Bob’s Version: Day 55 Homestead

Homestead Day 55 Wednesday 11/152017

Didn’t get much sleep last night. Miss Suzy was having some tummy issues and just couldn’t settle down. She grunted, moaned and paced the bed for almost the entire night. I had dozed off at about 5:00 and awoke again about 5:30 to the sound of her wretching on the comforter. Nothing like dog puke on your bed to get you up and running. Got dressed, took the comforter to the laundry room and took Miss Suzy outside. She had a bout of diarrhea on the floor, while I had gone downstairs with the soiled comforter. All three of the dogs had some sort of intestinal issues one after the other. Seems Taco, the Chihuahua, gave it to Gandy, the Schnauzer, who passed it on to Suzy, the 5.5 lb Yorkshire Terrier. It, also, appears that this disease may have been passed by a shared water bowl. It’s a working theory. No humans have been effected by this bowel shredding ailment. Of course, we aren’t drinking from the same water bowl. Anyway, I got back to sleep around 6:30 and slept until 10:00. Another half day wasted.

About noon we got on the road to Kenai. We needed some more remodeling supplies from Home Depot, some laundry baskets and food from Walmart. The roads were a little icy on the way up but our new siped, studded tires didn’t let us go “slip sliding away”. It’s about an hour and a half drive through God’s country. Did not seen any moose on this trip but did see two dead porcupines. Porcupines are the Alaskan equivalent to armadillos in the South. Arrived at Walmart at about 1:45 as Summer had been driving and she drives like a 90 year old lady. After a $236 shopping spree we departed for Home Depot across the parking lot. Yesterday evening Summer killed the washer with a couple of loads of fleece and jeans. Actually. what killed it was that it wasn’t filling completely and the clutch couldn’t handle the fleece or jeans with the low water level. Perfectly good washer reduced to scrap metal due to a failure of a simple pressure switch.

Home Depot is mesmerizing to a guy like me. I love the smell of the lumber, the array of tools, I would likely never need, and the plethora of stuff just to eyeball whether you need it or not. For this reason I make a list and I only look for and buy what is on the list. Even this takes two hours as we continue to rehab this house. We had to pick out a new washer and it had to be a front loader as they use only about 25% of the water of a top loader. Water is precious commodity and expensive. Topping off our water tank every week is a $50-60. Got the washer, some sheetrock for the downstairs bath, countertops for the kitchen, a kitchen faucet and a 100 feet of heat tape and insulation for our frozen waste lines running to the septic tank. By the time the shopping was done, it was almost 5:00. We departed Kenai and arrived home at about 6:30. The drive home was slower than normal as I have a hard time with night vision.

Back home, I built a fire in the stove while Summer walked the dogs. Fire going, I started unloading the Walmart haul into the house. Since there was no rain predicted we decided to leave the washer and the other Home Depot purchases on the truck until tomorrow. In order to unload the six ton washer, we will need to get to the back door. Getting to the back door entails moving a lot of crap. All in all it was a very busy, boring day.

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We had McDonalds for dinner on the way home. Wasn’t great but it filled the void and I needed a cup of coffee.

November 16, 2017

I think I’m sick of coffee and have just changed to Earl Grey.  It seems I need a change from all the gallons of coffee I drink.  Dad can’t believe that I am sick of coffee.  He thinks no one can get sick of coffee.  It’s a wonderful thing.  Me, I need a change.

Today we need to wrap all the pipes underneath the house with heat tape and insulation.  We are hoping that this takes care of our frozen pipe problems.  We are no longer going to get above freezing anymore and need to defrost the dark pipes one way or another.  We were are crawling under the house and getting to it.  Fun Fun Fun!

I got some coveralls from the Salvation Army not too long ago and am about to put them to use!  One more cup of tea and then bundling up to lay down on frozen mud.  I would have never have guessed I would be doing everything I am doing today if someone was to tell me so.  I feel strong, exhausted, fit, and feel like I could accomplish anything.  I have learned so much from my Dad that if he wasn’t around for some reason that I could totally do this kind of work by myself and thrive.

Well, gonna finish my Earl Grey with lemon and a little sugar and start crawling under the house.

