Dad's Alaska

February 26, 2020

Somewhere there are people that live where nothing ever goes wrong and every project goes perfectly. That place ain’t here and I’m certainly not one of those lucky people. After we got the water drainage situation under control, and the weather warmed up enough that the downstairs shower was again operating, the damned fresh water is not leaving the water house. It seems that the water delivery man may have bumped the heater that was the secondary method keeping the pipes from freezing. The heater has a very sensitive tilt switch and when I looked into the problem, I found the heater had turned itself off. The heater being off would not have been a factor except we had a single night of +5F temp. If the temp stays above +15F the heater in the, heavily insulated, 500 gallon tank keeps everything flowing. The tank is kept at a constant +40F. I tried to thaw the piping out yesterday afternoon with no positive result. This morning I will attempt to defrost the piping again. I left the heater running overnight. I’m thinking that the pressure switch may have failed in the interim. When I’m sure that the supply line is thawed and the pump doesn’t work, I’ll change the pressure switch. I guess I’ll get my shoes and socks on and get after this aggravation by putting the jet heater to work. If there are frozen lines anywhere, it will thaw them. However, my most important job for the morning is taking 4 dogs to the groomer to get the toenails clipped. I know that this seems very weird under the circumstances.

Started the jet heater blowing into the water shed while the truck was warming up. Diesel engines really don’t like temps below +20F so I really wanted to make sure that it was warmed up properly before hitting the road. After the truck warmed up some, I loaded all four dogs into the truck. The water had still not thawed so I left the jet heater running with the hope that I wouldn’t return to a burnt down shed.

At the groomer I hauled the dogs in one at a time. Taco, the Chihuahua, tried to bite the lady trimming his sharp toenails. All of the other dogs went through the process with no more drama. Back at the homestead the heater thawed out the piping. I returned to find that the water as flowing again. I surmised that the problem was that the supply pipe to the pump was freezing because the heat tape had failed. Heat tapes are my enemy. Had to rethink the insulation and how to trap the heater’s output in a way that heated the water supply line. Built a bulkhead that covered the lower 1/3 of the door and held insulation above the heater. Anyway, the heat should stay around the supply pipe for the pump. Hopefully, the water problem is solved.

Third project of the day was to get the Range Rover running. It had been sitting dead for nearly three months. The battery had died and I just didn’t have the time to bother with it. The first thing I had to do was dig my way through 15 feet or so to get to the car. The snow had accumulated to 2-3 feet deep around the car and there was 12-15 inches piled up on the hood and windshield. All of that had to be removed before I could raise the hood to install another battery. Got the hood up after about 20 minutes of shoveling. Removed the old battery and installed the new one. The darned thing started right up. I was amazed. I let it run until the ice was melted off the windshield and then backed it out into the street. I ran it back and forth several times to make sure that it could be driven out of the snow bank whenever we want.

Next project was to fill six 5 gallon Homer buckets with snow, The water from these will be used to water the ducks and geese. I just set them near the wood stove and they melt down in a few hours. It isn’t one of the difficult projects but it has to be done daily. A bucket full of snow becomes about 4-5 inches of water. Four buckets of snow fills a 5 gallon bucket to about 2 inches from the top. The need is for two 5 gallon buckets of water on a daily basis. Not heavy labor but a constant need.

The sun has been out all day. This has melted the snow off the south roof of the house, the big tent and other buildings on the homestead. Since the temperature was still well below freezing the dripping water was freezing into icicles. Falling icicles are a dangerous hazard. With that in mind, I knocked some large chunks of ice and icicles off the roof that were hanging over the back door. A couple of them weighed near five pounds. Some were big enough to send you to the hospital with a bleeding head and a concussion, if they didn’t kill you outright.

That was the last of my projects of the day. Time for vodka.

