Mud, Blood and Vodka

Sunday 16 Sept 2018

Hard for me to ‘get my head around’ but on the 18th at about 3 in the afternoon we will have been on the property for a year.

Yesterday we, finally, had someone that had promised to do some work, actually, show up.  Not only did he show up, he brought his wife to help him and his son for me to entertain all day.  Cute kid.  All day long he was asking me for something to do.  He wanted to work but he weighed about 40-50 pounds soaking wet.  He was smart as he could be and wiser than one would expect from a 3rd grader.  He’s a home schooled kid which explains a lot.  He and I hauled lumber to build a bridge, took some things back to his parents truck and just generally cleaned up around the property.  I let him drive the lawn tractor pulling a trailer, he handed me kindling to split and I let him run the log splitter.  He was so happy that he might as well have been in Disney World.

Meanwhile, his parents were running a Bobcat to create a ditch from the newly installed spring box up to and around the house.  The ditch had to be six feet deep and since his bucket was 24 inches wide we have a major mound of dirt.  The plan had been that we would put the piping containing the electric and the water pipe into the ground as we went.  That, however, was a plan that we couldn’t adhere to yesterday.  The pipe I bought for the containment was coming apart at every joint.  When I bought the pipe, I asked if it glued up with regular PVC cement.  The guy said it did but it didn’t.  Turns out it was ABS plastic and regular PVC glue won’t work.  Summer picked up the ABS glue during a run to town.  Still didn’t get the damned stuff glued together.as we ran out of both time and inclination.  Of course, it decided to rain all day today so the stuff is still not glued together.

Since it began to rain today, we are in a mud up to our ankles.  No outside work will get done today.  Yesterday afternoon, I had to build a foot bridge from the top of the dirt pile, along the trench, to the back door.  The unlevelness of the house will not allow the front door to open.  I felt like a Seabee building a bridge across a marsh in some hellhole island in the Pacific.  It was muddy because the top of the pile came from below the water table.  I had to be down on hands and knees and then on my belly to get the first 14 foot board from the dirt pile to the door.  The first one was a booger but the next three were simple and easy.  Slide them out on top of the other board and flip them over in place.  I was doing the second board the hard way when the 10 year old kid asked, “Why aren’t you sliding it across on the other board?”  Face palm moment. With the bridge built everyone could, at last, get to the bathroom.  People in, dogs out.

When the pump pipe bundle and the French drain are completed we will have near unlimited water.  There is a small spring plus the French drain will channel water to the spring box.  This is a big saving because our monthly water bill is $200-$300.  Ii once thought a $100 water bill was expensive.   It may be hard to imagine in the Lower 48 but up here you find yourself thinking about things like laundry, flushing the commode, taking a shower, running the dishwasher etc.   Summer and I both were completely taken aback by the amount of water we were using when we first got here.  I installed a 500 gallon tank when we arrived, thinking that would be more water than we would use.  WRONG!. We were still on the Lower 48 regimen and we ran out of water 3 times before we learned to conserve.  I cannot tell you how tired I am of worrying about water.  Hopefully, in the next 10 days the piping will be installed, the water house constructed, the filtration system installed and water will be abundant.

I in my infinite wisdom placed a pallet of concrete blocks almost on the area that needed to be dug.   Therefore, I had to move 120 concrete blocks and, as usual, I banged the living crap out of one of my fingers.  Fingers bleed profusely for reasons I do not understand.  At my age a bump often makes me bleed like a ‘stuck hog’.  In case you aren’t familiar with that phrase it describes the pig already hung by it’s back feet gets it throat cut.  ‘Squealing like a stuck hog, is another one of those adages.  Example:  He waren’t hurt much but he wuz squealing like a stuck hog.  I didn’t squeal but I did have a few choice words jump out of my mouth.

