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Randsco News

It takes time to create blog entries and not everything that happens, merits an entry. So, we've created this 'news' section, to keep readers up-to-date with our misadventures and accomplishments. Read about it here FIRST, before it makes it into a blog entry.

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Three Woes

November 10th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Then There Were Three] The Kimler's lose an egg-laying hen to predators • [ISP Woes] A local circuit board fails and when it's replaced, everyone is reconnected, except us

Then There Were Three

Hutton House Chicken Run - Last Thursday evening, sometime between dusk and 7:30 PM, the Kimler family lost one of their four egg-laying hens.

By "lost", we don't mean that they set the chicken down somewhere and just can't remember where it is. We mean "lost", as in - a predator sneaked into the chicken run, killed a chicken and then made off with the carcass. Murder. Plain and simple.

Reporters were stunned at the news and a teary-eyed Alex tried to grasp the situation.

"One of our chickens ... is ... gone," she sobbed to the throng of reporters gathered the next morning at the Randsco campus gates.

"What took it?" reporters asked.

"We're not 100% certain," said Scott Kimler, who was standing next to Alex, putting a consoling arm around his 5-year-old daughter. "We think it was a raccoon, based on the forensic evidence."

By "forensic evidence", he meant that only feathers were left behind. Reporters, touring the chicken run, noted a light scattering of feathers, everywhere. However, there were two spots in the run, each of which had a mass of feathers.

"We think the chicken was killed either here, or here," Scott said, pointing to the two feathered spots, "then the culprit made off with its kill."

As it turns out, different predators have different "MO-s" (Methods of Operation). Not all predators will take a chicken, once they kill it. Minks and Weasels, for example, will generally chew off the head of the chicken and then drink the blood that drains out. They'll leave behind the carcass and often kill multiple birds, leaving the carcasses neatly piled. Skunks, who hunt mainly during the night, eat the entrails and leave much of the skin and muscle untouched.

"We're pretty certain, based on the evidence, that it wasn't a skunk, wolves, dogs, mink, weasels, rats or coyotes," Scott said, "which narrows it down a tad."

"Other possibilities include an owl, mountain lion, domestic cat or raccoon."

"The way the fence was pushed over, indicates that it probably wasn't an owl," Scott went on, "and while Vancouver Island has a dense mountain lion (cougar) population, sightings in our area are generally very rare. We don't think (and hope) it wasn't a mountain lion.

"As you can see, the fence has been pushed down in this area," Scott said, pointing to a rickety portion of the chicken run fence.

"We're not ruling out a domestic cat, though we know it's not ours - "Tuxedo" - as he was in the house at the time of the incident. Nope ... our money is on raccoons, who may hunt alone or in a family pack."

"When I went to put the chickens to bed the other night," said Rachel, "something in the bushes growled at me. It was very spooky."

"We think it may have been the raccoons, scouting out the area," Scott said, "Unfortunately, once they find a spot to nab chickens, they'll return on a pretty regular basis, every 5 to 7 days."

When asked what they were going to do to protect their flock from further attacks, Scott said that he'd for sure strengthen the fence and that they'd be certain to tuck the chickens into their coop, which is secure from predators, no later than dusk.

"Maybe we'll even enclose the chicken run - top and sides - with mesh, just to make certain nothing can get to "our girls".

It was a somber press conference. Sympathies went out to the missing chicken - a family favorite - and the group of reporters quietly dispersed.

ISP Woes

Manila, Philippines & Montreal, Quebec - After the tragic "chicken murder", the Hutton Household awoke on Friday morning to discover that their broadband connection, like the neck of their favorite chicken, had been severed.

A phone call to technical support - handled in the nearby neighborhood of Manila, Philippines :| - failed to re-establish their ADSL connection, despite over an hour of pulling cables, flipping switches and rebooting the computer.

At 9 AM, it was determined that the outage was on Telus' end. "We are aware of the problem and working to fix it. It should be restored in about an hour".

Scott drove into Nanaimo to run some errands, figuring that the broadband connection would be functioning when he returned.

At 10:30 AM, when he returned, the connection was still down.

Scott called Telus technical support (Manila again). The 'solution' sounded eerily familiar: "It's a problem at Telus' end, we're aware of it and it should be restored in an hour".