Talk to ya’ll later!

A Trip to Kenai: Nov. 15, 2017

Yesterday, Dad and I had our morning coffee and got ready to go to Kenai for a washer and supplies we need to be able to finish the kitchen and bathrooms.  Before we left Homer we got about 3000 calories of food and I drove to Kenai which the roads had ice all over them.  Dad was paying more attention to the beautiful scenery.  The more North we traveled to more snow and ice there was.  Thank goodness for studded tires.  I almost felt the truck sliding a bit and so I slowed down to regain what I felt was control.  There were frozen ponds that looked like diamonds, I would have taken pictures but I was driving and therefore Dad wasn’t thinking about documenting anything and neither was I.  It was too beautiful to think about taking pictures.

We made it to the turn to Kenai and the roads were very icy.  Most of the road is white and some black where tires had been rolling over the road in the same place.

Dad said, “The speed limit is 55 mpg, why aren’t you driving that?”

Me, “You see the road?  That’s ice, no one is going 55.”

Dad, “Oh.  Okay.”

I did speed up when we finally got to a spot that no longer was icy.

We get to Walmart and I let Dad and Suzy stay in the car.  I go by the list that was given to me and off I went wandering around the largest Walmart I have ever seen.  I’m only looking for stuff on my list.  I’m zig zagging and making circles for the sake of this list only asking for directions when I need them.   I’m so proud, I only got what was on the list and then I start looking for souvenirs for my niece for Christmas low and behold Dad texts me that he’s in the store.  I texted back saying, “You are?”  I turn around from where all the Alaska souvenirs are and there he is my father.  I told him I wanted to buy some things for miss thang and he said that’s what he wanted to do.  So I go steadily souvenir shopping and Dad goes SHOPPING.  I made shopping big because he only had a few things in his cart and then it was just about stacked full a lot of it we really needed.

Next, we have to go to the Home Depot.  We get our plumbing stuff, LED light bulbs and night lights, sheet rock, counter top, faucet for kitchen sink, and a new washer.  We went with a front loader for the fact it uses less water and is more efficient.  Since we only get 500 gallons of water delivered a week, we need to conserve where we can.  So no, everything is loaded up in Spike and we head home.  We again stopped at McDonald’s and ordered another 3000 calories for the ride home. This time Dad was driving and I got a Big Mac. We got home around 6:30, which is pitch black outside and forgot to leave a light or two on.  The dogs were howling in joy that we came home and turned on the lights.  Dad and I took the dogs out and let them do their business and then we started unloading Spike just enough that we could go inside and relax by the fire and watch some tv with a vodka drink.

We are invited to a Friendsgiving on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we are bringing the dressing and candied yams so we need to make a lot.  Now I have to find my casserole dishes and get the stove connected to propane so I can cook like a normal person.   Although I feel like cooking in the wood stove is an accomplishment, it’s so much easier to cook in a regular convection oven.  Especially when you are making huge portions of food.

A kitchen sink would be great as well.  It would be great to wash my hands and dishes without having to always got the the bathtub.  This would be great.


Bob’s Version: Day 54 Homestead

Homestead Day 54 Tuesday 11/14/2017

Got out my nice warm bed at 7:30. This is the earliest I’ve been able to hit the floor since arriving. I think I am beginning to get back into my old sleep pattern. I am much relieved. I drink coffee out of a 16 oz. Tervis Tumbler cup and I usually gulp down 3, sometimes 4, of these filled with coffee every morning. After my heart surgery in 2001 the doctor told me to lay off the amphetamines and coffee. Kidding about the amphetamines but not about the coffee. I really didn’t drink much coffee when he told me to stop. Only after I wasn’t supposed to drink coffee on doctor’s orders did I become a coffee addict. Well, not an addict because I only drink it in the AM. By ignoring the doctor, i found a life long friend, smooth, dark strong coffee. Not the brown water like restaurants serve and not the bitter crap you get at Starbucks. Starbucks regular coffee tastes burnt. I guess they are going for dark and forgot the smooth part. Most Starbucks customers have so much crap put in their coffee that they can’t tell the difference. What the hell is a half caf macchiato anyway? Properly coffeed, I began my day.

