Making Plans

A siteplan of the property with the new structures in place

I know it has been a long time since the last post, but that does not mean we haven’t been busy!

I’ve spent most of the last month working with a contractor to create a buildable set of drawings.   Come along if you would like a quick tour!

The Main House
Image of an engineering drawing of a hillside house with carport
Drawing of the north side of the Logger’s Retreat, as it will look from near the top of the driveway. Not shown here are details of the north (i.e. kitchen) deck.

The new design of the main house is very similar to the original.  It has essentially the same footprint & only slightly more living space.   Since the design has not changed much, I’ll mostly just point out the differences.

Image of an enginerring drawing of the west face of the house
The front door and breezeway, looking East. Again the details of both north and south decks are not shown here.


Image of an engineering drawing of a hillside house, from the other side
Looking North from near the garage. As before the decks are not shown here, and also the details of the steep eastern edge of the driveway between main house and garage, which will have to be stabilized and reinforced to accommodate the hot tub.

Because of changes to the building code, we may not be able to have quite as much window space in the master bedroom upstairs.

The old design had wrap-around windows at the southeast corner of that bedroom, but code may no longer allow that. These days they generally want at least 32 inches of wall space between a window and the nearest corner or door.  This is one detail we have the structural engineer looking into now.

Image of the eastern face of the house, showing two stories and a basement
This is approximately how the house will appear as you look West, from near the picnic area.

The eastern face of the house will look similar to the old design.  In the drawing above it shows a sliding glass door on the left and a standard door in the middle. However in the current plan those will both be double French doors instead.

Image of the Upper floor plan showing outside decks
The new upper-level floor plan is essentially the same as the old one.

Here you can see the upstairs floor plan, as well as the upper-level decks. The only significant change here are the decks themselves.  The north deck will be  a few feet larger than before, extending eastward in front of the north-facing window of the octagon.

Not shown in the floor plan above are all of the kitchen counters and cabinets, but our plan is for all of that to be pretty much the same as before.  At this point the plan still is to have  bar stools around the kitchen counter area, but they will probably not have swiveling tractor seats, and not be anchored to the floor.

On the south (master bedroom) upper-level deck, we plan to add a set of stairs connecting it to the lower-level deck.  That u-shaped deck area on the right will be attached to, and one step down from the south deck.  It will wrap around the hot tub.

The lower-level deck will now be rectangular and significantly larger. It used to wrap around the large oak tree that grew there, close to the house.  Since that tree is now gone, there is no longer anything for the deck to wrap around.

Image of the lower floor plan.
And here is the lower-level floor plan.

On the lower floor, the south (right side) bedroom gets a larger closet and a full bath instead of a 3/4 bath. Double French doors open onto the lower deck instead of a sliding glass door.

The middle (“family”) room also gets French doors opening onto the lower deck but is otherwise no different from the old design.

The north bedroom gets some additional square footage plus a larger closet, and its own outside door too!   The drawing shows it opening onto a small deck, but I am pretty sure that won’t be necessary as the hillside there will already be at door-level.

The Garage
Image of a garage with living space above
The garage as it will appear from the main house

The new garage will be quite a bit different from the old one.  The footprint will be wider by two feet and longer by one foot.  But the biggest change is the living space we’ve added above the garage.

Image of the east side of the garage, showing both upper and lower levels
Looking West at the east side of the garage. At the south (left) side, the roof extends over the deck and covers it completely.

On the south end of the garage there is an upper-level  deck which wraps around the southeast corner of the building.  Stairs on the east side will provide a way to get to the deck (and the living space) when coming from the main house.

Since the deck provides the only entrance to the living area, the entire deck and east side of the building will be protected from rain and snow by an overhead roof.

Drawing of the garage below with living space above
Looking North, at the south end of the garage.

This is what the south end of the garage will look like, looking North.  The old garage was separated from the railroad-tie retaining wall to the West (to the left in this view) by a narrow walkway.  Our plan is to push the garage directly up against the hillside and use the west wall of the garage itself as the retaining wall.  This should save some construction costs and will also provide more usable yard space on the east side of the garage.