After asking to speaking with a supervisor - who didn't add much "new" information, other than a series of platitudes and excuses - Scott was passed over to Customer Service (in Montreal, Canada) where he requested a rebate for the inconvenience. The woman he spoke with was only willing to offer two day's compensation for "the actual time the service is down". (Wow ... a $2 rebate!)

Scott explained that he was losing $50/hour because of the outage, as he had billable work that needed to be done.

"I'm losing over $200-worth of work because of this outage and you're willing to offer a $2 rebate ... generous!"

In the end, he got one month's free service.

Though neighbors reported their broadband service was reconnected around noon, Scott's remained down.

Another call to the Philippines technical support office ended without a resolution and Scott's call was dropped during a transfer to Customer Service - "there appears to be 'a problem' with your billing account".

Saturday morning. Still no broadband connection. (Scott had used *gasp* dial-up - how antiquated is that? - to check emails and perform a few basic functions.)

This time, a call to Customer Service (Montreal, Canada) fixed the "problem" with the billing account - though it couldn't get fully resolved until the work week.

"You mean, because of a mistake that Telus made on our billing account, we'll be without a broadband connection until the middle of next week?" Scott asked "Donald", the Telus Customer Service representative.

"Well," he said, "I can transfer you to our technical support office, there may be a way to get your service back on today.

Scott again spoke with someone in the Telus technical support section. This time, however, it was with someone in Montreal, not Manila. "Martin" had already managed to reconnect the broadband connection, by the time Scott had been transferred.

"What did you do?" Scott asked, happy to have finally been reconnected, but shocked at how quickly and easily it had happened.

"A "stinger card" in your neighborhood had been replaced," explained Martin, "so I boosted the signal strength and did a hard boot of the card, from our main office. A hard boot generally unblocks the ports by resetting them, which is what appears to have caused your problems.

"Wow" said Scott, who then immediately thought, "Why couldn't they have done that YESTERDAY, when I called technical support in the evening? Eye-veh!"

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Live Fire

October 21st, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Live Fire] For two days, Randsco executive - Scott Kimler - underwent grueling "live fire" training exercises at the Justice Institute burn building in Maple Ridge, B.C.

Live Fire Exercises

Maple Ridge, B.C. - Randsco exec, Scott Kimler, underwent a grueling set of "live fire" exercises, this past weekend, at the Justice Institute in Maple Ridge. Four other North Cedar Fire Hall firefighters attended the 2-day class and they were joined by other firefighters across the Province, bringing the class total to 20.

It took the better part of the evening to make the journey from Vancouver Island to the mainland, as the North Cedar guys caught the 5:00 PM ferry, fought infamous North Shore traffic and finally made their way to Pitt Meadows, where they stayed at the Ramada Inn.

Saturday's class was split up into two parts. The first part (morning) was an introduction to facilities, policies and other class-mates. After a short lunch break, the class began the practical portion, rotating through three scenarios: dumpster fires, auto fires and door entry into burning structures.

Sunday's class was all practical, as the 20-people were split into four groups of five and rotated through a number of scenarios.

The first scenario involved the entire group entering the concrete "burn building" and participating in a "fire behavior" lesson. Donning Scott 2.2 air-packs and full turn-out gear, they entered a small (20 ft x 10 ft) room, which contained a stack of wooden pallets. Breathing self-contained air, the pallets were lit on fire using a propane blow torch. After several minutes of fueling the pallets, they were roaring hot and flames were reaching the ceiling. The instructor then closed the metal doors to the room and students watched the pallets continue to burn, as oxygen diminished. Smoke and other hot, un-burned gases filled the ceiling, as everyone crouched and watched the hot thermal layer descend. The pallet fire, now starved for oxygen, turned a dull, orange color, while flames lazily danced upwards.

Students were instructed to remove a glove at floor level, exposing their hand and then raising it slowly into the thermal layer ... reaching a point just above their heads where raising their hand any more would seriously burn it.

Gases at the top of the ceiling were reaching 1000 °C and the thermal layer boundary was at about 500 °C. Flames were rolling across the ceiling and the instructor shot a 1-second blast of water from the fire hose into the ceiling, which immediately turned to steam and expanded (1700 times the water volume), having a cooling effect on the hot gases and flames, which reduced in size. He did this one more time, nearly extinguishing the flames ... then took a quick shot of water into the pallets ... which pretty much finished off the fire. In an instant, using little more than five gallons of water, the fire (and super-heated gases) were surpressed.