Dad's Alaska

February 23, 2020

Today the sun peeked out amongst the puffy white clouds. We’ve had a bit of snow. The 16-18 inches of snow of which Summer and others refer to as a blizzard or “Snowmaggedon” was not a blizzard. I’ve been in a blizzard and this ain’t it. I was going from Fritz Creek to Live Oak Florida in December of 2018 with two dogs and pulling a 28′ cargo trailer. . In the Canadian Rockies, I drove into a blizzard. The snow flakes were nearly an inch across and being blown by a 20+ MPH wind. It was a ‘white out’ as visibility was, at best, only 50-60 feet. Sometimes, I couldn’t see past the hood ornament on the truck. The only way I was able to stay in the road were the delineator markers along the roadside. I took my half in the middle and drove a straight line from delineator to delineator whilst praying that the road did not curve somewhere in between. There were no house lights or other headlights. The only lights on that road were my own headlights. Apparently, no one as stupid as myself was on the road. The very first vehicle I saw in the next 40 miles and almost two hours later was parked at a motel. What is being referred to as a blizzard here and now was a gentle snow fall of small powdery stuff that lasted almost 3 days. It accumulated in powdery piles and drifts. It is really beautiful to see. There was no ‘white out’ so it was not a blizzard. I’ve heard the term ‘fresh powder’ mentioned by skiers, I guess this is what they meant.

Yesterday we arose to find that one of our tents, used to store firewood, had collapsed. This was the prompt that we needed to get suited up and clear the snow off the two other tents and the greenhouse. Preparing to get to the greenhouse required me to shovel about 40 feet of path to said greenhouse. Summer borrowed a snow rake to get the snow off the tents and the greenhouse. Doesn’t sound like much of a job until you take into account the near waist deep drifts. Summer was at or beyond waist deep in places. By the time we cleared the two tents and the greenhouse we were both exhausted from struggling through the snow. But that didn’t end our adventures in the powdery white stuff.

Summer had called Dan, her significant other, and asked who we might call to get our street (dirt road) plowed. A phone call, to a fellow named Matt, resulted in him arriving in a pick up truck with a snow plow. He made one pass up the road as he was coming in. After that he turned around and came back to our driveway to clear out the parking area. HE GOT STUCK. We spent most of the next hour getting his truck unstuck. After numerous attempts we, finally, got his truck free of the snow and ice that was holding it, After that he more carefully cleared the parking area and ran 2 more passes on the road. The road was cleared and we were, at last, able to go inside and warm up. Enough misery for one day.

Today in the brilliant sunshine we are going to dig out a 4″x 12″x 15’+ beam out of the lumber pile. Of course it is covered in near 2 feet of snow. Fun stuff. I need this beam to span an area where the dirt has fallen away from the pilings holding up the southeast corner of the house. This is the last area that must be supported before I can lower the house. It would have been a lot easier and less trouble had the dirt not collapsed, Somewhere in the collapsed area are two 40 ton hydraulic jacks. Certainly won’t be getting those back until ‘Break Up’ in late March or early April, if things go as normal. Did find a third jack partially exposed in the frozen mud. I think I can use a propane torch to get it out. That would allow me to have 3 jacks to finish the lowering process. Only 3 jacks will make the process slower but after all of the interruptions I’ve had over the past 6 months it will amount to hardly a ripple in time spent on this project.

We have a sick dog in the house. Betsy Boo, a Jack Russel terrier, has some sort of ear problem and a rash on her neck. Summer was told that the rash was a result of the dog having and wearing a wet collar. The wetness came from melting snow from her being outside to take care of urgent business. As the Great Swami of Fritz Creek, I see a Vet visit in Betsy Boo’s future and a lightening of our bank account by $200 or so. I had planned to get Suzy, my Yorkshire terrier, groomed this week. She’ll just have to wait a couple of weeks for her $75 ‘beauty’ appointment. Que sera, sera or something like that.