During the night my daughter came to my bedroom door and announced that there was a leak in one of the water lines in the kitchen. I told her to turn off the water to the house and went back to sleep. I awoke this morning thinking that this damned plumbing is, obviously, not going to leave me alone. Worse than that the commode downstairs doesn’t drain when flushed. The washer drain backed up, as well. I was aware that some dumbo had put a clean out on the drain line backward. So I assumed that the thing was clogged. I had been planning to replace it for a couple of weeks and already had the parts on hand. I crawled on the frozen ground to the culprit sawed it off with my RYOBI reciprocating saw. Had a tough time getting through this 3 ” pipe. Once I had cut it away I found it to be solidly filled with ice. I went ahead and installed the proper 90 and crawled back out. Even though it was frozen solid, I made the repair. I don’t have any ideas how I’m going to unfreeze a 3″ plastic line. In the good ol’ days with cast iron pipe you just took a blowtorch to them. Not now the pipe melts long before the ice does. The leaking line was a PEX ring improperly crimped. It must have slipped when I was aligning it to crimp. I cut the line and crimped a brass plug into it as I didn’t have the parts to repair it. No drips, no runs and only one error.

Since the washer wouldn’t drain and the commode wouldn’t flush I took the cap off the properly installed clean out and ran a piece of 1 1/2 PVC pipe to the commode from the washer drain. This flushed the commode and allowed us to do laundry until….. the washer broke. All of a sudden it would not fill up properly. We had to resort to filling a bucket in the bath tub and pouring into the washer to finish the last load we could complete. We have 5-6 loads still piled up in the bathroom. And as luck would have it the dryer started making a noise or noises that sounded like an insane rock and roll drummer. As cursory inspection turned up no problem but I’ll still be forced to take it apart to find the source of this annoying noise. “When it rains it pours” except, in the case of the sanitary piping, it doesn’t.

The balance of the day was spent digging through the destruction pile for wood to burn in the stove. The last of the destruction is now retrieved so that can cut it to sizes that fit in the stove. I cut up enough today to get us through tomorrow night. We are planning a trip to the Kenai Home Depot and to the largest Walmart I have ever seen tomorrow.

After another day of frustration, aggravation and x-rated but stifled utterances, I was happy to sit down to dinner. Summer baked several small potatoes in the wood stove along with a tasty meatloaf. A good dinner and a double shot of vodka rocks and I’m now in a better mood.

November 14, 2017

Today I was able to move most of our pictures and paintings into the house from the camper.  Some of these things are big and heavy pics and I could only carry one at a time.  There was a lot of walking back and forth.  Then when I finished that I went and gathered more wood out of the rubble pile.

I’ve been doing laundry all day and realized that our washer has had it.  It got beat all to hell in back when we were moving here.  She’s on her last load and will have to be retired.  So when we are in Kenai tomorrow we are going to have to hemorrhage more money for a new washer.  That just burns my britches.

Taco hasn’t been feeling well and had some spats of the rhea.  He’s in good spirits and is just about back to normal.  He’s playing and giving Gandie hell.  LOL.

Driving to Kenai tomorrow is a break from the normal labor we endure everyday.  It’s a chance to let our bodies get some down time.

Tonight I through caution to the wind and made homesteader’s meatloaf and baked potatoes in the wood stove.  It turned out great!  Basically, I made meatloaf and put it into a foil loaf pan and covered with foil.  Baked until done and put my secret ingredient on it, can you guess?

It’s ketchup!  It caramelizes in the stove and is so good!  So, that was dinner.

I will try to ketchup with ya’ll tomorrow!  I know I’m silly.  Have a great night or morning where ever you are.


Bob’s Version: Day 53 Homestead

Homestead Day 53 Monday 11/12/2017

 Daybreak at this time of the year is about 9:00. This creates the illusion of getting up very early when you arise at 8:00. I have for years gone to bed at between 11 and 12 every night and been back up somewhere between 7 and 8:00. I worked for myself and I had an ailing wife so I was never in a hurry to get up, I just did. Having moved four time zones west certainly messed up my biological clock. Just in the past few days have I begun to get back into my normal pattern of sleep. It seems in part it may be due to having an actual bed in an actual house. A return to normalcy that has let me sleep more soundly during the night instead of awakening several times during the night. The travel trailer was almost like sleeping in tent. The bed was comfortable but every sound penetrated the walls and my brain. It wasn’t that I was afraid it was simply a disturbance of normal sleep. This morning I had my usual caffeine injection. Read some news, paid some bills and sent a couple of emails. My dislike of the coming task, plumbing, made me linger a little longer in front of the fire.