Next was a demonstration of hydraulic ventilation, as 2 doors were opened and a 50-degree water stream of 95-gallon-per-minute water out of an 1.5-inch hose was directed out of the building. Within seconds, the room was clear of smoke. Amazing.

The rest of the day was spent in various evolutions, as the four 5-man teams were run through a variety of scenarios: fighting 2nd story fires; sub-level fires, ground-level fires; searches for victims during firefighting efforts; ventilation of smoke-filled rooms and initial fire size-ups, radio communications, door-entries and hose-advancement techniques.

Each firefighter had turns as nozzleman, door entry & backup, hose-advancement crew, and search/rescue. They ran through several 2216 psi bottle of compressed air and got to experience real-life fire/smoke/heat/zero-visibility conditions. By the end of the day, they were all sore from countless advances of hose up/down and around/into/out-of the building. They looked and smelled like charcoal briquettes.

All-in-all it was a great learning exercise. Many made friends with other firefighters from several other Vancouver Island locations (Mill Bay and Colwood Fire Departments were two other Vancouver Island crews that were there).

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More Odd Girls

October 11th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [More Girls] Alex sold some Girl Guide cookies to neighbors and returned home with four chicks (baby ISA-Brown hens) • [Another Odd Egg] Randsco has gone to the birds, as we reported an odd - v.small - egg last week. This week, it's an egg without a shell!

More Girls

Hutton House - Dad and the Oop left the Hutton House, walking to homes of four neighbors, yesterday. (Four homes in our rural location means about a mile of walking). Their quest was to sell Girl Guide cookies, as Alex is now a member of "Sparks" and they raise money by selling popular mint Girl Guide cookies.

She sold three boxes to Charlie and Evangaline - right across the street - and two boxes to Georgina (who lives on the corner and has 4 horses, whom Alex loves to pamper with apples, carrots and fistfuls of grass). Alex's cookie box was 5 boxes lighter, in her pocket was $20, but she also came home with something else - live creatures stashed in her cardboard cookie box!

A couple of weeks ago, Georgina acquired another batch of chicks from the Rochester hatchery in Alberta. She asked Alex if she wanted some more. (Scott had been meaning to ask Georgina about new chicks, as the Hutton House ISA-Brown hens are now a year old and will be slowing egg production this spring. While they're a hybrid that's a prolific layer, they taper off quickly after their first year).

Of course, Alex said, "Yes, please!" and Dad was nodding his head in the background. Out of the 100 or so that Georgina had running around under a heat lamp, in a small shed, she indiscriminately picked out 3 and plopped them into Alex's empty cookie box. She then said that she thought she had a rogue chick, which wasn't an ISA-Brown, but a different breed.

"She's that brown one there," she said, pointing to a much darker chick, amongst a sea of mostly yellow.

"Oh, I want that one, Daddy!" exclaimed Alex, as Georgina scooped it up and dropped it into Alex's Girl Guide cookie box.

So the Oop and Dad returned home with four new chicks, which was quite the surprise for Mom!

These chicks are already a couple of weeks old, so they're not quite the fluff balls that arrived last year.

During supper, the chicks huddled together in the Girl Guide box, but after dinner, Dad cleaned out the wire cage, put blankets around it, added a heat lamp, a roosting stick, water, food and built a "warm-box" out of cardboard, at one end. This will be "home" for the chicks, until they're big enough to be added with the other four Hutton House girls.

The hen population at the Hutton House has doubled, overnight!

Another Odd Egg

Hutton House Hen House - It seems that the Hutton House has again, gone to the birds! All the news lately seems to revolve around four (whoops - sorry chicks ... eight) hens!

We reported an odd (very small) egg last week and this week, it's another egg oddity. This time, it's an egg without a shell!

This is the second such egg that's been laid, but this time - there are photos to back the claim.

The shell-less egg appears to be encased in a rather tough, flexible membrane. The outside is rough, as if a shell was started, but never finished. When it first came out, the membrane was rather taut, but over the course of a few days and evaporation of fluid from inside the egg, the egg lost volume and appears more wrinkled, having collapsed a little.

The assumption is that the egg is normal in every way, just lacking a shell. Despite the presumption of normal contents, egg owners Scott and Rachel are hesitant to consume it ... which is partly why is sat on the counter for three days.

"I'm not eating it," said Rachel.

"Nor I," said Scott.

"I'll eat it," piped up Alex.

"No you won't," said Rachel.

Some readers inquired about the very small egg reported last week.

