Fun times…

Okay, I’m being only slightly sarcastic with that title… 😉

The cold snap continues, and is supposed to continue for about a week.

20190123.blowing.snow

The above picture was taken a few days ago, on the last milder day, just before we headed into town to get to the pharmacy before the weather got worse. The camera automatically cleans up the image, so the visibility was actually poorer than it appears in the picture.

Right now, we have a cloudless sky. It’s bright and clear and…

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The Data Vampire, returns!

After monitoring my system data usage through April, I thought for sure the Data Vampire had been vanquished.  In fact, I didn’t even bother resetting the data usage meter when I checked it at the end of the month.

2018.04.30.data.useage

April 30, data usage for the past 30 days.

Even though there was a sudden spike of almost 25 gigs at the end of the month.  Windows 10 updated, and it was reflected on our internet provider account information; almost 100 gigs used in a day, as 4 computers updates themselves! Continue reading

Data Vampire, revisited

Last day of the month, so I checked out the data usage on my desktop.

To recap for new readers, the only internet service we can get out here is satellite, because the alternative was to install a tower at least 60 feet high to be able to get any sort of signal from the nearest signal tower.  We just can’t afford that.  The highest non-business data plan available is for 100 gigs of data, which we promptly screamed through.  Going beyond that 100 gigs, without useage.detailsaffecting our speed, came at a price of $2 a gig (otherwise, we’d still have internet access, but it would be very limited in speed).  It ended up being cheaper for us to have a second satellite account for another 100 gigs.

We were still going through the data really fast, which lead to some investigating as to what activity was using so much data.

It turned out to be my desktop’s system.  I had a Data Vampire.  This image was captured back in January, when I first discovered the issue.  No wonder we were going through our data plan so fast!  Almost all of it was being used up by my own computer, without my knowing it!

My daughters checked out their desktops, too, but they are on wi-fi, so they can meter their data usage.  They still shut off anything they could find that might be using the internet without permission, and are also monitoring their usage statistics.

useage.details.end.FebMy desktop is hard wired, so metering wasn’t an option.  I went through everything I could find and shut off anything that looked like it could be sucking up our data.

Within less than a week, I could see there was a drop in data usage.  The stats are for the last 30 days, regardless of when you look at them, so best way to monitor it and compare with our internet accounts, was by resetting the stats at the end of the month, then checking it again at the end of the next month.

This second image is from the end of February.  What a major difference!

Our total usage for the February, between the two accounts, went from almost the full 200 gigs we had available, to about 150 gigs.  The second account was added in the middle of the month, so that’s when the data plan flips, while the original account flips at the end of the month.  What we did was wait until the original account reached between 80-90%, shortly after mid-month, then switched the cables on the router to the second satellite.

At the beginning of March, my husband switched the cables again, so the first half of the month would be once again using the original account.  The plan was to repeat what we’d done in February, and switch to the new account at the 80% plus level.

We were into the last third of March, and barely more than 75%.

Which means we went from screaming through our data plan like no tomorrow, to under-utilizing our data!

Now, we were being frugal with our data usage; especially my daughters.  We were all putting off updates for various things – even our phone apps – to conserve data.

useage.details.end.MarchOnce we realized that was no longer necessary, we switched cables and my daughter did all the updates she had been letting slide.  With our satellite speeds, she had one that told her it would take 3 days to download!

It didn’t take that long.

Meanwhile, I’ve started doing more things like uploading videos to YouTube and photos to Instagram.  I was going to add that I have been watching more videos now, too, but I really haven’t.  Not because I don’t want to, but because it takes forever for them to load.  At you can see, my browser usage has gone up, but the system usage is only a bit higher than last month.  I expect it will go up more next month, if only because Lent is over and I will be back on Facebook. 😀

Even with all that deliberate internet usage, the second account has only just reached a little over 26% as of today.  So we still ended up using more than 100 gigs a month, between the two accounts.  Just not much more.