Another benefit of pushing the garage directly up against the hillside is that the west side of the deck will actually be at ground level there.  We’ll landscape a ramped path up to that spot as an alternative way to get to that deck (and into the living space).

Drawing of the west face of the garage
This is looking East, at the west face of the garage. The lower half of this wall will be a retaining wall — i.e. holding back the hillside above.

Now for the floor plans…

Lower floor plan of the garage which includes a small half-bath
This is the lower floor of the garage. In this orientation the main house will be to the left.

The lower floor will be two separate 2-car garage areas connected by a fifth (internal) garage door.   This internal door will allow us to move vehicles and equipment from one garage to the other without having to drive all the way up and around the property.

The second (southern) garage area — which in the old garage was a shop — will provide sheltered parking for anyone using the living space above.

Floor plan of the living space above the garage
The upper floor of the garage has two bedrooms and about 1000 sq ft of total living space

That living space itself will be a comfortable 2-bedroom, single bath home, with large East-facing windows similar to the main house.  The kitchen will have lots of cabinet space and be large enough to accommodate a round 4-person dining table.  It will be well-equipped of course! 🙂

The east bedroom has the best view and is large enough to fit a king bed.  The west bedroom is a bit smaller but still large enough for a queen bed.

So that’s the tour, and that’s “The Plan.”  After our structural engineer is done with his part, we should be able to submit the plans to the county for approval, and also to send out for bids.  With any luck that will happen by the end of March!

Winter Is Coming?

Image of clouds drifting past a forested hillside dusted with snow

As we come to the end of the month, this winter in the Yosemite area is shaping up to look more like Spring.  While the eastern half of the country has been in the deep freeze, out here in California we’ve been mostly warm and cozy — as long as we’re not getting swept away in mud slides. of course

That same  storm system in early January that buried Montecito in mud brought this region of the Sierras south of Yosemite at least 4 inches of rain!

Yes it is true that snow would have been much better for the state’s continuing water problems, and might possibly have even  tempered the severity of the Montecito mudslides. But for us personally, it was probably a good thing that the storm was so warm.  That much rain could easily have been 4 feet of snow.

Image of a small erosion channel in the middle of a dirt road
The former breezeway after 4 inches of rain. Not bad considering!

And while we did have some erosion, nothing rose to the level of a mudslide for us.

Image of a muddy hilside with a small pile of dirt and rocks in the foreground
A wheelbarrow-sized portion of the hillside above the former retaining wall slumped onto the building site.

The worst erosion occurred in the area behind where the garage once stood, where the path to the picnic area begins.

Image of a muddy hillside with deep erosion channels
Erosion channels cut deeply into our path to the picnic area, where our grading work had softened the soil.

Those two tree stumps in the photo above mark where the two gigantic Ponderosa pines once stood.

The Second January Storm

Around the middle of the month the forecast warned us of several inches of snow possible at our 5000 ft elevation.  There were guests coming to the Trestlewood Chalet for MLK weekend, so we had to make sure the driveway was clear for their arrival.  We drove up the night before the storm came through.

As has been typical this winter, the forecast was for the storm to start out warm and then sometime later drop below freezing.  Exactly when is hard to predict, and that “when” can make all the difference between a lot of rain with a dusting of snow, or a lot of wet snow topped with a hard crust.

Image of mountains across the valley half-covered with snow
Our morning view across the valley, with the snow line clearly visible only a few hundred feet above us

We awoke the next morning to gray skies and the sound of rain.  We actually did get some snow, but it was not even enough to stick to the driveway.

Image of a wet pine cone with a dusting of snow
A large pine cone on the deck briefly tries on a winter coat.

The rain continued until about 10 am and washed away all of the remaining snow at our elevation.    For the rest of the day Mount Raymond played hide-and-seek with us amongst patches of blue sky and wispy clouds.

Image of nearby clouds with a snow-capped mountain and blue sky in the background
A sunlit, snow-covered Mount Raymond peeks through a break in the clouds
Hints of Spring in January?

As we went about our weekend  business at the property, we saw plants that were convinced it was time to get to work.  A botanist-friend of ours had mentioned that we should expect the Bear Clover to come back fast. She felt this would be a good thing as the native species is very good at preventing hillside erosion.