Well, I have finished my “Everything” bagel stuffed with a sausage patty and a little mustard. Have, also, finished my third and last 16 oz. cup of coffee for the day. That means that I must suit up and dig my Ram 3500 out of the snow or be trapped here for the duration of the winter. Need to get Summer to help me move the 15’+ wood beam from the lumber pile and onto the ledge under the house, shovel a path to the beam pile, shovel a path to the water shed and thence on to the road. After that, shovel a path to the chickens new abode and then take care of some project, that I can’t remember, that Summer needs done.

Gonna be a great day. The Sun is shining and the skies are blue.

Yesterday evening at dusk
This morning at dawn.

Snowmagedon 2020

The snow started on Thursday afternoon and continued through Saturday night. It’s now Sunday and the snow storm is over.

Friday the snow came down heavy. Dan and I named it “A Fluffy Gully Filler”, instead of a regular gully washer. We went to town for dinner at Alibi’s where we proceeded to enjoy shrimp tacos and chicken wings! There was blowing snow and limited visibility, but that doesn’t stop the full time residents here from enjoying life and eating out. Dinner was wonderful and we headed back to Fritz Creek.

The next morning, we woke up to deep snow drifts and buried vehicles. I decided that after coffee that it was time to go home only to find that my road was iffy and I can’t get into my driveway. The snow was almost above the hood of Zippy. Now, I talked about Zippy in my last post and how well she gets through snow. She wasn’t going to make it through the deep snow that was left from the storm.

I ended up backing out of my road, due to the fact that there was nowhere to turn around, and got back onto pavement. I drove to my nearest neighbor and asked if I can park at the end of their driveway so I could hike into my property and get to my house. Further investigation to the snow around me, I realized that there was damaged from the snow and potential damage as well. We needed to act fast. Unfortunately, that had to wait. Betsy my little Jack Russell had an ear infection and it was getting worse. It seems that dogs don’t show their symptoms until it’s too late. And so, I had to drive to town in the blizzard to get some medicine for Betsy. After treating her I found she had more issues. She has sores around her neck from her collar getting wet I suppose. She’s a mess. I’ve scrubbed her neck with betadine and I am trying to keep it dry. Worst case I will call my vet again and set up a visit. I know it will always look worse before it gets better, but dang!

Meanwhile, while I was in town we had a friend come by and plow our road and a place for me to park. It was very interesting. The plow truck got stuck and we spent more time trying to get the truck out than it took for the area to be plowed.

As you can see, we’ve created a goat trail for us to travel through.

A few pictures showing what I saw hiking into my property.

Dad and I got busy trying to save the other buildings. We needed to uncover the greenhouse and what’s left of our storage tents. The snow is deep, my friends! Talk about getting your cardio.

This video gives you a really good idea of what its like here. I am going to have to teach Dad how to make decent videos. He’s all over the place. lol

Well I guess I need to go back to work, the snow isn’t going to move itself.

I leave you with a pitiful picture of Betsy. Until next time! See ya!

The Hazy Shade of Winter

A lot has gone on since the last time I updated this blog. News on the new bathroom, it’s almost finished! I’ve painted the ceiling and tried my skills on taping and mudding sheet rock. I did okay for my first time, but I will have to say, how could anyone love finishing sheet rock!? There will be some sanding to do. It’s gonna take another week or so to level the house, hopefully and then we can install the solid surface. I have some pics of the new bathroom under construction and my shoddy sheet rock finishing work.

This past weekend and this week it warmed up substantially. It hit 40 degrees twice and mid-30s for the most part. Everything turned to slush. Talk about a big frigging mess! Driving conditions turned dangerous. My opinion, it’s more dangerous than driving in the snow. It also sucks severely to walk in. Trying to hike with dogs in slush is not the happiest thing.

Today, it’s 19 degrees and snowing. February has had some interesting weather changes. The other night it was warm and then it turned into strong wind and snow. The wind was so strong that it created scary icicles at my window. It’s like they are trying to keep me in otherwise they look like they would impale me.

