Notice the new wheels on the old lumber trailer?  I added two which I bought in 1980 or so and then forgot in the haymow.  The mission to recover them from the now-derelict building was a bit more fraught than I would have expected.  The floor of the upper level has separated from the rock foundation by almost two feet and settled, so I had to squeeze in through a pair of doors trapped by a foot of stone and find my footing on an unsupported floor inside.

As I gathered my wits after that endeavour, one of the resident turkey vultures decided not to sit through my intrusion and leaped into the air from the bare floor of the hay mow to my right.  She looked HUGE in a confined area as the startled bird struggled up above the main beams, then glided down and out through the open door at the far end. 

Now I have a pair of turkey vultures with a grudge hovering even lower over me than usual whenever I go outside.

Earlier in the day a mystery egg turned up on the grass below the barn.  It had obviously been transported there, but only partially eaten.  The egg was larger than a chicken’s Grade A, and seemed a bit “squarer” than the ovoid domestic product.


Logic indicates the egg was likely purloined from the nest of the neighbourhood wild turkey, though the lack of spots suggests a duck, but I’m pretty sure if a mallard were nesting in the barn I would have seen her flying in and out.  But maybe that vulture was feeding, rather than tending a clutch of eggs in the abandoned building.

Deadhead at 12:00!

April 19, 2016

The first cruise of the year is always an interesting trip, even if the weather is fine and the fish aren’t yet interested.  The highlight of yesterday’s expedition on Opinicon Lake (at Chaffey’s Locks, Ontario) was the huge deadhead below.  Because it was unmoving in the wind and waves, I suspect that it is rooted in the silt 26′ below.



I posted the photo on Facebook (Opinicon Lake and Chaffey’s Locks Rocks) and a comment provides a rather precise location for the log.  It’s a long way from the channel between Davis and Chaffey’s.

This picture is taken more in the middle of Opinicon Lake in front of Weatherhead’s cottage looking across the Lake at Bachenburg’s, Langlois’s and Burbank’s and Randall’s.

Dave Warren’s comment on Facebook leads me to believe that the thing may well be a local landmark.  I hadn’t ventured up to Deadlock Bay for a couple of years, and things change on a lake over time.

Yesterday afternoon I noticed that a black cherry seedling transplanted to the front yard last year had not wintered well, so I casually looked around for a finger-sized hard maple to replace it.  Maples of this age seem to hide in places where they are hard to dig out, but I persisted in a casual search until a hen turkey meandered past me through the pine-walnut stand as I sat quietly in the cab of the UTV.  The large bird worked her way west and was on the verge of entering the woodlot when she suddenly spotted food at the edge of the mowed area and frantically pecked her way around for a couple of minutes before continuing on.

With renewed resolve I searched two fence rows between the house and the woodlot. Every transplantable tree smaller than my thumb was a black walnut. In 2006 when we began the walnut project there were no volunteers in these areas.

Young black walnuts are now even growing in what I would have considered inhospitable terrain a half-mile north of the seed trees, across a stretch of open field.  Gray squirrels are amazing seed propagators, and the local climate has changed enough that black walnuts can now grow in exposed areas of the drumlin where they had no chance of survival before.

When our son Charlie planned a shop for his hobby, he insisted upon a 12′ ceiling to provide clearance for a car lift.  He had worked on his Porsche for a couple of years on a gravel floor in a crowded plastic hut, freezing in winter and utterly baking in summer until I took pity on him and cut the end out of the edifice with an exacto knife.

We mutually agreed that he needed a separate shop for automotive pursuits.  He insisted that no sawdust make its way into his clean area.  My preference was for a space not filled with used brake rotors for my woodworking.

In any case, Charlie, Martin, and other volunteers popped the garage up in a surprisingly short period of time.  Charlie learned drywall and taping, then he and Roz painted the interior to a high standard of quality.

The centrepiece of the shop was the asymmetric-arm, two-post auto lift.  Charlie located a beauty weighing a bit over a ton.  My trailer easily hauled it down the 401 and home, thereby saving $500 in shipping.

Les Parrott lent us a heavy drill, I bought a 3/4″ bit for it, and Charlie drilled the holes for the many 6″ lag bolts which anchor the massive posts.  Then we attached the beam across the top, and Peter Myers came over to assemble the hydraulics.

If you don’t mind that the left post is almost an inch lower than the right, things went together very well.  A narrow vehicle looks a little tilted to me when up at the top, but everyone has either had the decency not to mention it, or else hasn’t noticed the flaw.  Everything else is admirably straight, plumb, and torqued.

There’s a manual to tell the operator where to place the arms and pads to lift each model of car and truck.  Safety instructions call for one to make a vigorous attempt to shake the vehicle on the hoist before raising it above knee height.

It worked well for cars, not badly for UTVs, and not at all for garden tractors, but that is covered in another story in this series entitled Why It’s a Bad Idea To Raise Your Kubota On a Car Lift.   

To get on with the current tale, I need to recount that our 2005 Lexus has had an exemplary career mechanically, but this week it broke down.  The power steering mechanism began to make a lot of noise.  A check revealed that it was low on fluid.  Up onto the hoist it went.  Into the bowels of the beast I crawled with alacrity, armed only with a penlight battery on a long, flexible probe with an LED at the other end.