Before we moved, we averaged about 350 gigs a month on our unlimited, high speed internet.  Now I wonder how much of that was our actual usage, and how much of that was my Data Vampire.  I would never have known it was there had we not moved to the sticks, simply because I had no reason to look.  We all use the internet so much, it just didn’t seem odd.

For myself, this means I’ll be uploading more videos onto the new YouTube channel.  I’ve already started to upload videos I’d posted directly to the blog by using the share function on my phone, then replacing the shared videos with embedded YouTube videos.  Once the posts get updated, I can deleted the version stored in my WordPress media, freeing up data.

Just two videos brought my media status bar from being in the red at over 80%, to an amber low 70’s.  A few more of these, and I should be able to bring it down by quite a bit.

Sweet!

The Re-Farmer

Data Vampire Slain?

So about a month and a half ago, I discovered the reason we were screaming through our internet’s data plan so quickly.

I had a Data Vampire in my own desktop.

useage.details

For some reason, my desktop’s system was using over 80 GIGS of data, and I had no way to find out what, specifically, was causing it.  With only 100 gigs on our plan, it’s no wonder we were going over so quickly!

So I went through everything I could think of to try and shut things off.  Then, at the end of the month, I reset the usage stats.

useage.details.before.Jan.reset

Even by then, I could see a difference, as total usage within the past 30 days had already gone down.

Here is my currant usage.

useage.details.end.Feb

Well, there we have it.  In the space of about 4 weeks, my system used less than 3 gigs of data.  A difference of close to 80 gigs!

My browsers used more data – I use one for this blog, so there are a lot of photos uploaded, while with the other, I had uploaded some videos this month, so I used it more than usual, even taking into account that I gave up Facebook for Lent.

My total usage for the past 4 weeks was just over 13 gigs.  Slightly more than what I use on WiFi with my phone which, after I no longer visited Facebook, dropped from about 11 gigs in 30 days, to less than 10.

Our original internet account reached about 88% before we switched over to the new satellite (a matter of switching cables on the router).  With the new account, we haven’t even hit 45% yet.  Which means that, in total, we used more than 100 gigs, so having two accounts is still saving us money.

I still have no way of knowing what exactly on my computer was sucking our data plan dry, but whatever it was, I seemed to have stopped it.

So we’ll only be paying about $200 a month total for internet, instead of closer to $400.

Still more expensive than if we had been able to install a tower and get non-satellite internet, but at least we’ve GOT internet.

Unless something weird happens, it appears our Data Vampire has been slain!

The Re-Farmer

Noooo!!!

Well, crap.

Yesterday, a few more photos were taken, so this morning I uploaded the last of the pictures on the camera.  As typical, I removed the old photos from the card completely, so that it would go back into the camera with maximum space on it.

As I was transferring the files, I got a pop up.  Did I want to replace files?

Sure, I thought. This typically means I’ve already uploaded some photos and didn’t want duplicates, so I usually just let it override the old files, so there are no duplicates.

I forgot two things.

One, I was uploading files from the camera card, not my phone, which I copy from, not remove completely.  So it’s not unusual for me to accidentally overlap and grab images I’d already uploaded.

Two, my daughter had her camera set to restart files from 001 on an empty card.

Normally, it wouldn’t have been an issue, because I organize my photos in folders by date, but these were photos from yesterday, and they went into yesterday’s folder.

I didn’t realize it until I went to review the photos, but I overwrote the first dozen or so images I’d uploaded previously.

Crud.

Now, most of those first photos were the ones where I was using the 18-55mm lens, then switching the settings around, so they weren’t good photos to begin with.  The “ghost bird” photo was the very first one I took, so I do have the modified version of that one (cropped and resized for the blog).  But the rest are gone.

The settings have now been changed.  It won’t happen again!

*sigh*

Meanwhile…

Here are some photos from yesterday.

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Downy woodpecker

My daughter got this one for me.  The downy woodpecker decided to check out the seeds. 🙂

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White Tail Deer

You see this?  THIS is why I asked to borrow my daughter’s camera.  There is no way I could have gotten this shot of Hungry Girl without that 70-300mm lens!  No amount of zooming in with my phone camera could have gotten this photo, even though she was so close to the house.