It’s been snowing since last night and has yet to stop. At least it isn’t slush. My subaru has no problems getting through the deep snow in the driveway. This morning she plowed through two feet of snow like it was nothing. Gotta love all wheel drive. I trust “Zippy” to take me anywhere rain, sleet, and deep ass snow. Out of all the vehicles I’ve ever owned this by far has to be the best. No, I did not buy her new. I bought her from a retired local couple no longer in need of two vehicles. I’ve enjoyed Zippy ever since.

Two days of snowfall and it keeps coming.

Last Sunday, I started my first round of seeds for spring planting. These are the ones that will take the longest to start. These are the onions, brussel sprouts, peppers (that will stay inside to grow and fruit), some herbs, and leeks. For the first time I am trying to be organized with my planting. I alway seed things out and forget to label them. Then, they go in the garden and then it’s a big surprise what I end up growing. This year it’s not going to happen. I’m gonna know exactly what I’ve seeded out and will be able to plant the starts in the correct areas. I hope I can keep it up.

This time instead of a food up table, Dad and I made windowsill tables for my seeding out. This is much more sufficient on space. I am so excited. I enjoy growing plants and food and can’t wait for spring. Just by saying that I have jinxed us! We will probably have an extra two weeks of winter because of me. LOL I am starting to long for spring! I’m looking out the window and the snow is blowing all around. It’s quite a contrast looking past my green plants out the window to see blowing snow.

Well, I guess I’m going to clean out the refrigerator and some cleaning around the house. Then, date night with Dan. No matter what the weather or day brings, Dan makes it so much more enjoyable. He keeps me laughing.

Well, I guess that’s it. I will leave you with Gandie sleeping on my bed. He’s 15 years old and still kicking. He’s such a sweet boy. Talk to you soon!!

Dad's Alaska

Went to the doctor yesterday to get the diagnosis for my extremely high blood pressure. While I do have some restriction in the artery feeding one of my kidneys the other is fully open for business. The restriction in my right kidney is minimal and something to be watched but requires no intervention at this point. As with all things unknown, I was expecting the absolute worst possible outcome. Human nature is to expect the worst. As you might expect, I am greatly relieved to learn that the problem was caused by the new gout medicine I’ve just started taking.

Now that I know I’m not on the imminent handicapped or death list, I’ve got to get back to the leveling (lowering) the house. The problem I’m facing at this point is that the soil has fallen away from the pilings. This has left me with no place to set the jack and the jack posts. With that problem having reared its’ ugly head, I am being forced to engineer another way to set up the jack and jack posts. What I’m thinking is that I may be able to put some heavy lumber in place of the soil. Place it on the uneven ground and tie it into the pilings further back. The problem is that I need to support something like 10-15 tons long enough to cut the pilings to the proper level. Also, after the pilings are cut, there needs to be enough heavy structure to support the jack posts I am going to use to lower the house to its’ final position. On top of the engineering problems, there has been a foot of more of new snow. This means plowing through 2 feet or more of snow carrying heavy stuff.

As I sit here, writing this blurb and sipping coffee, it has begun to snow again. The temp outside is up to 22F. Not too bad. It is cold enough to need to layer up on my clothing . Once I start moving the 4″x10″x12′ timbers I will start to sweat and need to shed some of the clothing. Sweating in the cold can lead to hypothermia. Hypothermia is not a good thing. After I have dodged the kidney failure bullet, I don’t want to maim or kill myself by getting frozen appendages or freezing to death in my own front yard.

Moving to Alaska and Homer, in particular, was a kind of spur of the moment decision. My wife of 43 years had died. Summer and I were sitting, in her Florida house, sweating and talking about having to replaced the faltering A/C unit. I had an acquaintance that makes a trip to the Homer area several times a year. His description of the area made it seem very attractive. This led us to looking on Zillow for a place to live. That’s where we found this dilapidated house. After much talk and hand wringing we made an offer on the house. Unfortunately, they accepted our offer and here we are.