One reader surmised that it didn't have a yolk. Another asked if it did (have a yolk).

As it turned out, it did - albeit a very (very) small one. (We surmise that the "yolk" is on the reader who thought it didn't have a yolk!) :p

"Boo ... hiss," reported Rachel, groaning at the lame joke.

"It looked more like a small blob, than a yolk," reported the Hutton House master egg gatherer (Scott).

They didn't eat the contents of that egg either, it turns out, though Alex very bravely volunteered (again).

"Parents just have a natural aversion to letting their kids eat unusual things," Scott said.

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Loonie Egg

October 3rd, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Loonie Egg] One of our ISA-Brown chickens laid a loonie-sized egg this morning, which was preceeded a few days ago, by an egg that didn't have a shell.

The Loonie-Sized Egg

Hutton House Henhouse - Scott went out this morning (in the pouring rain - Autumn has finally arrived), taking yesterday's food scraps to "the girls". In return, he picked up - as usual - four eggs. But one was very unusual; it was pint-sized.

"The girls" are the name given to the Hutton House "flock" of four ISA-Brown hybrid chickens, all just under a year old. On a daily basis, they consume most of the previous day's families kitchen waste (there are only a few things they're not given - onions, coffee grounds and orange peels among them). The girls happily consume things like vegetable peelings, crushed egg shells, plate scrapings, chopped-up banana peels, prawn shells, fruit cores, salmon carcasses and (their favorite) leftover rice or pasta. Chickens are very good composters!

The kitchen waste is a dietary supplement. Their main diet consists of "Layer Pellets" (a dietary food with protein and vegetable matter, mixed and pressed into pellets) and "scratch" (supplements of grains and ground corn), both of which cost about $10 for a 20 kg sack and lasts for about 2 months.

The main product from all of this consumption - besides droppings - are eggs! The Hutton House girls lay somewhere between three and four eggs per day (ISA-Browns are prolific layers, for the first year after they begin laying). They lay big brown eggs mostly (big enough that it's difficult to close the lid on a "Grade A Large" cardboard egg carton). Every once in a while, they'll lay a HUGE egg, with a double yolk (double-yolk'ers).

Infrequently, they'll lay a "strange" egg. It may be mis-shaped, have unusual speckles, be rough at one end, mis-colored or have some other oddity. A few days ago, one of the girls laid an egg that was covered by only a thin, very flexible "shell" (really didn't have a shell at all). Scott found it on the mesh floor of the coop and thought it was broken - nope!

Today, Scott picked up the very first "pint-sized" egg and decided to take a photo of it. (Maybe we'll take photos of the unusual ones and put them in a photo album - "An Odyssey into Egg Oddities"). :p

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Indian Mo' Pumps Three

September 14th, 2008  · stk

NewsBrief: [Many Water Pumps] When the water pump went out on the 1983 Honda Accord, Scott reflects about how many water pumps they own • [Indian Summer] Scott scrambles to do outdoor projects, while the weather remains dry and warm • [Week Three] College football week three. Penn State remains unbeaten • [Mo' Boats] Scott and Rachel consider purchasing two ocean-touring kayaks.

Many Water Pumps

Nanaimo, BC - Scott and Alex were on their way to Canadian Tire, to buy motor oil (on sale for $10/gallon). They were driving on the Island Parkway, a busy 4-lane "highway" (it has stoplights), that rims the city, clicking along at 100 kilometers per hour in the Hutton House Honda. Suddenly, the engine started howling, the battery light came on and smoke started coming out from the engine compartment.

Scott pulled the little Honda Accord hatchback over to the side of the road and looked under the hood. Something was wrong, but heck if he could see what it was. He tried starting the twenty-five year old car, but all that happened was a horrible screetching sound and billows of acrid smoke.

When he looked into the engine compartment again, he could see the fan belt, smoldering where it wrapped around the engine drive shaft.

"Hmmm," he thought, "it's either the alternator, or the water pump. He tugged at the fan belt a bit, noticing that the alternator apppeared to be spinning OKAY.

He pulled Alex out of the car, walked up a side road to a business that was open, borrowed a phone and woke-up Rachel, who was just crawling into bed after a night shift at the hospital. The conversation was terse, "We broke down and need you to come rescue us. Bring some tools. (Brief description of tools followed. Describing tools to someone who doesn't know their names is a challenge.)