2018-02-16.white.tail.deer2

Barbecue, meanwhile, was even farther away, but I could still get a wonderful shot of him eating.

Even resized to 30% (my usual resizing on the DSLR photos; my phone camera photos get resized to 25%), you can see those little lips and that tongue, picking up seeds.

Details like that are why I love taking so many photos.  Once they are on the computer, I can see so much more than I could, looking out the window.  Those little details, frozen in time.

I love technology.

The Re-Farmer

 

Watching Over Us

Today was a day when we could really tell that Someone is watching over us!

This morning, my husband had an appointment to get a CT scan.  For this, we had to go to a small city that is an hour’s drive away.  The hospital is at the edge of town, though, so we didn’t have any extra driving beyond that.

He had to be there for 11:30, but with the winds the way they were, we decided to head out early, just in case.  Our route took us though another town where we stopped to fill the gas tank, then we continued on.

Through this.

20180213blowing.snow

When we tell people we live in the middle of nowhere, sometimes they think we are exaggerating.

The actual temperature today was quite mild – we warmed up to about -9C at home, and even warmer (-6C) in the city we went to.  The wind chills made it feel in the -26C range, making it potentially dangerous to be out in it for two long.

There isn’t a lot of snow, yet at times the road was almost completely obliterated, except for what I could see right in front of me.  I could always tell I was in the correct lane, for example.  The wind made it more of a challenge to stay on the road than the visibility did.

But the drive went well and even with our stop for gas, we got there early.  My husband got registered into their system and sent to the appropriate area of the hospital to wait for his test.

Unfortunately, an emergency came up and all the scheduled appointments got delayed.  He got in about 45 minutes late.  I could see he was really struggling, and by the time he was called in, his shirt was wet and his face beaded with sweat from the pain. pain.scale

I saw an “improved pain scale” being shared on Facebook lately.  I liked it, but decided to make up one of my own.  It’s annoying to be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 1-10, when pain is so relative and subjective – something his previous doctor admitted was a problem.  Most pain scales I see are just smiley to sad faces, which doesn’t work.

So I came up with this version.

I’d say my husband lives in the 8-9 zone.  Seven, on a good day.  When my husband was asked to rate himself on the pain scale, my husband answered relative to how much pain he was in before, and put himself at a 5.

With the delay, I knew we would need to get some food before we headed home.  Seeing his obvious (to me, anyhow) discomfort, I did a quick search for a rare treat while he was being scanned; McDonald’s.  Yes.  It’s a treat.  It falls under the “comfort food” area.  Thankfully, there was one nearby.

When he was done, that’s where we headed.  It turned out to be inside a Walmart.  We would have preferred a drive through, but oh, well.

I tried to find a disabled parking spot for us.  This place has probably 18 of them, and they were all full!  As I was driving around to find I spot that was at least close, I ended up having a vehicle riding my bumper, enough to interfere with my ability to try and turn into any spots I found.

So I figured I’d just get away from the tailgater and go around.

Just as I accelerated, it started.

A sort of smacking/clapping noise from the engine.  Something was loose in there!

We quickly parked, shut off the engine and popped the hood, but I couldn’t see anything unusual.  Leaving it, we went inside to eat.  Once back in the van, I started it and…

… the noise was still there.

Leaving it running, I popped the hood again.  This time, I could see something at the belt smacking a hose.  Shutting off the engine, I could see a strip with a frayed end.

20180213frayed.belt

I took a picture of it, then we went back into the Walmart and their garage.  Showing the picture to the guy behind the counter, he said it looked like the fan belt, and that they couldn’t do that kind of work.  There was, however, a Canadian Tire across the road, and they could do it.

Just in case, I phoned up my cousin for his advice.

One option we had was to simply cut the loose piece, then drive home and hope the rest of the belt didn’t snap along the way.

Not an option we preferred!

The other option was to drive it across the street and, hopefully, get it fixed right away.

We took option number two.