The tractor had one broken wheel stud which left three and that was good enough for me.  Yesterday it broke another which is when I found out that that stud had been stripped and the lug nut was never put back on properly.  This dumbass move by whomever had the wheel off before has created a major problem.  The tractor is 4 wheel drive and to replace the studs I have to take the whole damned thing apart.  Then I need  to take it somewhere to have all the old studs pressed out and the new ones installed.   Probably the local NAPA.  If I’m lucky I can get the tractor back to operational in a single day, if not I’ll have rent or buy another tractor.  I have got to get this pipe in and covered up ASAP.  Winter is coming at us like a freight train on a downhill 40 miles of straight track and there are still a dozen necessary jobs to be done.

After much aggravation during the day we were able to sit down to a dinner of a dinner of BBQ chicken, baked beans and coleslaw and, of course a Vodka Seven or three.

The Bridge Over the Moat

The Moat and the Mud

 

Happy One Year Anniversary on traveling to Alaska, my home!

Today, One year ago we made it to Onawa, Iowa and stayed at the On-Ur-Wa RV park.       This was a pretty good RV park.  It had a laundry mat which is was great, by this time we were in desperate need clean clothes and sheets.

We have come a long way since our arrival.  I think back to that first trip north to Alaska; the adventures and long days of driving we had to endure.  The stress of an overloaded school bus carrying an overloaded 28 foot enclosed trailer going 50 mph and 10 mph up mountains and hills.  That was just Dad; I was behind him in Spike towing a 36 foot gooseneck travel trailer.  For all who have just started reading Spike is our big dually diesel 3500 Ram Bully Edition pick up.  He’s big, even comes with its own jake brake, which I had to use many times in the mountains.  Open highways and roads were a piece of cake until we had to drive through large cities with tons of traffic.  Very nerve racking and very scary.

Here are the pics I originally took on Sept. 7, 2017 in Iowa.

This year has just flown by.

Well, Damn! How long has it been?

I have a funny story for you.

So last night I decided to let my Karelian Bear dog (Cookie) for the first time in a longtime.  Big mistake.

I let her out with Taco and Gandie.  She then proceeded to run off with Taco trailing behind her all the way to the road.  (Forehead Slap!)

I got them back onto the property and was able to scold Taco and he ran back to the house and went inside.  Cookie on the other hand found the pond with my ducks swimming all zen like.  She was chasing them around the pond while I was screaming at her.  To make it clear, this was about 10 pm and I was in my jammies.

So, this makes a funny picture.  Me, in my jammies, yelling and chasing a dog chasing ducks.

Now, at this point, I was prepared to tackle Cookie and land in the cold dirty pond water.  There were a couple of times that this was going to happen.  She ran into the brush next to the pond where one of my ducks were hiding and went in after her.  Of course she was already out and I am falling on my face in the mud which is in the brush.  I’m in my jammies mind you.

I get up fall yet again.  At this point, I am so pissed that I could barely keep all the bad words inside my mouth.  Cookie finally figuring out that this wasn’t a game as I am chasing her all over the muddy ass property stopped and let me catch her.  I grabbed her by the tough of her neck and told her what I thought of her at that moment and told her that she was being bad.

I’m muddy in my jammies and she is muddy and wet from the pond.  Which got me wet when I caught her.  I led her back to the house by the collar and went inside.  I must have sent dad a psychic thought, because inside was a nice warm fire.  I made and drink and told dad the whole story.  We laughed about it in the kitchen while I warmed up.

I went upstairs and changed into clean jammies and got into bed.  It seems Cookie decided to seek revenge and rolled her muddy wet body all over my comforter.  So, it too was wet and muddy.

I changed my covers and went to bed.  All the chickens were in for the night and the ducks slept knowing they dodged a serious bullet.

So, this was my adventure last night.  I hope it brings you as many laughs as it brought me and dad.

 

Hello Again

Well, It’s been a while since my last blog entry. Sorry about the delay. Since we’ve arrived back home to Alaska we have been trying to find our groove and get back into normal life.

