Summer update #2 (of 2), ranch stuff

Summer must be over because football has started – yea! (Go Texas Longhorns, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, and Miami Dolphins!)

John and Sassy in the San Juan mountains

John and Sassy in the San Juan mountains

We last left off with us in Montrose, Colorado at our favorite campground (Centennial RV Park) and as usual, had a great time with our friends in the Western Slope 4-Wheelers club running around the San Juan mountains at 10-13,000 feet of elevation.  This year we didn’t spend quite as much time there as usual (about five weeks) because we had some other activities planned – we

Sassy at 12,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains

Sassy at 12,000 feet in the San Juan Mountains

The Columbine - state flower of Colorado

The Columbine – state flower of Colorado

were going to dry camp (no water/electric/sewer) in Leadville, Colorado at the All-for-Fun off-road event for a week (first time with the 290 watts of solar power I installed last summer and a residential-type of fridge), then we went to Chama, New Mexico to ride the Cumbres & Toltec steam train (we still like the Durango and Silverton train better), and then back home. The reason for coming home so early was due to our dear old friends

Just parked in Leadville, Colorado for the All-4-Fun off-road event.

Just parked in Leadville, Colorado for the All-4-Fun off-road event.

Alpine flowers

Alpine flowers

(Les & Karen) inviting us to spend a week with them on the beach at their time share in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Remember earlier in the year when the house air conditioner needed to be replaced?  Continuing on in that same vein the washer/dryer combo unit in the coach decided to stop drying so Jane basically was left with a washing machine.  Not a huge deal because almost all campgrounds have a few washers and dryers available, but the Splendide needed to be repaired ($$.)

Then a couple of days before we arrived home, the GE Advantium microwave/convection oven decided to not work ($$$$.)  This was a big deal since Jane had some frozen meals that really needed an oven to properly cook and all we had working was a cooktop.  The washing machine and Advantium oven are eight years old and their failing while a disappointment is not totally unexpected (can’t believe we’ve been running around North America for eight years!)

The Splendide problem was the main circuit board ($325 + shipping) and the Advantium problem was not determined and whatever the cause was, most likely was not worth repairing (an eight year-old appliance that’s been bouncing on the road for 87,000 miles.)  So.. hello new Advantium (sigh, $1,000.)  The new Advantium was installed by John and helpers a couple of hours ago.

Jumping around a little bit with the narrative, we had a great time in Cocoa Beach with our buds but we forgot what 100% humidity feels like.  Wow – it’s like having a hot and damp towel wrapped around your entire body when you aren’t in air conditioning.  After fun and frivolity (and several way fun cocktail hours and dinners out) we pointed ourselves to Ft Myers to visit with some other very dear friends (going back to the 1980s), Bob and Judy.  Bob had heart bypass surgery a few months ago (with a complication) but he is doing well – it was great to see them again.  Then we headed to Naples to visit with our physician nephew Erik and his physician wife Karen and their three small boys; they are escapees from NY state and we are delighted to see them relocated south.  They are doing great and loving their new location.

Our new rhea birds

Our new rhea birds

Ranch stuff – the Rhea birds were delivered a couple of weeks ago and they are settled in and doing very well.  We discovered that the birds leave a rather large pile of green poop which our newly bathed Sassy the corgi discovered and rolled around in a few days ago.  Sassy is just like a two year old human baby – turn your back on them for ten seconds and look-out, chances are she’s doing something against house rules.  So Sassy was quite the smelly mess with a bit of her covered in green poop –  we gave her another bath on the deck.  Never a dull moment.

Today  our trapper delivered a nice 13″ long horned blackbuck antelope to be the new

Our new breeder blackbuck antelope

Our new breeder blackbuck antelope

breeder male.  We wanted genetic diversity to improve the health and bloodline of the herd so this was a huge moment for us.  We haven’t seen the herd in a few hours but we’re hoping the new big man on campus (BMOC) will settle nicely into his new role as patriarch of our herd of 25 or so does and spike bucks.