He also mentioned that he had looked at the belt when he worked on our van, and it had looked fine. 😦

At this point, we had two things going for us.  One was that it happened while we were still in town.  If we had started to drive home, rather than stopping to eat, it would have happened while we were on the highway.  Instead, it happened right near a garage.

The other thing we had going for us was funds.  We had nothing in the budget for this, but the money we got from the moving company to pay for replacing our electric pole was there.  We could use that, and replace what we used at the end of the month.  If we hadn’t got that money when we did, we would have been hooped.  Big time.

So, off to Canadian Tire we went!

Once inside, I showed the picture to the guy and talked about getting it fixed.  Unfortunately, he only had two mechanics in that day; lots of people have been calling in sick lately.  However, he had a customer to call with info about a part.  Depending on what the customer decided, they might be able to fit us in, instead of working on that person’s car.

In the end, the decision was made for the customer.  The part needed couldn’t be delivered until tomorrow morning.

Which meant they could work on our van, instead!

That was the third thing going for us.

Once in, the first thing they needed to do was a diagnostic (about $70), to make sure the belt was the only thing that needed replacing.  Depending on what caused it to break, the serpentine belt might also be at risk.

It turned out to only be the belt.

It took maybe half an hour (labour rate posted: $112 an hour) to get fixed!  Altogether, it cost quite a bit less than we were afraid it would.

The guy talked to us afterward, saying that there was a leak in there; either oil or power steering fluid.  I told him it was the power steering, but that several people have looked at it already, and couldn’t find where it was leaking.  He told us we would have to find it, because it was getting right on the belt, which corrodes it.  It’ll happen again.  Which we knew.  I’ve got to get the van saftied, anyhow, so I’m hoping the leak will finally be found.  He said that one way it could be found is if someone puts a dye into the fluid.  They would then be able to spot the leak using a blacklight.

Interesting.

Since we were there anyhow, and the fix cost less than we thought it might, we took advantage of the situation.  I needed a new headline bulb, so we got a pair of bulbs, slightly brighter than what we already had.  I didn’t want to go to the brightest, as I have no desire to blind oncoming traffic while driving at night.  I’ve had that happen to me too often, and I would never want to inflict that on anyone else.

We also picked up a new gas cap.  Just a couple of days ago, my onboard computer started showing “check gas cap” warning.  That was another thing on my list of items to replace.  I’m guessing the seal on the cap finally degraded too much.  The cold certainly isn’t helping.  If changing it doesn’t fix the problem, it’ll be another thing on the list of stuff to get it to pass safety inspection.

I just have to figure out how to remove the old gas cap, which has a tether.  The new one doesn’t.

Changing the bulbs will wait a day or two, when it warms up a bit more.

That done, we drove the hour home.

All together, we ended up being gone 6 hours, when we expected to be gone maybe 3 hours.

I made sure to drive right up to the house to drop off my husband, and he went straight to lying down. 😦

What a day.

Then, this evening, I heard a knock at the door.

Which was very disorienting.  We never get casual knocks at the door out here!

It was the electrician.  He had intended to come out this weekend to check how frozen the ground is, but never made it.  He made it today, stopping on his way home from the city.  He’d tested his drill out, and the ground is just too solid.

We’ll have to wait until things start to thaw out, then contact him again to get it done.

Which is actually kind of good, since we would not have been able to replace what we used of the funds for another two weeks.

Yet another thing that worked out in our favour.

Yes, Someone is indeed watching out for us!

The Re-Farmer

 

Five!

This morning, things were quiet at our feeding station.  Basically, just a few birds.  Then, after I put more feed out, I was able to get this shot…

2018-02-05.butterscotch

Butterscotch, in the middle of a pile of seeds, watching the birds flying in and out around her.

Sadly, those were the last photos our Nikon was able to get today.  Though I took more shots, and some even showed up on the preview screen, as they normally do when they’re saved to the memory card, none were actually there when I looked at the card. So even when it seemed to be working, the camera wasn’t working.

Which left me using my phone for any other shots I managed to get when the deer arrived, shortly before noon.