After a few minutes of searching I located the power steering pump.  Its belt was snug and looked new, but the reservoir was almost empty.  With a turkey baster I topped it up with ATF.  On Internet discussion boards Dexxon Automatic Transmission Fluid is the unanimous choice for Toyota/Lexus power steering repairs.  Then I went looking for leaks.

To make a tedious story shorter, I concluded that I needed a 42″ hose to carry high-pressure oil from the pump to the steering rack.  RockAuto.com had it for $94.  The Lexus dealer wanted $900 for the Lexus model, but suggested an after-market equivalent for $480.

I promise:  the Lexus dealer comes out o.k. on this.  Keep reading.

Grudgingly I agreed to the expensive hose and Brian Madeley ordered it for this morning. Derek prepared the car while Brian picked up the part from the nearby dealership.  Derek didn’t think the wet spot I identified as the source of the leak was bad enough, so he kept looking, only to find a split metal tube on a low-pressure return line which he promptly repaired with a length of hose and a pair of clamps.  Total bill: $250.

While it looks wonderful in the shop, the hoist is not the whole deal in auto repair.  It takes experience to know when a blemish on a line is cosmetic and when it’s a broken part which needs to be replaced.  Had I tried to do this job myself I would have ordered parts from RockAuto.com, an admittedly excellent parts source, but they would have had to make it across the border and couldn’t be returned if they turned out to be the wrong ones, or not needed.  The car would have been out of service for at least a week.

For an evening I ranted freely at Lexus and Toyota for the outrageous price on their hose, but is it wrong to put a very high value on a part if it lasts the life of the vehicle and nobody ever needs it?

What’s more, with the use of the hoist in this case I was able to make a prompt diagnosis of the problem and prevent further damage.  My wife suggested having Brian do the repair regardless of the potential cost in order to get her car back into service quickly.  In this case while its benefit proved far from clear-cut, the hoist offered more advantage than liability, a balance I’ll ponder while switching out the winter tires and admiring this tall, red icon of the do-it-yourself culture.




Canada Tea

March 10, 2016

10 March, 2016

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It’s a ritual during sugar season.  Tea never tastes as good as it does when the bag is doused with boiling sap obtained by turning the spigot on the main pan.  Visitors who discovered this unique taste experience dubbed it “Canada Tea.”

For more details about sugar season at the Croskery Woodlot, see the page to your right entitled “A Few Notes From the Sugar Bush ’16.”

BTW:  This is an entirely recreational activity.  We do not sell syrup, though my neighbour George Sheffield on the Thousand Acres Road does.  You can find his number in the Portland directory.



In closing I’d like to offer a special thanks to Geordie Kitching for his advice and encouragement in the administration of this contest.


1 April, 2016   7th Annual Newboro Lake Ice-out Contest winner responds:

Hello Rod,

It is with great humility that I accept the bragging rights mantle for this year.  During my tenure I will endeavor to keep my swaggering to a minimum, my sage advice to myself and the air clear of smug self–satisfaction.  Please note however, the auspicious date on which I accept this great honor.

Now, with that out of the way:  thanks Rod for organizing, updating and officiating the Ice Report and Ice-In / Ice-out contests.  I really enjoy following the posts throughout the winter.  I’m looking forward to exercising my “rights” this summer!

Best regards,

Jim Waterbury


31 March, 2016  5:50 p.m.

5:44 p.m.  Jim Waterbury of Lewis Island selected March 31st as his entry in the contest, and subject to overwhelming evidence that an ice floe has continued on Newboro Lake past sundown today, I hereby declare him this year’s winner.

Congratulations, Jim.


2016 Ice-Out Contest entries will be accepted up until 11:59, Saturday, March 12.


Has it been eight years since the first Walnut Diary posts about putting in Tony’s dock?

The first attempt at guessing the ice-out date followed in the 2009 to 2010 season.

Okay, enough maudlin stuff.  Let’s get to the action.  What you want to know here is where you need to post your comment in order to register for your favourite date.

Click the COMMENT button at the bottom of this post and key in your details.  Entries will come to me in the order they enter the email cue, so if there’s duplication, the earlier missive will prevail.  If the date immediately following the duplicate entry is still available, I’ll assign it to #2, and so on, if space permits.  I reserve the right to ask you by email to select another date if no obvious solution to an overlap presents itself.

Of course this means that you must familiarize yourself with your opponents’ entries at the bottom of this page before you cast your own into the fire, so in your comment I’d like to see a usable name of at least two words, a geographical reference, and of course your chosen date for ice-out.  I will edit comments which look as though they have been keyed in bright sunlight.

Unless someone has a better idea, I see no reason to depart from the basic criterion for ice-out of no patch of floating ice of an area greater than 100 square feet on Newboro Lake, Ontario.

It’s good to be back.  Let the contest begin. 


Any suggestions regarding rules, timing, awards, or anything else?  I’ll try to put the announcement together within the next 24 hours, so any burning issues?


9 March, 2016, 1:21 p.m.

At the suggestion of  Geordie Kitching I have given thought to a deadline for entries into this competition.

If I close off entries at the time change, it will throw a slight advantage to those who have actually endured the ice rather than to returning Snowbirds whose lucky choices have so far enabled them to avoid same.

So let’s do that:  2016 Ice-Out Contest entries will be accepted up until 11:59, Saturday, March 12.

Mr. Kitching further suggested that for subsequent years a deadline for entries in late January would demand more of the punters.  Further input on this is welcome.

Rod Croskery

The Walnut Diary (Host)


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