And sure enough, little green  sprigs of it are now covering the property.

Image of the burned-out entrance area covered with small green plants
Those bright green patches below the tree stump are all happy little Bear Clover sprouts

To be honest, once established Bear Clover is not one of my favorite ground covers.  It grows so thick it is hard to walk through, and if you do you’ll find yourself covered with an aromatic, sticky sap.

Still, at this point I do appreciate any help with erosion control that Nature can provide.

Image of Daffodils poking through wet soil
Yes even the Daffodils are optimistic!
Image of a tiny oak tree with brown leaves lit up by the sun
But this tiny little Oak seedling is not fooled by the warm weather. It seems to know that it is still the middle of winter around here.

So far this winter has been very mild, and while we would prefer long, gentle rains over mudslide-inducing torrents, still it has been very helpful to have the property free of snow and easily accessible.  I’ve  even been able to have several contractors visit the site and provide me with estimates.

We are now working with one of those contractors to turn our design sketches into a buildable (and biddable) set of plans.  This has been a regular source of frustration, so I am quite excited now to see him making real progress.

After those plans are done, we’ll post some images of them here  — so that you too can look forward to the future as much as I do!

Playing Pickup Sticks (Big Ones)

Using our new "grapple rake" while the setting sun entertains us

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s hope 2018 is more constructive (or less destructive at least) than 2017 was.

After an enjoyable holiday break with family, we returned home from our travels with one of our two adult sons.  Although he had seen many photos of the fire and what it left behind, still he was very interested in seeing it first hand.  So last week we all went up for a quick visit, our first of 2018.

While the eastern side of the U.S. has been battling snow and ice and record low temperatures, out here on the western side of the country it has been unseasonably warm and dry.  Really warm.  As in pushing close to 70 degrees in January!  This is not normal.

Of course this is bad news for a state still struggling with extended drought conditions and massive, record-breaking wildfires.  But at least for us, a warm snowless January means that we can get more work done on the property.

And there is a lot of work to do! But our son still liked the prospect of work, because this work involved the Bobcat.  And let’s face it, Bobcats can be fun.

Image of a large pile of brush and wood on the otherwise empty space where the Logger's Retreat garage used to be
One of the two wood and brush piles that we wanted to move. This is where the old garage used to be, and where its replacement will go

Back in September when I ordered attachments for the Bobcat,  my order included a “Grapple Rake.”  It is a simple device that pretty much does what it says on the tin.  It’s good for raking up sticks and stones, and also carrying them from here to there.

But given that it attaches to a skidsteer, it can handle pretty hefty sticks and stones — i.e. logs and boulders.  We’ve got a lot of those around here.  So back in September this seemed to me to be a worthwhile attachment to have.  This visit was our first chance to find out whether or not that was true.

Image of a Bobcat skidsteer carrying several large logs with a grapple rake.
If this is work, then why is this man smiling?

This was also a chance to use our newly-graded “back entrance” to the Logger’s Retreat.

Image of the Bobcat driving up a steep road and a pile of logs in the foreground
The new “back entrance” driveway had a section that was almost too steep for the Bobcat to handle, but the added weight of the grapple rake and its contents helped keep the Bobcat’s front wheels on the ground

We added the larger logs to the pile we had already created when we took down the two Ponderosa Pines.  And we created a new, separate pile for all the smaller, brushy pieces.  We’ll try to cut the larger pieces into useful lumber.  The smaller stuff will probably become firewood.

Image of the Bobcat placing 3 large logs onto the top of a pile of large logs
Our son grappling 3 logs into position on the top of the pile he’s created

It took us two afternoons to finish the job.  The weather was sunny and mild and as a reward for our labors we were treated to a most beautiful sunset on the surrounding hills.

Image of the Bobcat carrying a load of logs, with the sunset lighting up the hills behind it
This is where the new road meets the old fire road, near where the storage container used to be

The sunset progressed quickly and relit the patchwork of burned forest on the mountainside across the Lewis Creek valley from us; this time much more pleasantly than last time. (Don’t worry; those are clouds, not smoke!)