While driving the Jeep Rubicon around Colorado on the highways this summer, we decided that something had to happen as far as more power.  The Rubicon sometimes can just barely make the speed limit with the engine screaming along at 4,000+ RPMs – it’s frustrating for us as well as the poor folks following behind us.  The solution was more power was needed – this could either be:


The supercharger is almost installed 🙂











a complete engine/drivetrain change out for a V-8 Hemi (mega bucks) or getting more power out of the current engine (mini-bucks relatively speaking.)  So, after doing some research and talking to owners of supercharged Jeeps similar to ours, we decided to supercharge the Jeep’s straight-six engine.

Like always, John did all of the work and the results are spectacular – the wheel horse power went from about 100 to 211 HP. Wow.  Here’s some videos of the unboxing of the supercharger kit, a dynamometer run before and after supercharging and a road test.

Next on the agenda is to head to Clayton, OK mid-October  for a wheeling event and then on to St. George, UT for – wait for it – more off-roading 🙂

Ranch goings on, summer 2013 update #1

Greetings friends, family and loved ones!  As I type this we are at one of our favorite campgrounds, Centennial RV Park which is about 10 miles south of Montrose, Colorado.

San Juan Mountains

Looking south from the coach to the San Juan Mountains

As I look our our large salon window I can see the peaks of the beautiful snow-capped San Juan mountains, always a gorgeous sight to behold.  We will be here for about five more weeks so we will get our fill of Jeeping around the mountains with our club, the Western Slope 4-wheelers.  (There are several wildfires in Colorado but fortunately none near us.)

We have been blessed with rain at the little ranch this year – not a lot but it is always

Young buck going to auction

Young buck going to auction

coming down at the right time to keep the grasses and flowers growing – prayers are answered!  Assuming we continue to regularly get a little rain, our feed bill should be way down this year.  Speaking of feed, we have had a good year (so far) with the blackbuck antelope.  We sold several at auction, and are in the process of having the remaining bucks darted and sold off with the idea of bringing in a new breeder buck for genetic diversity.  We did have a very, very nice buck die for no obvious reason this spring, it was such a sad

Mature blackbuck male

This is the beautiful male that died for no obvious reason

event to see one of the nicest males in the herd die – he needed to be on another ranch and we could have used the money to offset prior years’ feed bill.  On a positive note, all of the three or four babies born this year are doing well unlike the last couple of years.

Since we are trying to be good stewards of our ranch, we have been active in an effort to rid the place of prickly pear cactus; after a three year spray program (Surmount) we have the cactus about 98% controlled (compared to it covering maybe 50% of the property at purchase!)  Now it’s time to aggressively tackle our thistle

Thistle flower

Thistle flower

population, we have been actively fighting them for years with some progress but if you leave a few thistles, they will produce thousands and thousands of seeds, so it seems like a losing battle.  After a chat with our animal trapper and lamenting about the thistle problem, he said he has Rhea birds (like an Emu or Ostrich) that eat the thistle heads and eventually the thistles completely disappear since they can’t produce seeds.

Lesser Rhea

Lesser Rhea

Sensing an opportunity for natural control instead of herbicides, we ordered two Rhea birds from the trapper to be delivered as soon as possible so we will be adding more exotic critters to the place.  John wants a couple of donkeys so don’t be surprised if we make that announcement one of these days.

On a very tragic note, we found out that one person of the two man trapper team we use was recently killed apparently in a domestic violence event with his wife just a few days after we received our proceeds from the antelope sale.  The sheriff found the man’s wife with a stab wound in the leg and he was dead of a gunshot wound.  Story goes that there was a long history of marital strife in that family but it’s profoundly sad to see that sort of violent conclusion to a marriage.  (The picture with the two guys and the young male on the ground was not the fellow that was killed.)

After we leave the Montrose area we are headed to Leadville, Colorado for the annual All-4-Fun off-road event and then we haven’t figured out where to go next.  We might wander up to the Yellowstone area, but no definite plans yet.  We’re very blessed to be here and never forget to give thanks 🙂 .

What? It’s 2013 already?

Let’s see, where were we at last update…  It was fall and we participated in the Black Hills Jeep Jamboree.   Then elections happened and 51% of the voters decided we needed four more years of Barry & his buddies.  (Lord, please deliver from these feckless idiots in Washington.)

