintance gave me a pile of chinchilla cages. I quickly learned that the size requirements for chinchillas is different enough from that of chickens that the cages are almost completely useless for my purposes. So, into the loft they went. And right back out. We shifted a few other things around figured we were ready to start catching them. Leah had suggested that they might just jump down thru the hole and we wouldn’t need to do anything at all. Wishful thinking at its best. But as it turns out, not too terribly far from what we ended up doing. We got 2 large sheets of cardboard, formed a wall and herded the birds over towards the hole. When stressed, chickens do 3 things. 1. They run blindly in whatever direction their head happens to be pointing. 2. If possible the flock up because being with your buddies as the GIANT MONSTER COMES AT ME is somehow a logical survival trait for them. and finally 3. They void their bowels fairly explosively. So what we had was a mass of terrified birds running in all directions at once while at the same time trying to get with their flock, all of whom were blasting chicken shit all over the place. As we neared the opening in the floor with our moving wall, the birds proceeded to crowd the edges and fly across the opening but not go down into it. THERE BE DRAGONS DOWN THERE. i made the decision on the fly and just started pushing them off the edge. it’s a fairly well know fact that chickens can’t really fly all that well if at all. No one, of course, has bothered to tell the chickens that. As soon as they realized that there was nothing under their feet, they start flapping for their lives. The weird part is how they will hook their head over whatever ledge they can find and try to flap/lift themselves back up. Of course this doesn’t work for the vastest majority of them because their wings can’t support their body weight. But it doesn’t stop them trying. Down thru the hole they went. Splat on the floor below. It took us about 5 minutes to get them all because some of them are only a tiny bit smarter than the rest and they were able to worm their way into all the littlest nooks and crannies we weren’t able to seal off. It was fairly simple to move the now shell shocked birds into the coop.

birds in new coop
birds in new coop
eating chickens
eating chickens

After about 5 minutes of double checking with each other that they were still alive, the birds settled down to their new coop. Suka, the cat, wants to meet them of course. Most likely meet and eat them. Or at least meet and play with them to death. The 3 cats who lived here before didn’t mess with the chickens at all. To the point that one of them would go into the nest boxes to sleep. Good kitty. Maybe it’s something about a bird at least as large as them fighting back that they didn’t like. Suka will get her opportunity to meet a raging hen or a rooster defending his girls, just not quite yet. One last thing to take care of, under the roosts needed some sort of litter to protect the cement from all the crap that was about to come out of the birds. I picked up some pine shavings from the local farm supply and was in the process of spreading it around when it happened. I had just kicked a large pile of the shavings into the back corner of the coop and the birds panicked as they are wont to do. Only this time one of them had her head pointed directly towards the coop door. Out she went, right between my feet. Mucka, of course became instantly interested. I think it has something to do with the fear response. Dogs, my dogs anyway, only really chase animals that run from them. Which is exactly what he did. By the time I got outside they were about 100 yards into the woods behind the coop. To his credit, when i called for him to stop and return, he did. Chickens don’t

Suka wants to play
Suka wants to play

have the same instinct. She just kept on going. I fantasize about the legend the flock will whisper among themselves about THE ONE WHO LEFT. Living off the land out in the deep dark wood. Free from the GIANT MONSTERS (Leah and I) and their SMALLER MONSTERS  (the dog and cat). With the temperatures still going below freezing and the hen only 7 weeks old, chances are that she froze to death. But who knows, maybe she lives on out there. One can only speculate without the body as proof.

Leah on beach in CA
Leah on beach in CA

With the birds in their new home, Leah and I were able to go out to California to spend some time with her family.  She hadn’t seem them in years and I had only her stories about them. I will never understand what it is that drives folks to live in Southern California. It is a desert after all, only now it’s a desert with about 850 million people in it. At this point, LA county is one giant city. Freeways going every which way. About half of those 850 million people feel as though it’s their life’s mission to BE SOMEWHERE ELSE as

fast as they possible can. And I thought Colorado had the fastest drivers on the road. Doing the speed limit can get you killed out there. I got to hook up with one of my cousins, which was awesome. Got a chance to go out into the desert proper. A desert in bloom is a magical place. Of course the last 6 months have seen about 1/6 of the normal rainfall and the snow is gone from the

Agave blooming in Lone Pine Canyon
Agave blooming in Lone Pine Canyon

mountains. It’s going to be a rough time for the fire fighters out there. Just today, I heard on the news that a 15 square mile out of control fire had burned it’s way to the sea just NW of LA. And it’s not even fire season yet.

cactus flowers in Lone Pine Canyon
cactus flowers in Lone Pine Canyon

Upon returning home, I knew I needed to solve the dog v chicken issue. Exposure therapy if you will. I’ve had trouble with dogs (both my own and other peoples) in the past. That was 10 years ago and I’ve slowed down a little since then. Scolding a dog after the fact does little to curb negative behavior and the notion that tying a dead chicken to the dog will solve anything makes no sense to me. It’s only really worked when I was able to catch them in the act.  This time I thought I would try something a little different. I took Mucka into the coop with me. just to see what he did. As it turn out he did exactly nothing. All bets are off once the birds are our of the coop and running around. (Remember the running animal thing) So for now, we are at an impasse. It’ll work out in the end I’m sure. After all he is a good dog, mostly…