Closeup image of a forested ridge bathed in the warm glow of sunset
A closer view of the ridge across the valley, now with some low clouds drifting past the sunlit trees.  Yes it really was that color!
Image of bright orange clouds behind the black silhouettes of tall trees
And finally the trees became silhouettes as the clouds themselves lit up

But enough with the visual distractions; back to work!  Yes we did finish moving the wood piles.

Image of the cleared building site, now without woodpiles
And the wood piles are all gone! This is where  we will build the new garage.  In the background of this image is where the house itself will go, where you see the orange breezeway support posts

Now that the lot is clear and clean, it is almost too open.  I feel like it needs some structure.  Yes, in fact it needs Structures.  I want the building to begin!

And a Mystery to Solve…

While we were installing the new weather station at the Logger’s Retreat, my wife noticed something was different about the old ore car near our picnic area.  She asked me to take a look.

Image of an ore car among rocks
The ore car was rotated 90 degrees from its normal position, and the rails it normally rests on were scattered across the yard.
Image of a tangled pile of chains, cables and straps
Someone had left these heavy tow chains, a long tow cable and several cargo straps stretched across the hillside above the ore car.

It was pretty obvious that someone had tried (and thankfully failed) to drag the ore car up the hill to the driveway.  Apparently they gave up after the cargo straps snapped several times.

That made me wonder what else they might have tried to move.

Image of a large cast iron flywheel resting on burned-out hillside
You may remember this old steam engine flywheel resting on the hillside above the retaining wall.
Image of the same hillside without the flywheel
The flywheel is gone, and directly below it are some very clear, very distinctive tire tracks.

There were other things missing too.

Image of an old ore shovel resting on the hillside before the fire
Notice the large ore shovel sitting on the hillside between two of the breezeway support posts.
Image of the breezeway support posts and the bare hillside behind them
Here are the support posts, but the ore shovel is now gone from the hillside behind them

Further investigation revealed some interesting clues.  In addition to the tire tracks, there was now a pink coat hanger lying on the ground nearby.  That was new.

Image of a pink coathanger lying in the dirt
This was right next to the tire tracks, as if it had fallen out of the truck while they were loading the flywheel into it
Image of a Pinkie Pie pony from a McDonald's happy meal circa 2016
Apparently the thief has a young daughter (or a thing for My Little Ponies). This Pinkie Pie is from a McDonald’s Happy Meal circa 2016
Image of a Corona Extra bottle cap in the dirt
We even know what brand of beer he drinks.
Image of a greatly-lifted white Expedition with blue stabilizers and a sun visor over the windshield
And indeed, we also know what the uniquely-customized getaway truck looks like.

We filed a stolen property report with the Madera County Sheriff and sent them photos of the missing items and the getaway truck.  They began an investigation.

Then we got a tip from a local that the thief might have tried to sell the items to Rust Brothers Antiques and Collectibles in nearby Coarsegold.  And sure enough, look what we found there!

Image of a pile of rusted metal items including the flywheel
Here is our flywheel and several other items missing from our property

We have now recovered most of the stolen items.  As we understand it the thief has been arrested and has confessed to the crime.  Once again our sincere thanks go out to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office!

By the way: if you recognize the getaway truck and know who its owner is, please tell his young daughter that we are keeping her Pinkie Pie pony safe and sound.  We will gladly return it to her, if she wants it  back!

It’s Snow Surprise

A light dusting of snow surrounds the light fixture at the entrance to the Logger's Retreat

During the week before Christmas we had a small storm come through the Yosemite area.  The forecast called only for rain, but the actual storm was cold enough that (surprise!) it left about a half-inch of snow on the ground. This is what we have been preparing for since September.

The amount of snow was not enough to make the driveway impassable,  but it was enough to make it icy. We decided to make a quick trip up before Christmas to clean off the snow and also to install a new Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus wireless weather station — to replace the one destroyed by the fire.

We arrived sometime after noon on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  Although it was cold and close to freezing , the day was beautiful and the low afternoon sun had softened the snow and ice.  The conditions were perfect for brushing so we got right to it.