We finally made way inside the house and created a more comfortable living space.

Normal life. What is that? I guess for me it’s trying to start back up where I left off.   I got to go halibut fishing and it was a success!  I caught two big halibut for the freezer. It was so much fun!  Catching halibut is really like trying to pull a door off the ocean floor.  I couldn’t have asked for a better time with my friend Tiana.

I seemed to fit right back in to my friendships without a hitch. Thank goodness. Spring was nice and it was really cool to see new beginnings on the homestead. The grass and flowers growing and blooming, the moose with her twin calves. Birds singing, the sandhill cranes flying in for the summer with their noisy squawks, you just feel summer is here.

 

We have been busy with sheet rock, kitchen cabinets, clearing land, digging our spring box, creating a pond, spreading gravel for a big driveway, getting chickens and trying not to wear out our bodies before winter.

 

The best thing we came across was an estate sale that had a ton of firewood. This is something we have been struggling to get. If you have read my previous posts than you know this is something we have been struggling with. We have so much wood we can get through this season and maybe the next. It has been back-breaking to load and carry all this firewood and on top of that we bought a whole bunch of lumber from the same people. We now have the wood to fix the house and build whatever we want. Life is good.

All this and I got a part-time job that I really like. Two days a week I get to go hiking with a bunch of dogs! I get to be outdoors and play. In one full day, I hike about 4 miles up hill and sometimes on a flat surface. What a fun way to get exercise, all this and a great view to boot. On the third day I am in the office. a great break from all the work I do.

Yesterday, I cleaned and renovated the chicken coop. It was gross. It had about 2 hay bales in it. I was given the coop and chickens and I knew there would need to be some cleaning and maintenance to be done. So, I drove to Anchor Point for a couple of reasons. The first reason was I bought a new rooster and decided to buy a hen to make him feel like her wasn’t alone in the relocation process. Well, the hen started crowing yesterday morning. Dude looks like a lady!!! So, I had to return him and get a hen. While I was going that way, I might as well go to the mill and get saw dust for the coop.

So, I picked up the new hen and headed the mill. I got three aluminum cans worth of dust, loaded them up and headed home. At this point, I go into the coop and inspect it. I decided that the laying area was not acceptable and should be changed as well as the roosting configuration. Thank goodness for all the wood we have. I found a decent piece of plywood that I could handle myself and started the measuring procedures inside the coop. My thought is that I could use the nesting shelf and rafters to create nesting boxes.

I came up with a plan and went to work. The first pieces were basically prototypes to get the right sizes and angles. After that, I just traced the template on the plywood and cut it out. Everything was screwed into place including little roofs. Then, I added sawdust. I added new perches and cleaned the coop out. I added new sawdust to the floor, re-hung the food and water. Then I made them a more permanent ramp to get in and out. It’s clean and smells like fresh-cut spruce. The next thing on the list is to create a winter run for them. That way they can go outside without being neck-deep in snow.

 

 

We are still planning to level the house before fall sets in. It’s very important that we do this. Without the house being level trying to do finish work on the sheet rock will never happen and we can’t finish it this winter. Sheet rocking and flooring is top of the list for winter work. Also, leveling the house means we can build an arctic entry to the house. A place where we can keep our boots and coats and shake all the mud and snow off us. This keeps the house so much more clean. We tend to track Alaska right into the kitchen and the rest of the house. It creates a constant major cleanup every time we enter the house.

So, without the house being leveled we can’t finish sheet rock, install flooring or build an arctic entry. It must be done. “The spice must flow” (Dune).

Today, my neighbor had a bear in her turkey run. It ate all her feed, bit didn’t touch the turkeys. It seems the bears are moving lower and lower down the road closer to us. I have a feeling this weekend we might get to see a black bear in our yard. Probably trying to get into the chicken coop. That’s where we store the feed as well.