“Once again unto the breech, dear friends” I gathered my wits about me and set about solving the minor, but continually aggravating plumbing problems. Once again I found that there were parts needed to complete the task. 10 miles to the hardware store and back only to find that one of the two parts I bought was wrong. It was on the same peg as the correct one and I just grabbed the first two off the peg. I should have been paying closer attention, so it is ultimately my fault that I got home with the wrong part. Another 10 miles to the hardware store and this time I returned with the correct part. At long last the plumbing system was complete or so I thought. The first test, I had Summer turn on the water at the pump house. Water ran all over the kitchen floor and was dripping from the ceiling in the hallway. A panicked shout to Summer stopped the flood but not before a half dozen towels were needed to soak it up. The leak in the ceiling was easy. I had failed to crimp the rings on two PEX joints. The second not so easy. I had failed to put the valves on the sink lines. I had the valves and I was able to scrape up enough material to get them installed. Finished, at last. But……I forgot to get the hoses for the washer. You could say that Summer was angry as she had run out of clean clothes waiting for the plumbing to be finished. You could say that. But saying that would be a gross understatement. Off I go on my third trip to the hardware store. Ten miles down a two lane black top at a blazing 45 mph. Forty minutes later, I put the hoses on the washer and all was well. Summer began the daunting task of washing two weeks worth of her clothing.

Having solved all of the obvious plumbing problems, I went upstairs to check out the newly operational bathroom. I turned on the water to the sink and the cold water began to run. The cold water handle was in the off position. I turned the under sink valves off. Not a problem I’m going to tackle today. Next I turn on the water for the commode. It filled and filled until it is about to overflow the tank. I shut the water off and tried to flush only to find that the chain was missing. We’d been pouring water from a bucket to flush it since we moved into the house so I was completely unaware of the defective commode parts At that point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. What I did do was go downstairs and make myself a vodka drink and call it a day.

Summer seasoned some chicken thighs and wrapped them in foil. These she placed on the shelf in the wood stove. When she unwrapped the for dinner they were fall off the bone tender. We had some baked beans as a side and had no dessert as we had eaten all of the Nutter Butters last evening.

Bob’s Version: Day 52 Homestead

Homestead Day 52 Sunday 11/12.2017

Dogs were barking last night while I was warming myself and reading the depressing news in the Lower 48. After they wouldn’t shut up when commanded, I arose to see what was the matter. There was a fair sized moose standing in the yard. He/she seemed in no particular hurry and just loitered about for most of 10 minutes before ambling on down through the yard and out of sight. It wasn’t a big surprise as we have seen moose droppings and moose tracks in the yard before. Not being anything close to a moose expert, I was unsure of the sex of the animal. In retrospect, I think it was a female since it had no horns or any indication that it might grow horns. Standing at my window, I was within 20 feet of the critter. That is as close to a live wild animal as I have ever been. It was pretty cool.

Spent the entire day still trying to get the damned plumbing done. One small problem led to another small problem which led to another small problem etc. etc. etc. Finally, I became so frustrated with the project that I just moved on to cutting firewood. The upstairs would have to wait until I was in a better frame of mind.

Our current firewood source is destruction lumber. It makes me almost ill to see this beautiful lumber reduced to useless chunks. We’ve been cutting up the useless chunks and burning them to stay warm. When we run out of that, I’ve decided that we’re going to burn the huge front porch. The previous owner detached it from the house and it has become a safety hazard from rotting wood supports and rotting deck boards. There are still few good planks which I will save but most of it is warped, deteriorating and unusable. I think I can save enough to deck out a smaller porch which I will roof and screen sometime in the future. They say firewood warms you three times: When you cut it, when you split it and when you burn it. I can vouch for the truth in that old saw.