Image of Bobcat with brush attachment sweeping away slushy snow
The brush was all we needed to clear away this small amount of snow.
Image of Bobcat with brush attachment clearing snow in front of the house
It was a good first test of the Bobcat for snow removal

I was even able to brush uphill, which allowed me to clear the entire driveway  of snow.

Image of driveway, half cleared of snow
View from the top looking down the driveway
Image of Bobcat brushing snow from the driveway.
Brushing off the rest of the snow from the upper driveway

Afterward, the driveway was as beautiful as the sunny day itself.  And we still had time to install the new weather station too.

Image of weather station among burned and browned trees
The new weather station is mounted in exactly the same position as the old one. It will be interesting to see if the local weather conditions are different now, after the fire.

You can now see the station data again, on our website at Now we just need to get that webcam going again too…

And a Glowing Report

The Bobcat's fusebox and its relays are conveniently located below the seat

At the end of my “Clearance: Half Off” post I mentioned that we still had a problem with the Bobcat: its glowplugs were not working.

Unlike gasoline engines, Diesels do not have spark plugs.  To ignite their fuel they use the fact that the temperature of any gas will increase as you compress it. The piston compresses air inside a cylinder until it is hot enough to ignite diesel fuel.  Then at the proper time the engine injects fuel into the cylinder to ignite it, which then drives the piston back down.

But this only works if the temperature inside the cylinder gets hot enough to ignite diesel fuel.  If the engine is too cold a diesel engine can’t start without some help.  This is what glowplugs are for.

A glowplug is essentially a small electric heater installed at the top of the cylinder.  When the engine is cold the glowplug will heat the air in the cylinder enough to ignite the fuel.  Once the engine is running and warm, the additional heat is not needed.  So glowplugs are only needed when the engine is cold.

When it got cold enough outside, our Bobcat started warning us that the glowplugs were not working right.  And sure enough: the colder it got outside, the more difficult it was to start the Bobcat.

Now remember, the main reason we need the Bobcat is to clear snow from the driveway. So a glowplug warning in cool weather is quite likely to become a show-stopper in cold, snowy weather, right when we need the Bobcat most.  This was a problem that we needed to fix before we got snow.

Fortunately, glowplugs are pretty simple devices. And a quick review of the Bobcat wiring diagram confirmed that the circuit was pretty simple too.  The problem had to be either a bad glowplug or a bad relay.  And since there is one glowplug for each cylinder, the Bobcat would likely still start easily if only one glowplug were bad.  So it would seem that either all glowplugs had failed (not likely) or something common to all glowplugs had failed (much more likely).

The only thing common to all glowplugs is the relay, which supplies power to them when it is cold out.  The relay is located in the Bobcat’s fuse box, plugged into a socket there.

The Bobcat’s fusebox, with relays installed

So our problem could be that the relay was bad, or there was a bad connection in the relay socket.

Last weekend I finally had the chance to investigate on-site.  I quickly proved that it was the glowplug relay itself by swapping the relay with another, known-good relay nearby.

No more flashing warning light, and the Bobcat fired right up.  Victory!

I could have just left it at that, with the relays swapped. (The known-good relay had controlled the rear floodlights.)  But I noticed that it was possible to pop off the relay cover and peek inside.  This is what that looks like.

Image of a relay and its cover in the sunlight
The relay and cover separated.

It was pretty clear that the relay had gotten wet; it was dirty and corroded inside.  But mechanically it still seemed to work.  So I spent a few minutes cleaning it, blowing out the dirt and exercising the mechanism.

After that, poking around with a volt-ohm meter suggested that it was working again.  So I snapped the cover back on and tried it in the Bobcat. Joy ensued.

Now I have working glowplugs and rear floodlights.  Bring on the snow!

A Better Grade

This is the new "back entrance" to the Logger's Retreat

The last task for the excavator was to open up a “back entrance” to the Logger’s Retreat.

Prior to the fire, the only way to get heavy equipment like the Bobcat into the area behind the garage (including the path to the picnic area) was to actually drive through the garage itself.  The original owners had built a third garage door into the back of the garage specifically for this purpose.

While we still had the excavator available, we rearranged boulders in that area to create an additional driveway.

Image of a new dirt road edged with boulders
The new driveway where it meets the old path to the picnic area.  The stump visible at lower left is from the first of the two Ponderosa Pines we felled.