My goodness, what a show!

I could see some movement through the spruces, into the garden, letting me know that a deer was coming.  Then, as that one started dashing around the edge of the trees by the garden, I could see more.  Soon, there were FIVE deer, all running over around the corner of the spruce grove!

Hungry Girl had been in the lead, but the other four soon drove her off.  She stayed by the compost pile near the garden for a while, as Barbecue, Mama and the twins began eating.  Then Mama chased away Barbecue, who went over by Hungry Girl and stayed.  After a while, Barbecue started come come closer, only to get chased away by one of the twins!  As if that wasn’t surprise enough, Hungry Girl not only stood her ground, but chased the twin.  It worked out to chasing it back to the feed, but still, it was good to see Hungry Girl standing up for herself.

20180205.five.deer

Farthest away on the left, Hungry Girl, with Barbecue nearby.  At the feed, the twins are in front, while Mama is behind one of them.

Then Mama chased them both off.

Over the next while, there was all sorts of back and forthing, as the deer chased each other to assert dominance (Mama is the Alpha.  No question!).  Then I saw the twins running around, thinking at first that they were going after Hungry Girl and Barbecue, but no.  They were just playing!

Eventually, Mama and the twins left, and Hungry Girl came running in for her turn at the feed.  Barbecue came around, too, and started to chase her off, but she instead moved to another pile of feed, and they ate together.

It was just incredible to watch them!

My husband and I are now talking about getting a motion sensor camera outside, to record some of the activity out there.  It was something I’d considered already; a system something like what my older brother has around his out.  Plus a remote control gate!  If we set one up at the corner of the house by the living room window, we should be able to get all kinds of cool activity. 🙂

All in good time.

Things quieted down when the feed was pretty much gone.  The birds still found enough to come back.

Then this guy showed up.

20180205.little.deer

This tiny little guy was very shy and nervous coming over, alone.  After looking closely at the photos, this is either a new visitor, or one of the twins, come back on its own.

Either way, it’s so cool!!!!

The Re-Farmer

 

 

Good Morning, Critters

My goodness, our feeding station keeps busy!  That makes me so happy. 😀

There were deer in and out before I had a chance to add more feed for the day.  So much for my original thought of adding a bucket every few days.  Between the deer, birds and squirrels, I’m now adding a bucket of deer feed and a bucket of bird seed a day.

I have also noticed a definite change in how the deer come in.  Hungry Girl had been so very shy and nervous, coming in behind Barbecue and dashing off after barely getting a few mouthfuls – either chased off by Barbecue, or startled by who-knows-what.  Now, she comes running in, ahead of Barbecue, or even by herself.  She goes straight to the feed, still keeping alert, but also less startled by seeing us in the window.

Just look at her now!

2018-02-04.whitetail.deer

She is still on the thin side, but it’s now clear that she is filling out.  Her hip bones are less prominent then when she first starting coming here, and while her coat hasn’t gotten as sleek or her belly as round a Barbecue, she no longer looks half starved.

Also, she seems to like the new bird feed, too! 😀  This morning, I used a mix of both the new and the old bird feed, to see how it went over.

The answer is, “well.”

20180203.massbirds

I had to use my phone to get this picture, because I can’t get the whole area with the Nikon without changing lenses.  And this photo still doesn’t include the two piles of seeds closest to the house!  The birds were flocking in and out in great fluttering masses, in between deer visits.

2018-02-04.2bluejays2018-02-04.3grosbeaks

Unfortunately, the Nikon was being very strange today.  Not only did it have troubles focusing, but at one point, it started taking pictures, all on its own!  Few of which were recorded on disk, including a number I took intentionally.

I even saw a magpie in the trees, today.  It was gone faster than I could get the camera aimed its way.  Magpies are pretty common, but not at all attracted to seeds.  They’re more likely to go after the cat food.

The poor kitties.  It’s so cold out there!  I think it’s time to add a new sheet of cardboard under their food and water bowls.  When it gets cold like this, they’re more interested in the warm water than the food.  We’ll have to remember to bring out warm water for them more often for the next while, since it freezes so quickly.  Only 4 of them were out when I fed them this morning, which means that the water would be frozen before the others make it out.