For dinner we had potatoes, baked in the wood stove, and a salad loaded with everything including some beef tips sautéed in bacon fat.

Bob’s Version: Day 51 Homestead

Homestead Day 51 Saturday 11/11/2017 

The usual 8 cup morning starter. Read some news on Drudge, The Mainline, Breitbart and the LA Times. Not much good news these days which is one of the reasons I moved to Alaska aside from the move likely being my last great adventure. I fully expect to see American freedom end in a whinefest instead of a bang. Since I was born there have been three generations of children born each one more pampered than the last. We are only one high altitude nuclear explosion from seeing the Millennial Generation fall to pieces. They don’t know any history, the don’t know any math and they haven’t a clue about the sciences. Of course, there are exceptions but as a group they are so ill-prepared for life that I fear for the nation.

Anyway, back from news hell, I began the last of the rewiring of the house. When we bought the place we found that the previous owner had cut just about every wire in the house. Some of them simply cut off even with the stud, floor plate or boxes left with stubs of wire barely extending from the interior connections. What kind of insanity makes people just destroy an entire house? By days end I passed a milestone, the final wire was installed into the breaker panel and turned on. No sparks, no fire just the sweet hum of our home water cooler doing it’s job, at last.

Unfortunately, there was little time to enjoy this passing milestone as my daughter reminded me that we still did not have the washer or the dryer running. I knew the dryer would be easy as all it needed was the power cord attached. The washer, on the other hand, would require a great deal of plumbing. I had used PEX piping to get water to the downstairs bath and over to the kitchen but I hadn’t run pipe for the upstairs bath and the washer. The upstairs was fairly complicated as flooring would need to be removed and holes would necessarily need to be cut in walls. I worked on the plumbing until I ran out of the needed parts. I quit about 7:30 PM and ate dinner.

Dinner was Taco Salad, sweet tea and Nutter Butters for dessert.

What Day Is It?

The last couple of days have all blended together.  The gathering of wood is a full time job it’s the first thing we do after drinking coffee.  So, every morning starts out the same with lots of coffee and the gathering wood.  I sure wish that the wood guy contacts us.  I hate wondering around gathering old pieces of the house to burn.

On a happier note.

I did my first load of laundry last night. Today I am finishing the unloading of the travel trailer and doing laundry.  I got to talk to an old friend for about an hour the other night and was a lot of fun.  It was nice to reminisce about the old days of ropes swings and kayaking and how wonderful Alaska is.  Good times!

The kitchen is almost a kitchen and the water has been run upstairs.  It seems we are getting closer to a fully functioning home.

The other night the sky was so clear that you would think you were in some sort of fish bowl or snow globe.  You could see Orion’s belt right in front of you.  So close you could almost touch it!  Same with the big dipper so close you could connect the stars together.  There is so much sky that it seemed to bend around me.  I felt tiny in this big universe, one little person standing in the dark vastness of space.
Enough about that.

I was at a friend’s house the other night and enjoying a yummy dinner of lamb, potatoes and bok choy. So good!  Anyway, Dad was home alone and the dogs started barking.  He looked outside and there is a moose about 20 feet from the door!  It had to be about 5:30-6pm.   Dad enjoyed watching this beast walk through the property.  I new we had moose coming through the property but we never see them.  I am so jealous.  There is plenty of time to be able to spot one.

Well, I guess I better get back to work.  The laundry won’t wash itself and the camper will not unload itself.

Tomorrow we head to Kenai for more supplies to finish the kitchen and shelving.