This new driveway meets the forest service fire road right next to where the old Sea Train storage container used to sit.

Image of the fire road with a new driveway leading off to the right
The new driveway meets the fire road at the right. In this image you can also see the broken remains of the large oak tree that was directly behind the storage container

We are currently exploring the possibility of adding living space above the Logger’s Retreat garage.  If that becomes a reality, we’ll use this new “back entrance” as the main driveway for that second residence.

A Tale of Two Trees

The two tree stumps in the center of the image are where the large Ponderosa Pines used to stand.

Before the fire, there were two majestic Ponderosa Pines that towered over the garage. After the fire they were still standing, but completely burned from bottom to top.

This is what the two Ponderosa Pines looked like after the fire.

Sadly, we knew that these old guys would have to come down eventually (one way or another).  The only questions were how and when.

Well, having a large excavator on site that can carry huge logs is not an opportunity to waste!  We didn’t.

We dropped the first tree up slope and cut it up into roughly 12 foot lengths.  We used the excavator to move and stack those logs along the fire road, across from where the Sea Train storage container used to be.

Image of a tall stack of large pine logs
One of the two Ponderosa Pines, stacked in its new location

The other Ponderosa was leaning to the east (down slope).  Trying to convince it to fall up slope to the west was much more of a challenge.  Ultimately we decided it was not worth the risks.  So we let it fall down slope, coming to rest on the barren hillside about 50 feet below the stump.

Image of a tree stump and a large tree on the ground below it.
The second Ponderosa now lies down slope, below the path to the picnic area.

While it was once a mature, forested hillside, the Logger’s Retreat property is now largely open land, covered with fallen trees.  Many of those trees were taken down by PG&E (to protect their power lines) and some were taken down by us. Some of the smaller ones were chipped by PG&E and those chips are useful to help control erosion. But most of the trees are still intact, now just lying across the steep hillside instead of standing tall over it.

Our current plan is to mill many of these fallen trees into landscaping timbers.  So we may eventually buck (i.e. cut up) that second Ponderosa where it lies, and then drag those logs back up the hill.  But for now we’ll just leave it on the hillside where it fell.

By the way, if you’ve ever enjoyed the historic logging train ride across the road at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, you might recognize this as what they call a “Leaverite.”  (As in “Leave ‘er right there!”)

Making the Grade

It can be surprising what you can rent when you really want to.  We had to move some big rocks. This is what we came up with.

Image of a large Catepiller excavator
You too can rent this excavator for around $600 per day. Beats picking up boulders (and trees) by hand! Easier on the back too.

No, it wasn’t me driving; I had some (really great) help with that part.

One task for the excavator was to move some large boulders to form a flat pad at the top of the little knoll above our property, where we hope to place several water tanks.  These will provide us with a gravity-fed source of water, both for domestic use and hopefully also emergency irrigation that can defend against the next wildfire.  Here you can see the excavator at work on the top of the knoll.

Image of an excavator at the top of a small wooded hill
Don’t ask how we got it up there (it wasn’t easy).
Image of a large boulder in the jaws of the excavator
The excavator makes short work of moving large boulders like this one.

After a day or so of excavator work, our new pad was finished!

Image of a dirt road going to the top of a small wooded hill.
Here is the access road to the top of the knoll.
Image of the flat area at the top of the hill
And here is the top of the knoll itself

We now have plenty of room at the top for several water tanks, as well as enough space to turn a truck around too!  I’ll give this grading an A.

Clearance: Half Off

Closeup view of a wheel spacer installed

In the spirit of Black Friday, I’ll offer you another story in the continuing saga of getting the Bobcat ready for Winter.

On a recent trip up one of the things we brought along was a shiny new set of tire chains.  The possibility of snow had been in the forecast and it is much more pleasant to install chains before the snow falls, when it is still relatively warm and dry outside.  So our plan was to get the chains mounted onto the Bobcat’s tires prior to the incoming storm.

That plan was thwarted when I saw that the clearance between the tires and the Bobcat’s frame was too narrow — by at least a half of an inch.

Rut roh.  No chains installed on this visit!