We also had an earthquake today. A 4.3 or 4.4. I haven’t felt one thus far until this morning at work. It happened so fast that I didn’t know what hit me. Can you say scary and exciting at the same time? There was a weird rumbling noise and the walls were shaking and I had to do a balance check as it was happening. There was not time to get outside or think. It was over as fast as it came.

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Well, I guess I have caught all y’all up on what’s happening on the homestead.

Oh! Here’s a movie with me driving my tractor.  It’s a really cool one too!  It’s a Pasquale and it articulates.  Enjoy!

The Road to Home

9:30 AM

What felt like a bazillion miles finally we are in Alaska. We have made most of this trip with no phone signal with AT&T International plan, because AT&T tweaked there signal I guess. I’m gonna give them a talking to when I get home.

Anywho, we are about 35 miles from Tok, AK when we blew two tires on one side of the trailer, rubber was slightly on fire and had to take the fire extinguisher to it, and the best part it broke all the u-bolts and the springs. So, we are stranded on the side of the ALCAN waiting on a service truck to install new u-hooks. This poor trailer has taken a beating cross country from Florida to Alaska, Alaska to Florida, Florida to Alaska. So, three times this trailer has been dragged to the pits of hell and back. After this it will never make a trip like this again.

We have met some really nice people on this trip. Marcel who gave us diesel when we about ran out and a gentleman that we have been traveling the same way with. This particular gentleman gave me a ride into town to find help. Then he brought me back. A grande total of 65 miles out of his way.

I might not be home, but I am in Alaska.

Today we are supposed to make it to Anchorage, spend the night and then make it home on Wednesday, which is tomorrow. It just might not happen. All I want is to sleep in my own bed.

So close, yet so far.

Update:

We are now at Willard’s RV repair – Auto, Electric to get a few more parts to fix the trailer. Willard came out to us and was able to replace most of the parts and get us rolling to his shop. It’s 1:30 PM now and we are still going to try to make it to Anchorage. It’s only 342 miles to the Walmart.

Tomorrow, home.

Are We There Yet?

Yesterday, we pulled into Battleford, Alberta for the night.  As Dad was trying to keep us from dying, he hit a curb and blew a tire on the trailer.  First tire casualty and it wasn’t the roads fault.  We were going to spend the night in the Walmart parking lot, but decided we both wanted to take showers and take a break from the trailer.  So, we got a hotel room.  The Travelodge.  It was just renovated and the rooms were very nice…….but…..no A/C.  The room was extremely hot, but the beds were extremely comfortable.  So, we took out showers, opened a window, had a few drinks, and went to sleep.

We left The Battlefords this morning and was able to arrive in Dawson Creek, British Columbia for a grand total of 598 miles.  It was a tough one, but we did it.  We drove for almost 12 hours.  Tomorrow we are just going to drive as far as we can.  There is still a little snow on the ground,  frozen lakes and ponds, and break up is almost over for Canada.  Crossing rivers you can see the large floating ice burgs flowing down and the flooding that happens when snow melts.

Driving was nerve racking and stressful.  There were times I did’t know if we were going to be able to find a gas station to fill up Spike with diesel.  We managed to pull through without running out of fuel.  The roads are worse than the ALCAN!  Riding in the truck towing the large trailer and hitting bumps, dips, holes, cracks in the road feel like you’re being manipulated in a washing machine.  I feel my brain rattling in my head and it’s been giving me headaches.  Once we stop driving, my head calms down.

Tomorrow we start on the ALCAN where the roads are actually less bumpy and torcheres  than Canadian roads.  If we keep going driving the distance we are doing, we can be home hopefully in four days.  We have to stop in Ninilchik, AK to pick up Trubel, our new bear dog puppy.  She’s a cutie!

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Tonight, we are staying in the Walmart parking lot in Dawson Creek.  I am sitting in the McDonalds as I write this blog.  Dinner.  Dinner is and was awesome.  Have you ever heard of Poutine?  Nothing like gravy, real cheese curds and fries.  YUMMY!!!!