Bob’s Version: Day 51 Homestead 

A history lesson for those of you who may have just found us. 68 days ago (17 of them driving) Summer and I left our home on the Suwannee River to change our lives in ways that were unknown to us at the time. Some have been good others not so much. We packed our lives into a 28′ cargo trailer and a 40′ school bus and set out on this adventure. We spent 17 days getting from O’Brien, FL to Fritz Creek, AK. It was an arduous trip made mostly at 50 mph. As we had only one familial connection in Florida and she was quickly becoming an independent young woman. So there was little to keep us from pursuing our lifelong dream. The grand daughter and her loving family are only an airline ticket away. So here we are trying to out this derelict house back in proper order. The entire history is on
Day 51 Friday 10/102017 Arose at dawn or about 9:30 to blinding sun and brilliant blue skies. As I got dressed, I looked out from my second story window to see that it had been sleeting during the night. There was just enough to cover Spike’s cab (Spike is a Dodge Ram 3500 diesel, 4 wheel drive ‘Bully Boy’). Spike is one wonderful bit of machinery. Anyway, I went downstairs to where I could smell coffee brewing, stepped out the backdoor for some fire wood and to let Miss Suzy do her morning business. The thermometer was reading about 15 degrees. Not too bad for daybreak. While I sipped my usual 8 cup kick start, I read some news and planned today’s activities. We are still without adequate firewood as the providers of said wood have not yet been able to get into the forest and cut said wood as the ground has not yet frozen. The result is that we’re still burning destruction wood from the previous owners ripping one of the rooms off the house.  
Gathering wood begins with not dressing to warmly even though the outside temp is hovering around 18. Dress too warmly while you are working hard leads to perspiration and that leads to getting very cold very quickly because the sweat evaporates and cools the skin while doing so.. The cold here in Alaska is very dry so any skin exposed to that cold is dry and cracking before you can say BOO! Anyway, I treaded very carefully out onto the wood pile avoiding upright nails as I went. The wood pile, which due to some poor planning (I forgot the 7Ps) on my part is partially covered in dirt and gravel, there I began knocking the frozen boards loose. Knock a board loose and toss it on to the gravel driveway near Summer, my daughter, then rinse and repeat. Spent about an hour gathering up the lumber pieces before I was breaking a sweat and my toes were cold. The fool, that deconstructed this room with a chainsaw, cut up several thousand dollars worth of lumber. There is rough cut lumber pieces from 6″x12″ down to 2″x6″ and many of the had to be 12 feet or longer. Like the song says, “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy”. With several days of wood procured we went inside to reap the benefits of the effort by warming our hands and feet by the wood stove. We aren’t without heat even if there is no wood. We have an oil fired stove that will keep us from freezing to death, even if it won’t heat the entire house.
Next on the agenda was getting the plumbing and electrical run for the washer and dryer. These were once in the missing room but now must reside in the downstairs bathroom until other arrangements can be made. To do that I had to remove some of the old boards from the original cabin. I probably need to remind you that this two story house was attached to an old homestead cabin. Half of that cabin was the water storage room and laundry. That is the half that the crazy person removed. I was a little sad to saw away what was just about the last untouched pieces of someone’s history. But progress must be made and Summer wants the washer and dryer installed ASAP. I do, as well, for a different reason. The cost of doing two peoples weekly laundry is a staggering $25 plus. When I was in college and wore my cleanest dirty clothes to the laundromat the cost was about $3 for a months worth of laundry. Running the drain proved to be a problem as the wall had a 3″ standpipe/drain from upstairs running through it. No choice but run the drain on the outside of the wall. Kinda ugly but a necessary solution. I already had hot and cold water run in PEX piping in wall so that did not pose much of a problem for connections. The electrical wiring was run in an existing chase and through the wall. And as that brilliant philosopher, Bobby Cecil, used to say, “All we lack is finishing”.
Next open the day’s program was the assembly of the dining room table. It is a very nice table left by the previous owners. They had taken the legs off and stacked it against the wall. Summer wanted it so I dragged it to the middle of the kitchen and she assembled it while I was closing the torn out wall with some plywood. After a bit she called me to help her stand it up. We started to lift it an one of the legs broke off. Apparently, the disassemblers of the table had unscrewed the wood screw part most of the way out of the leg. Inspection found that another leg had the same problem. I sent Summer to find some Gorilla Glue while I found the tools we would need to repair the leg. When she returned I showed her how to jam two nuts together and screw the bolts back into the wood. Also, showed her how to clamp the leg with a couple of small screws to tighten the joint so that the glue could set properly. I am a big fan of Gorilla Glue as the joint it makes it stronger that the wood it connects.
The day ended with us sitting at the newly assembled table eating potato soup and watching TV. No complaints about having soup again, it was very good.