Just looked down out of the bathroom window to the area I’ll be working in. The snow has drifted to about 4-5 feet deep. This is just another in the long string of impediments in getting this house level. Well-l-l-l, I guess I better go layer up and get on with it. See ya later.

Dad's Alaska

February 18, 2020

Went to the South Peninsula Hospital Emergency Room last night….er-r-r this morning at about 12:30 AM. Been having very high blood pressure readings for over a week. Last evenings’ readings were especially high (220/117) so I drove into Homer and checked myself in. I figured that they would likely put me in a room and keep me until later in the day. I got blood drawn, IV installed, three small pills, a blood pressure cuff that mashed the crap out of my arm and a crossword puzzle I found in the local paper whilst passing through the reception area.. Two hours later my blood pressure was way down (147/91) and they gave me my ‘walking papers and sent me home. That was the boring part of the adventure. The really exciting part was getting there. It was raining pretty steadily and even in the rain there was still some ice on the road at various odd places. I don’t see well at night due in part to the fact that my eyes are old and that I have some small cataracts that blur the vision and make oncoming dimmed headlights look like high powered searchlights. The two cars I met going into town were both of them on curves and I had to come to a near stop to let them go by. I couldn’t see the damned road after I dimmed my lights. I had to have my bright lights on just to see the road and then some of those highly luminescent signs were reflecting so much light back at me as to produce a nearly blinding parallax. On a road that, in the daylight, I would normally travel at 45-50 mph, I was going 25-35 mph. Whilst I’m creeping into town I’m thinking about what the nurse said, “Your very high blood pressure could cause you to have a stroke or to throw a blood clot.” As I’m creeping along, I am more than a little apprehensive that I’ll do one of those things and end up in the ditch where I will take my last few breathes. I really didn’t want to wreck the truck. Another concern was that the police would see me creeping along and stop me to check to see if I were driving drunk and delay my arrival at the relative safety of the hospital even longer. I wheeled into the parking lot at a blistering 10 mph and drove myself right into a Handicapped parking space. I had to back out and find a legal parking space. In my heightened state, the parking seemed to take ten minutes but it was likely less than two. I was a happy camper going through the door and into the reception area. There, if I threw a clot I would still die but if I just had a stroke they could administer the meds I needed in a matter of minutes. A sigh of relief.

Going home wasn’t too bad. Thankfully, I met no cars. My eyesight was no better and the signs still glared at me but being less freaked out I could remember where I was on the road. I’ve driven that road so many times that I know every curve, bump and dip, when I’m not overly excited by the prospect of dying. I got home at about 3am made a glass of sweet tea and peanut/jelly sandwich and hit the sack for six hours.

Today was a lazy day. I mostly just sat around playing Spider Solitaire and watching the snow cover up everything yesterdays’ rain exposed. All is white and pretty again. In 60 days this is going to be the mud hole from hell. Something for which to look forward with trepidation and disgust. Wish it could always be white and pretty.