Mucka meets birds I
oh dog
Mucka meets birds II
careful careful
Mucka meets birds III
good dog
Mucka meets birds IV
best dog

Chickens don’t care

Chickens don’t care

broked
the floor all brokded up with dad

Finally finished pouring the floor in the barn yesterday and I can say it was no small task, especially for such a small structure.

poo pile at The Actual Seed Garden
poo pile at The Actual Seed Garden

After my father and I broke up the preexisting slab, I took an afternoon and pulled out a bunch of the dirt from where the chickens used to roost (SW corner). For some reason there was never any cement in that stall so the practice before was to just keep throwing new hay in there under them every once in a while and then pull it out (or not) if it got to smell too much. All told, we took 2 mule loads out of there. The soil has almost 4 years of chicken crap dripped into it and an equal amount of time with a steady stream of hay chips and the occasional pile of nanny berries (goat poo).  This interior compost and also a pile from just out front of the barn got moved to the front yard to be used in the Actual Seed Garden. Leah capitalizes some things. I think it’s cute. This pile was also the floor of a chicken coop. One that was added on when the total was 130 birds. The back wall and about ½ of the floor were covered with an old billboard canvas, so everything that fell out of the other half of the flock landed on the tarp. When I took down the loafing shed/chicken coop, I just left the canvas where it lay after folding the wall section down over the floor section. This way the rain and snow couldn’t wash away all the chicken goodness. Leah and I used the mule to drag that to the front yard too.  New garden. Exciting. She’ll likely write a story about it soon.

bank sand truck to Mule
bank sand truck to Mule
bank sand NW corner infill
bank sand NW corner infill
gravel, another load
gravel, another load

Back in the barn I knew IT WAS TIME. Just so happens a young couple stopped by last week asking about one of my old cars. I remember him from when we got a new roof put on the house. He was the laborer. He wanted to know if the car was for sale. The transmission had gone bad due to an unobserved fluid leak coming back from out west and for the next 2 ½ years I unsuccessfully worked at getting things set back up the way they were before the leak. After my 3rd transmission not doing what I had hoped and then finally giving it up, I told the guy that he could have the car, and my older picked over parts car if he helped me put the floor into the barn. He said the deal sounded great. It’s hard to find good help these days. Though I’m not sure during when it was ever easy to find good help. I feel as though I’m good help. The guys I work for have always said so. But, twas not the case this time. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was/is a hard worker. His fiancé/girlfriend/partner Amber threw in and went at moving the 8 tons of bank sand into the barn and leveling the floor.  Front end loader to truck bed, drive 9 miles with almost no weight on the front wheels and the back tires groaning under the load and then DOWN into the mule and then DOWN onto the barn floor.  Things, of course, got complicated. Her health issues, then his health issues, and then no show after only the second day. No show no call.

gravel infill south drain
gravel infill south drain
drain union NE corner
drain union NE corner
hanging from a dam and this is all that's holding me up
hanging from a dam and this is all that’s holding me up

It rained that day but not enough to keep me from working on digging out the new drainage system going around the structure. It was always nasty wet in there, and the river of mud out front would wash right down inside. All told an ugly scene. Having animals in that barn for 4 years has instructed me on how I want to set things up and NOT having the limitations of a screwed up floor and a bunch of stalls from someone else’s idea for a perfect set up. Saturday and Sunday I was off to Cleveland to finish up the second part of a Technical Ropes Rescue course. Craziest coincidence. A class offered for free that I have dreamed of taking since I saw folks on ropes doing something or other long ago.  Monday morning rolls around and I’m back out digging ditch, dreading copping up more gravel and pitching it into the mule UP! from the ground. Ug. Then I get a call from guy’s dad saying he was going to come and cover for his kid, he and his partner. They’re tree trimmers, Arborists really. They showed up a little later than they said they would but once they got here they threw themselves at the work with a gusto. Suddenly all the gravel I need is there.  I cut the dad some slack picking it up for his kid like this so we only moved gravel in, I didn’t have them help refill the ditches. My mistake maybe. They were to come on the following day, Thursday, to help with the pour. Along the way I beefed up the box on the back of the Mule and made it a bit more permanent.

One interesting side note. Being “unemployed”, or rather, “not having a “normal J. O. B.”, I kind of loose track of days and dates. It was Tuesday afternoon when I realized that the pour wasn’t till Thursday and not Wednesday. I had a whole other day to get it all done. Very welcome surprise.

