Notes from Windward: #61

The Pine Grove Auction

For me, my absolute favorite rite of spring is the Fire-fighter's Benefit Auction at Pine Grove, Or., a small orchard community a few miles south of Hood River, Or. The way they support their local volunteer firefighters is by donating and auctioning off all sort of stuff on the first Saturday in March. This was my tenth year, and I wouldn't dream of missing it.

There's never any telling what sorts of things folks will drag out of their garages and barns to donate to the sale, and driving down to Pine Grove at dawn is enough to kindle memories of going down stairs early on Christmas morning.

The auctioneers start at nine in the morning, one outside selling farm equipment, construction surplus, tools, shelving, hardware, lawn equipment, etc., and another inside selling household gear. Eight hours later, the outside auctioneer ends up by selling a line of vehicles, which is where I got my 3/4 ton Chevy 4x4 truck, and Bob2 got his 1 ton Chevy flat-bed.

Part of last year's haul
I don't know when the indoor auction ends up, since they're usually still going strong when I've got our purchases paid for, loaded up and heading home around dark.

I take great comfort in the saying that "door open, and doors close," and Pine Grove is one of the times when I get an idea of what doors will be opening this year. There are lots of different things that could be done at Windward at any point in our journey, given the needed resources, and one of the key factors in the year's work plans involves the resources that turn up at Pine Grove.

Joyce displays a section of
insulated stove pipe
By way of example, we've been debating whether or not to install a wood stove in the new dining hall. We have an appropriate woodstove, but that's not where the cost is. I use a woodstove for heat in my quarters, and while the stove only cost me $40, the stove pipe cost me $280 some ten years ago.

That's a lot for stove pipe, but like one old timer told me, "That's the cheapest life insurance you'll every buy." The reason it's so expensive is that it's made from double-walled stainless steel that's filled with an asbestos substitute.

Because the stove pipe is insulated, it won't cool down the exhaust gases coming out of the stove; that's good because that keeps the draft up the pipe going, and more importantly, because the hot interior of the pipe prevents condensation of tars and unburnt residues within the stove pipe. That doesn't mean that you don't have to periodically have the stove pipe cleaned with a chimney brush, but it does go a long way towards keeping it clean and reducing the chance of a chimney fire.

Please believe me that there are few things scarier than a chimney fire.

The upshot is that UL listed high-tech stovepipes aren't cheap. I was able to pick up three brand new sections at Pine Grove for $27.50 which turns out to be almost exactly ten cents on the dollar compared with what they run new. That nine feet of stovepipe is enough to make the passage through kitchen ceiling and the roof. We'll still need to purchase a special filling for going through the roof, but picking up these pieces puts us a couple hundred dollars ahead on that project.

Another personally exciting acquisition was two 3'x6' sheets of glass for a dollar. The roof on the dining hall was designed to be the correct angle for absorbing solar radiation in the spring and fall. The goal is to make the roof an active energy collector, without having to mount panels at an offset to the roof.

I'm sure you've seen solar panels that have been mounted on existing roofs. They usually look like awkward after-thoughts. It's much better, from at least an aesthetic sense, to incorporate them into the design and angle of the roof since one of the hallmarks of good design is that it's both efficient and elegant.

They're also a lot less likely to cause a leak over time, a major concern anytime you bolt anything onto a roof. A panel that's flat to the roof isn't going to be rocked by the wind, and anything that rocks back and forth is going to leak.

Anyway, the glass sheets will be used to create a 6'x6' solar heater for the kitchen. When the sun is shining, the air inside the solar collection box will become warmer than the air in the kitchen, and a small fan powered by a small solar panel will move air from the kitchen, through the collector and on to the back of the room.

Pia on the milking stand
One Pine Grove acquisition I've already put to use is a sheep stand. These stands are designed so that the ewe is a foot off the ground, and her head is restrained so that you can get her spruced up for showing. You've probably seen sheep very neatly shorn in anticipation of being entered in the County Fair; this is one of the stands that are used to prep a ewe for the show.

Pia gave birth yesterday morning to a boy lamb, and since she seemed to have everything well in hand, we just left momma and son together to bond. When we checked back, we were surprised and saddened to find the lamb dead. Evidently he had some sort of defect in his umbilical chord that ruptured, and he bled to death in short order.

Gutsy one-eared Hinde
Dolly and Hinde gave birth to twins, and it's the natural way for mothers to make hard decisions as to how many lambs they can manage. In both cases, the boy lambs were more vigorous than their sisters, and the ewes elected to work with the boy lambs and let the girl lambs go. Unlike what's shown in Disney movies, real nature is very calculating, and there's no sentimentality involved.

Heather took one of the girl lambs, and I took the other, and so far so good. I moved the shearing table and Pia into a holding pen, and explained to Pia that we were going to set up a milking operation in order to save the two girl lambs. Pia wasn't very excited about it at first, but now that she understands that extra grain rations and the best alfalfa hay go with the job, she's warming to the proposition nicely.

Black-eyed Susy learning to walk
Without fresh milk for the lambs, the odds of saving them are very poor. We have powdered colostrum and milk to mix up and use, since it's not possible for us to not give them our best effort, but it's not anywhere near what a newborn needs in order to get their delicate digestion system up and running.

But this time, thanks to Pia, the babes are getting stronger each day instead of withering away. Susie is up and walking about, and Darla is a little firecracker. This morning, when I threw the alfalfa hay to the nursing ewes, Darla bounded over and jumped on top of the pile of hay, surveyed the world from her perch, and then bounded off in the other direction. I've got to tell you, it would take a person with no heart at all to not fall in love with these these little darlings.

After so many long, dark winter nights, it's simply grand to watch the rebirth of the world, and to get to play midwife to a part of it.

Another strange and useful acquisition from this year's Pine Grove was a fiberglass loading ramp. This is a 12' long fiberglass structure wide enough to accommodate a hand-truck when you have things you want to load or unload from a truck. I'm screwing up my determination towards tackling the chore of taking the garage to the next level of completion. Much of that will entail getting the two upper 10'x20' levels organized.

our three bay garage
The garage is thirty feet wide and twenty feet deep, and is organized into three 10x30' bays. The two side bays have a second floor for storage, but the center bay is open so that a hoist could be used to snatch an engine out of a truck, or the backhoe could be brought inside for repair.

Up 'til now, there hasn't been any way to get from one upper storage area to the other, and what this 12' long loading ramp will do is work as a bridge between the two storage areas. One thing is certain, we'll never out grow our need for more storage space.

the loading ramp/bridge
There was a melancholy air to this year's Pine Grove because it's becoming ever more obvious that the old country ways are passing. Each year the auction gets smaller, and the number of people attending gets fewer. It's still worth going to, but it isn't hard to look down the road to the time when these country auctions will be a thing of the past.

With Pine Grove concluded, it feels like spring is truly here, and it's time to see what the new year will bring. New people, new developments and new activities to be sure, but it's also a time to remember the things of the past that have grown so thin that you almost have to squint your eyes to see them. All too soon, you won't be able to see them at all.

- Walt