Dad's Alaska

January 3, 2020

Yesterday was an unusual day because it was the lowest temp we’ve seen since moving to Alaska. The temp had dropped down to -5F and struggled to get up to +7F before the sun disappeared again. Summer walked two gaggles of dogs in the low temps. By 8:00 last evening it was +2F degrees. I crammed the stove full before i went to bed at midnight. With the temp going so low, I have been setting my iPhone alarm to 4:30 to get up and stoke up the fire. My method is to cram as many pieces of wood as possible into the stove and throttle it way down. The idea is to produce some heat over several hours and have enough hot coals at the end to start up the next fire. Good news. Got up this morning to find the temp to be +15F and going up. Bad news it is starting to snow again. Well-l-l that really isn’t bad news. I am hoping that it isn’t going to go back up above +32 and turn the snow in the slush. Today’s agenda is to 1.Recover the rest of the parts for the, dead but useful, Paquali tractor that we purchased. 2. Bring in more firewood. 3. Dig a path around the water house because yesterday evening Gandie (miniature Schnauzer) got stuck in the deep snow and could have frozen to death. Luckily Summer realized that he should have already done his business and be waiting on the back steps. She got worried, put her boots on and found him stuck in a snowdrift. Yesterday, I dug paths to my truck, the greenhouse, where the ducks and geese are living, and the shipping container, where most of my tools live. However, I did not dig a path around the water house where Gandie got stuck. As previously stated, I will clear a path around the water house today. Yesterday afternoon, I went to Homer Oil, had a propane tank filled and ordered another 200 gallons ($600) of #2 diesel for the the TOYO oil heater. Also, made the trip to the dump to drop off the trash. While I was there I found that someone had discarded a SEGWAY. I brought it home to see if I can get it going. Anyway, I’ve started the truck to warm it up before to town and pick up the last parts of the tractor. So I guess I’ll go put on my ‘long handles”, two pairs of socks, snow pants over my jeans, insulated boots, then a hoodie and a trapper’s hat. I was wearing about the same thing yesterday in +5 degrees and was sweating. Sweating is not a good thing as it can make you very cold when the strenuous behavior ceases. I’m not planning on any strenuous behavior today but I can shed some clothes, if I get too hot. Y’all keep you powder dry.

Dad's Alaska

January 14, 2020

I’ve learned a few things since moving to Alaska. Born, raised and living in the South all my life, I was ill-prepared for the weather, the lack of stores, the convenience of popping out to get fast food or ordering a pizza to be delivered. The disaster of a house we purchased has been, well to put it politely, trying. I’ve learned how to lower a house. I learned to shovel snow. How to turn clean snow into flushing water, drinking and cooking water. How to drive 50-55 mph on icy, snowy roads. How to dress ((so that when outside in below zero temps)) so I stay warm. That not only do the pipes bringing the water into your house freeze but the pipes taking water out can/do freeze, as well. I’ve learned to stop in the doorway when going outside and take a look around so as not to surprise a moose or a bear. I’ve learned that moose kill more people in Alaska than bears. I’ve learned that moose is both singular and plural. I’ve wondered why the plural of moose isn’t meese. And, also, that it couldn’t be mice because ‘mice’ is, obviously, already taken by Mickey and friends. I’ve learned to become moderately proficient with a chainsaw. I haven’t sawn off any appendages or cut a major artery. I learned, maybe relearned, how to load and operate a wood stove to get maximum heat and how to make the fire last almost all night. I’ve learned that being different in Alaska was once the norm and not so much anymore. I’ve learned that most old time Alaskans are friendly, anxious to help and will talk you through your newbie/tenderfoot problems. I’ve learned that $8 haircuts cost $25. I’ve learned that Alaska is being Californicated. I’ve learned that Anchorage has already been Calfornicated and that Homer is being Californicated in a rapid pace. When I arrived, I already knew that banning plastic bags is not only stupid but is just the first of many eco-wacko abuses to come. I learned that I need to plug in my truck when the temperature goes below +20F, so that the block heater would allow the diesel engine to start more easily. I’ve learned to appreciate sunrises and sunsets. I’ve learned that the snow on the boughs of spruce trees is a beautiful thing that can fall on your head and down the back of your neck. Lastly, I’ve relearned that things happen when they are supposed to happen and there is damned little that you can do about it.

Dad's Alaska

February 17, 2020

Compendium of Disaster

BLACK WATER ADVENTURES PLUS. Third time is charmed, I hope. I’ve tried two other times to recount mine and Summer’s adventures with frozen sewer lines. We, also, had and still have frozen fresh water lines. The hot water in the hand sink bath downstairs is working and as long as I leave the water heater off I can brush my teeth.

Day 1 The commode downstairs will not fill so I’m melting snow in order to supply flushing water. The shower does not work at all so we are showering at Summer’s significant other’s house, as necessary. All of the water is working in the upstairs half bath. The sewer lines are currently draining but I’m holding my breath.