Mule in skirts with box
Mule in skirts with box

THE POUR

dog with plastic
dog with plastic

It went as well as I expected. There were a few minor mishaps but the floor is flat and the cement truck left empty and paid. A friend of my father’s came with him to help with 20 years of cement in his memory banks.

ramp from inside with dog head
ramp from inside with dog head
dad and mike unloading the Mule
dad and mike unloading the Mule
Mule backed in
Mule backed in

First things first we set up his laser level. The whole eastern side of the floor and especially the SE corner, the floor was too high, too much sand. We shoveled almost a Mule load of sand out the back door. Laid the plastic, built the ramp, and here comes the truck. First load over the hill and down the slope into the barn, no sweat. Maybe add a little water to the truck and some more mud to the next Mule load. Second load has a moment of confusion at the turn around and the box shifts and the gate starts out the chute and the liquid cement starts pushing its way towards gravity on a moving Mule, bumping its way down an incline. Only lost 5-7 gallons on the hillside. A quick repair job and we are off and running. Two pushes from the cement tank. Start the Mule and drive it up hill to just around the other side of the Seed House. Stop. Get off.

cement liquidish NW corner
cement liquidish NW corner

Go into reverse, walking behind the Mule. Climb back onto the front of the Mule and steer it 150’ perched on top engine breaking down the hill with a bit over a half a yard of cement in the back. After 4 or 5 loads I let Kurt, a youngin from the fire department and a driver for the Army, drive the rest of the loads. There were a few mishaps along the way. Boards giving way on this side of the chute, then on the other but then, last load, truck is empty, driver wants paid and to clean out his truck, IN THAT ORDER.

overflow pad and gravel driveup
overflow pad and gravel driveup
floor still liquidish
floor still liquidish

 Lovely, now Mule won’t start. Sitting on the driveway with about 1/3 yard in the box. And, almost naturally, my jumper cables are with the kid who’s dad was bailing him out. Can’t jump it, put a battery charger on it. Pay the guy. Mule starts. Drive it to the barn. Turns out the previous load was enough to finish the floor. A bunch of that load was shoveled out onto the exterior pad. So the entire last load will be not only not inside, but not in either of the 2 small form I added along side the original slab.  Instead I quick, quick rake out all the gravel between the slab and where the drain pipe goes under the gravel bed, and shape the soft soil sides of the driveway into a kind of form. BLOP. Last load in place, Mule won’t start. Kurt grabs his more-power-than-brains 4-wheeler and proceeds to ignore what I’m saying to him and tears up the yard by disobeying the laws of physics. In particular the Coefficient of Friction and Newton’s First Law. As a result, he did more damage in 30 seconds than the previous 5 ¼ yards of cement and 8 tons of sand and 6 tons of gravel had done. Thanks Kurt.

sign out
sign out

DONE

finished floor with dog and poo
finished floor with dog and poo

The slab finishing took a while. The finisher wasn’t having an easy go of it. Finishing is a very labor intensive activity. It’s why guys like me get finishers. Just like finishing drywall, there is a knack that some folks either have or learn and make it look simple. The rest of us are shades of not very good or mostly just slow. All in all, it’s a flat floor in my barn that I can clean with a flat shovel and a broom. The perfect is the enemy of the good. And besides, the chickens don’t care…

everyone checking the red trillium
everyone checking the red trillium

Let’s make syrup… and sugar!

syrup cooker v1.0If you are new to our website, you may have missed the first maple syrup story and the rocket stove Charles built to cook the sap down with:  https://trilliumcenter.org/2013/01/14/lets-make-syrup/

After I made 3 gallons of syrup I decided to make a batch of sugar. The process is mostly the same as syrup, which I’m going to share here since our first story focused on the stove.

Making Syrup

Boil sap down. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup if the tree tapped is a sugar maple. Many other trees produce sap that can be boiled down to syrup, but most of them are in the range of 80 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. These trees include other maples and most nut trees (walnuts, beech). Some of the syrups out there are actually made with bark tea and sugar rather than sap. I’ve seen wild cherry bark syrup, tulip poplar syrup, and hickory syrup.

almost syrup

I worked with three batches of sugar maple syrup. I used a method that doesn’t involve a thermometer or hydrometer. I boiled the syrup until the surface took on a sheen that reminded me of saran wrap. Then I immediately canned it. The second batch I did the same thing, except that I didn’t can it right away. I watched to see how thick the sheen got. This batch ended up thicker and darker. The third batch I chose to use a thermometer. This method is based on boiling points. The boiling point for water varies depending on elevation. The elevation here is approximately sea level (180 degrees). To make syrup, it needs to boil at about 7 degrees above the boiling point of water. This batch was thicker than the first but thinner than the third.

Making Sugar Follow the process fo100_1549r making syrup except that the syrup needs to boil at about 40 degrees above the boiling point of water. A note on this, I boiled it at 220 degrees and I noticed that it hit 220 right before it’s about to boil over. So if you don’t have a thermometer you could take a chance and just watch for the right moment. After it boiled, I poured it into two shallow trays and a wooden bowl. I tried the wooden bowl because one of the sources I looked at recommended it. It took about 24 hours of stirring to complete the process. I didn’t stir constantly for 24 hours, but let it crust over before I stirred. I let it sit while I slept, then in the morning I set the trays on the wood stove to hasten the evaporation. Once it felt dry enough I poured it into jars for storage. Oh, and I ate too much maple sugar, but it didn’t make me feel sick the way white sugar does. 🙂Maple sap

Resources Both of these sites have more detailed information on tapping trees and making syrup: http://ohioline.osu.edu/for-fact/0036.html http://www.tapmytrees.com/

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