Since we’re (okay, John is) turning into off-road fanatics, it just seemed right to participate in the Family Motor Coach Assn (FMCA) 4-Wheeler’s

Trail repair - I tied a shock up and out of the way

At the Golden Vally FMCA 4-wheeler rally, I pulled out the left-rear shock from its mount

Thanksgiving event in Golden Vally, Arizona (near Kingman).  We joined the club several months previously but our schedules didn’t mesh until this event.  So we made another trip out West (we love the open spaces) and had to stop by Las Cruces, New Mexico to see our dear friends, the Topleys and John made his usual shopping foray at Harbor Freight tools.

We had a great time as usual in Las Cruces and then headed to the NW corner of Arizona

iPad taking video of a Jeep

We thought this was a very cool picture that Jane captured at the FMCA 4-Wheeler’s Thanksgiving rally

and had a great time with all of the old 4-wheel codgers like us <grin>, the rally and trails were very well organized, managed and we had a great time.  I was impressed at how much planning effort went into this production, this is what happens when you have a bunch of talented people with a lot of spare time on their hands 🙂

Since we pulled the left-rear shock absorber from its upper mount at this event, it was time to completely redo the rear axle shock mounting system and make certain that couldn’t happen again.  Since John

Rolled Jeep

A rolled Jeep at the FMCA 4-Wheelers 2012 Thanksgiving rally @ Golden Vally, AZ.  Everybody was okay

does 99% of the work on the Rubicon, it was necessary to buy a plasma torch to cut off the old parts.  Darn, another tool taking up space 😉  This work was quite involved since John fabricated new shock mounting brackets to be welded on the axle and relocated the upper coil spring mounting perch (via a kit.)

Then winter happened.

Fortunately it was a mild winter and all of our blackbuck antelope babies survived (four or five of them), we did have some animals netted and sold last fall but the herd is still at about 23 or so animals, plenty for our acreage.

Rock crawling buggy on 54" tires

Spotted at the Chili Challenge – a buggy on 54″ tires lined up for one of the extreme trails. What an amazing rig

Then we did two more Jeep events, the Chili Challenge (Las Cruces, NM) and the Texas Spur Jeep Jamboree for the third year in a row.

On a more domestic note, our house AC/heat pump decided to croak – it was diagnosed as a bad compressor.  A bum compressor isn’t necessary a hugely expensive repair ($1,000 which is a lot if you don’t have the money!) but the government has complicated things significantly with the elimination of first R-12 Freon, and then R-22 Freon which is what all household AC units used until two or three years ago.

The refrigerant now is the “earth friendly” (right) R-410a for home units.  The dirty little environmental secret that you won’t hear discussed is the fact that R-410a is not as efficient as R-22 and has to operate at far higher pressures (like twice as much) as good old R-22 and “however, it has a high global warming potential (1725 times the effect of carbon dioxide), similar to that of R-22.”  So, we’re using more energy to produce as many BTUs of cooling or heat but we’re saving the ozone while producing just much carbon dioxide.  Huh?  Time to send the environmental wackos and junk ‘scientists’ to a place where everything is.. Happy.  Yes, Happy Land where we’re saving everything from .. everything.   Ah, that feels so good..

Okay, done with that rant.

Back to the AC problem.  After a lot of discussion with our AC guy, we decided it was more

Rusty & leaking AC evaporator

Rusty & leaking AC evaporator (in the air handler)

practical to replace the entire system with a high SEER unit – this meant a totally new outside unit and a completely new inside unit (the air handler and evaporator.)  It was an expensive operation and it took three guys about 9 hours to make the change but we now have an “earth friendly” AC system (I’m so overwhelmed.)

The new AC system is working great (as we expected) so the new system should last many, many years (finger’s crossed.)

John got interested in Amateur Radio (WB5THT is his call sign) again after being inactive for many years so he’s back on the air.  Since everything was in the “I’m not going to work” mode, his old radios that were stored away for many years didn’t work of course, so new radios were ordered and he’s back on the air in the digital modes (like Teletype) and has communicated all over the world with a simple antenna, radio and PC.

As this update is penned (with a keyboard <grin>) we are in Balmorhea, TX at a cheapo campground with overflowing sewer hookups – never a dull moment when you’re on the road.  There aren’t a lot of choices out here unfortunately.

Thank you dear reader for following along with us as we travel, ranch, do stuff to and with the Jeep, and spend money 😉  As always, may God Bless.  -Jane and John-