Day 2 Our first indication of sewer problems was when the kitchen sink backed up. I was busy with other projects so Summer purchased 3 heat tapes. She attached one to the offending sewer line and re-insulated it. We were happy as could be that the sink drained. Little did we know at the time that a bigger problem was lurking in the sewer pipes upstream from the heat tape she had just installed.

Day 3 The upstairs commode would not drain. Since it had a history of clogging I took a plunger and a bucket of water and began plunging with great force and speed. I kept adding water as the water fell slowly during the plunging. I was sure that I was clearing the recalcitrant clog. So I got another 5 gallons of water from downstairs and then another. All the time cursing the clog and plunging mightily. After about a half hour, I surrendered. The clog had beaten me. Once downstairs, i proceeded to my bedroom which led me past the downstairs bath. The odor was stifling. I stepped into the bathroom, flipped on a light and observed, my to my horror, that the commode and the hand sink had overflowed and were filled to the brim with stinky brown solids and water. If that weren’t bad enough the bath tub had 2 inches of stinky brown solids and water in it. This is when the light bulb popped over my head and I realized that the lines under the downstairs bathroom were, also, frozen. As bad as this was there was worse on down the pike.

Day 4 I had my coffee, listened to Rush and waited for the temperature to rise above 10. About noon I crawled under the house and found that one of the heat tapes had, somehow, become unplugged. ((Just so you understand, going outside and staying outside in 10 degree weather entails putting on layers of clothing. 3-4 layers above the waist. Below the waist, insulated under garments are covered in a pair of jeans, a pair of insulated snow pants, two pairs of socks and insulated brogans. Gloves are worn to the repair site but then must be jettisoned to effect any repair. Anyway, I was elated to find that a heat tape was unplugged. Seeing this obvious problem, I did not investigate further. In the short twenty minutes of this excursion, I’d had quite enough of the fine dust kicked up by my belly crawling and simply breathing toward the ground. It gets worse. By late afternoon, I became fully aware that the unplugged heat tape was not the problem. I texted Summer to repurchase the two heat tapes she had just returned that morning. I was taking no chances.

Day 5 I am really, really aggravated. I crawl back under the house and find that the unplugged heat tape is working. I am surprised and happy at the discovery until I realize that the pipes under the downstairs bath are the culprits. I crawled out and looked at the plug in point for these tapes and find that the little lights in the plugs are lighted. Getting to these heat tapes requires a professional contortionist or someone with little sense and a high pain tolerance like myself. Under I go again, crawling about 20 feet on hands and knees then 20 feet with my face inches above the talcum powder like dust. I rip off some insulation to find cold pipes. The lights were on but no heat was being produced by either of the two tapes. I started parting the insulation so as to install a new tape. I got this part of the project done just as it was getting dark. BTW the insulation was wrapped in duct tape which proved to be very difficult to cut. Even with a freshly sharpened knife it was 20 feet of a hacking job instead of a cutting job. Exhausted, filthy and my nostrils full of dirt, I crawled the 40 feet back to the great outdoors where the temperature had dropped to 2 degrees.

Day 6 Began the same as all of the previous days i.e. coffee, Rush except it was a wait until the temp got above zero. Crawled back under the house and checked the two new heat tapes and duct taped all of the used insulation back on. There were a few bare spots but nothing a 27′ heat tape wrapped upon 10 feet of pipe couldn’t overcome. 20 feet of pipe now wrapped with heat tape and snugly tucked back into the insulation . What could be better. I was through. If I was lucky I’d never have to crawl back into that dusty, claustrophobic hell hole again.