A project for over the summer, if we can swing it; I’d like to not only built them better insulated shelters to use in place of the current old dog houses and under the other house, but also work out a feeding station that will shelter their food and water, too.

The Re-Farmer

Deer Drama

It has been very busy at our feeding station!

I had a sleepless night last night and had gone into the living room at around 4 or 5 am, unintentionally startling some deer.  After I had a snack and turned the lights out, I saw one had returned.  The moon was incredibly bright, casting shadows so sharp, I thought I was seeing two deer instead of the one that was there!

My husband posted a video of Mama and her twins, taken a couple of hours later.

After that, Hungry Girl showed up.  I think she’s starting to look less hungry!  Then off in the distance, through the trees, I could see a couple more deer coming closer.  After a while, I couldn’t see them anymore, but it was Hungry Girl who showed me where they were.  One little guy was gingerly making its way through the bushes.  Much to my surprise, she actually defended her space and chased it back.  Another little one tried from another direction, and she stood her ground there, too.

Then Mama showed up and chased Hungry Girl off, so that her twins could eat.

For a short while, all for of them were there, but the presence of the Mama and twins made Hungry Girl very nervous, and she moved away.  Mama chased her off a couple of times, too.

The twins are looking so round and fuzzy!  And Mama is a big girl!  I’m sure she’s taller than Barbecue, and just as sleek, though not as round an meaty.

Unfortunately, our camera has started acting up again, the motors refusing to focus and the shutter sticking again.  I was only able to get a few photos.  Here are the better ones.  I will check the images I got on my phone later and see if any of them are worth uploading, too.

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The birds were busy, too, but I was only able to get one decent photo of this pine grosbeak.

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Look at how fuzzy the twins are!  Their coats are so thick.  Even their faces look rounder.

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Here is Mama with one of the twins.  You can see the burrs stuck under the baby’s chin.  They had burrs stuck in their tails, too.

Mama kept a very close watch on us in the window!

It think we should look into some sort of film coating for our window.  Partly so that the animals can’t see us inside, while we can still see out, and partly to reduce reflections, as birds are flying into the reflections of the trees on the glass.

Now, it’s time for me to go and start some sourdough bread baking.  My younger daughter had taken on the break baking role, but she’s not feeling well today, so I get to do it, this time! 😀

The Re-Farmer

 

 

 

Critter Pics and… sadness

I only have a couple of critter pictures for you today, and both were taken with my phone camera.

I took many photos using the digital camera we keep on a tripod by our living room window, but then the camera died.

Then it worked again.

Then it died again.

Then it started doing weird things, like the viewfinder going completely black and the shutter getting stuck open.  Not being able to focus.  Error messages showing up.

My husband is the camera guy, and he opened it up, did some cleaning and checked it out.  The cleaning seemed to have helped a bit, but then the problems all started up again.

It looks like the camera body is on its last legs.  We hadn’t used it for so long, then suddenly we were taking probably an average of 150 photos a day.  It may not have handled that well!

When I uploaded the memory card onto the computer, there were only a few photos, taken later in the day.  Everything I’d taken before then was gone.

Our older daughter has offered to lend us hers; she has a Nikon D80, too.  I’m now paranoid that if I start using her camera, it’ll end up like ours.

Something else to add to the list of expensive things we’ll need to replace.  As much as I love my phone’s camera, it still can’t do as well as a good DSLR and some quality lenses.

*sadness*

We did get one deer visit today.

20180129.white.tail.deer

This is Barbecue.  Hungry Girl didn’t show up today.  At least not that I saw.

I later saw that my brother’s dog had come out to check on his van, and that may be what has the deer’s attention in this photo.

The van is parked in front of the main entry, outside the kitchen window.  It was when I noticed the dog that I also saw this…

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Nasty Crime Boy and Rolando Moon were checking out the dog – and me! – through the window.

The Re-Farmer