Back home I researched my options.  Some Bobcat wheel rims are fancy enough that you can mount them “inside out” (actually by swapping the left side tire with the right side, so that the tread still faces forward) and thereby get yourself a bit more clearance.  But back home now, I couldn’t tell whether or not my rims were the fancy type, so I couldn’t count on that as an option.

Of course I could buy new rims with greater clearance (assuming they could be found) , or the fancy reversible ones, and swap my tires onto those.  Either of those two options was expensive and difficult to do, unless maybe you happen to own a tire store right next to your Bobcat. Not my first choice.

Another option was to install “wheel spacers,” metal rings that mount between the axle and the rim. Seems like these metal rings are not available in any thickness other than two inches.  These are specifically designed for use with OTT (“over the tire”) tank-type tracks, which apparently need at least two inches of extra clearance between tire and frame.

Tracks are great for muddy construction sites.  But they don’t grip very well on ice; chains are much more effective for that. So I won’t be adding tracks to my Bobcat anytime soon.  Two inches of additional clearance was far more than the half-inch I needed, but “more than enough” is not a problem in this case.  The wider stance actually makes the Bobcat a bit more stable.

Plus, adding spacers was guaranteed to give me the clearance I needed regardless of whether or not my rims were already the fancy reversible kind.  So spacers were the lowest-risk, least expensive solution that would guarantee me the clearance I needed.

So spacers it was.  Cast iron spacers are more common (and slightly cheaper) but they weigh more than 20 lbs each.  That’s 80+ lbs of shipping weight alone.  Spacers were also available in anodized aluminum at roughly 1/4 the weight and only about $10 more per spacer.  They also don’t rust.  That all sounded worth $40 to me.

Installation was pretty straightforward.  There was a bit of a risk that my puny two-ton hydraulic jack would not be up to the task, but it came through (just barely).

Image of a Bobcat skidsteer with rear wheel removed
Two-ton jack lifting at its limit, and rear wheel removed
Image of a red aluminum wheel spacer next to the Bobcat
The snazzy bright-red-anodized wheel spacer is ready to install
Image of wheel spacer installed on the axle
Rear wheel spacer installed and lug nuts property torqued

The front of the Bobcat was considerably lighter than the rear so jacking that up was a breeze.  Of course I could have used the Bobcat’s own arm hydraulics to lift the front tires off the floor instead of using the jack.  But I didn’t want to risk the possibility of a slow leak in the hydraulics complicating the process, and the jack was easy enough to use anyway.

Image of wheel spacer and front axle of the Bobcat
Front of Bobcat lifted and wheel spacer ready to install

The whole process took me approximately 2 hours start to finish.

Image of Bobcat with tire chains installed
All four tire chains now installed with plenty of clearance!

While I was working on the Bobcat I also added a much-needed rearview mirror.  The old 843 we lost in the fire had a mirror, which frankly I didn’t think I used that much. But the new S185 came without one, and I’ve noticed how much I really did miss it.

Image of the rear view mirror from the operator's perspective
A Bobcat-style selfie

Skidsteers are very easy to learn to drive, but what can take practice is learning how to not hit things that you don’t want to damage.  There’s so much weight and hydraulic power behind that weight that you often can’t even feel a collision when it happens.  The mirror helps prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Still Not Quite Ready

Since about mid-October the Bobcat has been beeping 3 times when you first start it, and flashing a glowplug warning light.  After you start it though the warning goes away so I hadn’t been too concerned about it.  Seemed like it might just be telling me that it was using the glowplugs to help start.

But on this last visit the morning was cold (low temps in the 40s) and the Bobcat took several tries to start.  This concerned me since it is absolutely essential that the Bobcat starts reliably in snowy conditions.

Time for more research.

It turns out that the warning is telling me that the diesel engine’s glowplugs are not working correctly.  Diesel engines only need them for cold starts so that explains why the warning only appeared recently (Fall temperatures), and only on the first start of the day.  Either one or more of the glowplugs themselves are bad, or the electrical system supplying them has a problem.

I can’t determine  which one it is  until our next visit.  There is some rain in the forecast for next week, but fortunately not snow (yet).