Day 7 I ain’t even close to lucky. The pipes that should have thawed and drained overnight didn’t. I drank coffee and half listened to Rush’s show featuring the undocumented guest host, Mark Steyn. I was fuming over having to crawl back under the floor again. The temp got up to about 8 degrees and I suited up for a return engagement with the bathroom piping. The inspection found that one of the new heat tapes was not heating. Again I cut off the insulation, which by now was in shards, and removed the offending heat tape. Another belly crawl to the great outdoors and back into the warm house. All of this crawling had my outerwear filthy and for some reason i had not yet washed my outerwear. It was just disgusting to have to put them on every time. When I’d take them off, I’d step outside and shake off a pound or two of dirt and debris. Anyway, heat tape and packaging in hand, I visited my local Ulmer’s ACE Hardware in Homer, where the tape had been purchased. They refused to replace it and one of the managers told me that he’d plugged it in and it had melted the snow around it. (They couldn’t have replaced it anyway because they had none. I did want my money back.) I knew he was full of crap and left very angry. However, just in case I was wrong, I plugged it in and dropped it into a pile of snow. 14 hours later no melted snow. I, accidentally, left it plugged in for almost 3 days because with everything going on, I forgot about it. No melted snow.

Day 8 Still no flow. Drove 160 mile round trip on snowy, icy roads to Kenai and Soldatna to find another heat tape. Bought the last one that the Trust Hardware in Soldotna had and paid way too much. Home Depot and everyone else were out of stock or did not stock heat tapes. Seems we weren’t the only ones with problems. Got home at near sunset. Temp had fallen to 6 degrees from 14 earlier.

Day 9 I’m crawling back under the house with the heat tape I brought back from Soldotna. Also took new insulation with me on the entrance into sewer pipe hell. With much bleeding, cursing and contortion I got the new tape and insulation installed. Figured since I was already in hell I might as well make good use of he time and re-insulated the working heat tape. Crawled out with my fingers near frozen for the, who knows how many times in the past.

Day 10 The spice flows (a Dune reference) out of the sewage pipes. The water drains from the sink, bathtub and commode leaving a disgusting residue but empty of the foul smelling water. I cleaned the commode and the hand sink, using snow melt, so that they would be usable again. I ran a connection from the hand sink hot water line to the commode and it fills properly. This entailed a plastic line and a couple of fittings that I had on hand. No more melting snow for flushing water. Now, if I just had the fresh water running in the bath tub, I could clean up that terrible mess

Dad's Alaska


Day 10 and the sewage still flows. Our most pressing problem now is that the water to the shower is still frozen. I’ve tried several methods over the past several day to thaw out the pipes with no luck. They are frozen inside the wall behind the tile shower enclosure. I was preparing to rip off the side of the house to get to those pipes when Summer had a better idea. Why not go on ahead and convert the upstairs 1/2 bath into a full bath by installing the tub/shower enclosure we have in the storage tent. We had intended it for the remodel of the downstairs bath but emergencies dictate actions. We began ripping out sheetrock. The sheetrock came out pretty easily and the we found that there was an electrical wire right in the middle of the new floor. Since we are planning to rewire the house this posed a minor problem for the future but for the present it had to stay connected. It was the source for the lights and fan in the bathroom. There is nothing quite like the stupid it takes to run a wire up inside a wall and then drill through 10-11 studs to get to the wall switches for the light and the fan. Oh, the nimrod who did this put a receptacle around ankle high on that wall next to the vanity. Summer had to bend at the knees in order for her hairdryer power cord to reach her head full of blonde hair. Of course, she abandoned this foolishness. The only suitable purpose for this receptacle was one of those plug in scent thingys. Worse than all of that it wasn’t a GFI receptacle as it was located next to a water source. So it was not only stupidly placed but dangerous to boot. I said ripping out the sheetrock was easy. That was because Summer did most of it. I showed up in time to rip down one large piece and help with the cleanup. A lot of small chores had been neglected during the Black Water troubles. I was able to scratch several of the off my ever present list of THINGS THAT MUST BE DONE. We finished the day loading the debris and bringing in the new bathtub and enclosure. More great news, the tub enclosure isn’t going to work because of the shape of the roof (stupid dormers) makes the ceiling too low at one end. Another problem without an obvious solution. We gave up for the day. Summer went to Dan’s for dinner and I opened a can of Hormel Chili. Yum-m-m-m