So.  Like I said.  We are just going to drive tomorrow.  I have no idea hoe far and where we will be sleeping.  I love a good adventure.

I hope I can blog tomorrow.  It’s hard to find internet when there are no campsites open yet.  Hence, McDonalds.

Good night everyone.

Hello Canada!

April 26, 2018

Today we crossed the Canadian border and our vehicle and trailer were searched. The border guards were very nice and joked with us. I guess because we spent 5 months in Florida they wanted to make sure we weren’t criminals. Lol.

LATER

We were able to get to Portage la Prairie and pull into a Walmart. Dad and I had a drink and mapped out the test of the way home. Ate the most beautiful big mack I’ve ever seen and it was good too. Had a few drinks and spent the night in the parking lot.

Good day. We hope we can get to Battleford, AB by tomorrow night.

So Long MO, Good Bye Iowa, Hello South Dakota

April 24, 2018

We left our campsite Cottonwood RV and hightailed it out of there. We ran a little late and didn’t officially get on the road until about 8:30 am.

It was a fairly smooth ride with some traffic scares and rain. We finally drove out of it just before Omaha. Then it was sunny and nice. Temperature was about 65 degrees and dropping. We ended up at a KOA in South Dakota that was officially closed but they were so nice that they let us stay the night. No wifi. But it had a great dog run and Taco was able to run all his energy out with Gandie.

I griller thin ribeye steaks and asparagus for dinner. It was so good. We had a great night.

What a Long Day

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Today, we woke up early around 6am and got the ball rolling. We were on the road by 6:30ish and stopped for gas which lead us to officially travelling by 7am. So long B-ham! We quickly left Alabama to Mississippi and then to Memphis, TN then got into Arkansas pretty quickly.

Then Missouri. Dad and I thought we were avoiding rush hour and took a detour through what we now think was Missouri wine country. It was very very hilly and it was a two lane black top with switchbacks. The little towns were more like villages and they were very touristy. There was a vineyard every couple miles. They all had German sister cities as well.

Hermann Wine Trail Map

We drove on 100 up and down. It was such beautiful country and we were so busy looking and enjoying the views to even think about taking pictures.

Oops! My bad.

Any who, we then popped out on 70. We then made it out of St. Louis alive during rush hour traffic. 125 miles later we made it to Columbia where we stopped for the night at Cottonwood RV park. Very nice facilities and people. I definitely recommend staying there.

We got set up and I made blackened chicken fingers and French style green beans. It was yummy. After showers and a few drinks it was time for bed.

Bad Luck?

Monday, April 23, 2018

What a miserable day! We woke up extremely early to finish the last bit of packing and clean up at the reno house. Everything was trying to go smoothly, but of course, who do you think we are? We are the Steele’s. Nothing comes easy and so therefore we work extra hard to make things happen and to make it right. We had everything loaded including the dogs and it was about 11:00am. To make things worse I tried to start the engine. Guess what! No, not chicken butt, but dead batteries in Spike! (Incase you are just tuning in, Spike will be played by a very large dark forest green Dodge 3500 Bully Dog dually.)

Any who, a couple hours later of trying to charge batteries, we were able to jump off Spike with an extra battery. Next stop, Windstream. We needed to drop off the modem and the other modem that was mistakenly shipped to me by the online people. Then, I had to call and cancel my service. Just another fun issue we had to deal with. And so goes with the bad luck with the hitch. It’s too low for the trailer. Had to stop at Tractor Supply for a shorter drop hitch. Then, Dad and I couldn’t get the ball to let go ,so we had to buy a new one.

So by the time we headed out it was about 2ish PM. (Cue forehead slap)

We made it to the other side of Birmingham late that night/early morning. It was a really rough night. We had a vodka drink and passed out.