After about 40 minutes, Rachel arrived and Scott proceeded to get greasy. He pulled off the belt and discovered that the water pump shaft was wobbly and wouldn't spin. The car needed a water pump.

We drove it to the nearest repair shop, without the belt (running on battery power and without a water pump). Fortunately, it was close. The temperature gauge was nearing "uncomfortably hot", by the time they got there.

The repair shop didn't know if they could do the work, could it wait till Monday? (They had a backlog of work for Saturday and weren't open on Sunday). They also looked at how much time it was estimated to take, assuming it was a water pump - 2 hours. (The estimate for repair was between $300 and $400 - 2 hours of labor at $92/hr, plus a $60 water pump, plus a new fan belt, plus taxes ... OUCH!)

Instead, the car was towed 27 kilometers, back to the Hutton House ($80), where it now sits. A new water pump was purchased at a nearby auto parts shop (Lordco - $44), along with a new belt ($22).

Three guesses as to what Scott will be doing on Sunday. :|

There are 5 water pumps, at the Hutton House. One in each of two vehicles, one in the corporate yacht "Blue Yonder" and two (big pumps) in the water well - one downhole and one uphole.

"Geez," Scott said, "That's too many water pumps."

Indian Summer

Hutton House - "The best summer weather on Vancouver Island," explains Scott, "has mostly come in September."

A stable, high-pressure system has hung over much of British Columbia since late August. Clear, warm, dry days have predominated, accompanied by clear, cool nights.

Scott has been trying to take advantage of the weather, while it lasts, working feverishly to complete outdoor projects.

"It won't last forever," he said, "and when the rains come, it'll likely mean the end of the good weather and the beginning of a wet, drizzly, cold winter. The woodshed is filled with about three cords of wood.

"We know winter is coming ... and we're taking advantage of the good weather, while it lasts!"

Week Three

Hutton House, BC - Week three of college football is over. The Big 10, who won all their matches the week before, didn't fare as well, this week.

Arguably the best football game of the weekend was a Big 10 - Pac 10 match-up, but no, it wasn't the heavily anticipated and touted game between (#1) USC and (#5) Ohio State. That game turned out to be a runaway rout, as USC clearly demonstrated why they're #1, rolling to a 35-3 victory. Had I watched the game, it's unlikely I would have stuck around past the end of the first quarter.

Instead, it was (#16) Oregon at unranked Purdue. The Purdue Boilermakers jumped to an early lead and held it, until late in the 4th quarter. It took the Oregon Ducks two overtimes to finally come out on top by a touchdown. The final score was 32-26 and the Ducks flew home, lucky to have narrowly escaped a defeat.

Another good game was between Notre Dame and Michigan, with Notre Dame capitalizing on Michigans mistakes, winning 35-17.

(#17)Penn State dominated Syracuse, putting the game away early and rolling over the Orangemen 55-13.

The rest of the Big 10 fared well, though (#10) Wisconsin barely squeaked by up-and-coming (#21) Fresno State by a score of 13-10, in a clearly defensive battle.

Next week, Penn State faces Temple at Beaver Stadium. Go Lions!

Mo' Boats

Nanaimo, BC - When you live an active lifestyle and make your home in the Pacific Northwest, one can't have too many boats. At least, that's what Scott and Rachel say, as they're looking to add two "new" boats to the growing Randsco fleet (currently at four).

The boats under consideration this time are two ocean-going, expedition-level kayaks.

Alberni Outpost, one of the local kayak tour outfitters and retailers, is selling off their 2008 rental fleet. There are a number of kayaks still available, both at their Nanaimo location and their Port Alberni location.

The models that are peaking Scott and Rachel's interest are the Current Designs "Storm GT" and the Necky "Looksha 17". Both have excellent tracking, stability and windage characteristics and capable of storing enough gear for serious, multi-day kayaking expeditions.

The couple indicated that they'd likely purchase the roto-molded plastic versions, which are a little heaviers than their fiberglass counterparts.

"Plastic is less expensive," explained Scott, "But it's also more forgiving and bomb-proof. With all the sandstone and rock beaches around here, plastic make sense. You can scrape it up and if it gets really bad, it's fairly simple to repair ... just dribble a bit of heated plastic into the gouge and sand it down.

The couple will be heading into Nanaimo (which vehicle they use, may be a question mark) to look at the condition of the models in which they are interested. Most boats in the Alberni rental fleet are 2008 models, with only a year of rental usage.

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