Dad’s Alaska

Here’s to knowing why you are where you are.

8 thru 13 June 2020

I haven’t written in a while because we’ve been too busy and I’ve just been too tired. To do this blog on a daily basis requires about two hours of time only interrupted by trips to the coffee pot. Even trips to the coffee pot have been interrupted by the unrelenting work needing to be done. However, this Sunday morning, I am on strike.

I got up at my usual 8:00 AM, made coffee, took Miss Suzy to do her morning business, opened a can of biscuits and made milk gravy for the first time in years. We almost never have milk. Last week I asked Summer to get me some Half & Half for my coffee. She came home with a half gallon of the stuff. This is a months supply of Half & Half, if I’m only using it in my coffee. I like a little milk in my coffee. Some people like a little coffee in their milk and I think Summer was confused as to which I am. As a way to avoid tossing out the milk (when it spoils before I can use it all), I used some in the Sunday gravy. This has to be the first time in many years, if not decades, since I made milk gravy instead of Depression gravy for breakfast. I have reconstituted powdered milk and used it in beef dripping to make gravy for mashed potatoes but never any kind of milk for breakfast gravy. Probable reason for this is that it seems too much trouble when I’ve just crawled out of bed. Whilst stirring the gravy to make sure the lumps dissolved my mind drifted off on another tangent.

Southerners and Alaskans have much in common. I suspect that this is the reason that I meet so many people from the South who have been living up here for decades. The post-Civil War South was an area of America where you learned to do with what you had. From the post-Civil War era (I call it the War of Northern Aggression as Lincoln had no constitutional right to send troops to the South to enforce the Cotton Tax..never mind. This is a discussion for another time.) through the Great Depression and WWII were time of great poverty in the South. Most white people had next to nothing and most black people had less than that. After the Civil War and as the Union troops went back north they stripped the South of anything of value. That included farm equipment, animals and anything else that they took a fancy to as they were on their way out the door. After that anything else of value was taken by the” Northern carpetbaggers’ that flooded into the destitute South. This led to Southerners, black and white, having to use whatever broken, bent or discarded tool, wagon etc. and, somehow, repairing it in an attempt to feed and clothe themselves. This led directly to what has been called “Southern Ingenuity”. Alaskans while they haven’t suffered the ravages of a Civil War have been forced to use whatever they have handy to make a tool, an abode or feed themselves since the beginning of humanity. The newcomers from the Lower 48 have, of necessity, had to do the same thing. Don’t have a knife you make one, You don’t have food you trap it. If you don’t have a warm coat, you make it. After the oil boom started there has been a lot less of this behavior but it still exists today the same as it does in the South. Here in Alaska the cost of getting any item isn’t just the price. The price might only be a dollar but the freight to get it here might be five dollars. Hence you, one way or another, make whatever you have do the work. I’m calling this “Alaskan Ingenuity”. They, like Southerners of my generation and earlier, are forced to do with what they have and they do it so very well. I am proud of being a man of the South and equally as proud to be becoming a man of Alaska.

Summer spent most of 5 hours cleaning the trailer. It was a job for Superwoman and she was up to the task. I am left with cleaning the refrigerator as it has mold in it and she is very allergic to almost every mold known to man. Tomorrow, Sunday, she will clean the carpet, mop the floors, take pictures and we’ll call the interior done. I have to reinstall the rear lift on Monday and that will conclude all necessary repairs to the travel trailer. I’m hoping it will find a new home soon.

Days have been spent getting the travel trailer ready to sell. It had some problems that had to be addressed. The first was that neither of the propane heaters were working. The forward heater never ran. I dug around until I found that there was no power to it. This, as previously reported, led to an all out search for a fuse panel yet unknown. The aft heater, which we stopped using because of the screeching noise that I thought was motor bearing, had absolutely nothing wrong with it. What was causing the screeching is still a mystery. It does not do it now so HURRAY! On the last leg of the trip to Fritz creek, the commode was near overflowing and the holding tank would not drain. I tried everything when it first happened nearly 3 years ago and was unable to get it to drain. I cut the drain pipe that I thought was the sewage drain (later discovered that it was the gray water drain) and ended up making 5 trips to the hardware store to rectify my error. After this fiasco I ran near twenty gallons of water down the commode and much to my surprise clear water came rushing out when the dump valve was opened. I can’t imagine how it repaired itself but, somehow, it did. Then came the clunking noise when the bedroom slide out was extended. This I expected to require extensive surgery on the slide out but, in fact. it was as simple as removing the mattress. The ‘under the bed’ is a storage area. The lift up lid is the foundation for the mattress. A sheet of thin plywood is the bottom of the storage. By removing the piece of plywood we gained access to the slide out drive assembly. The problem was discovered very quickly. Summer ran the drive and I found that the drive motor had slipped enough to allow the chain to jump a tooth on the drive gear. This was the loud clunking noise. A half inch wrench and a pry bar got the chain tight again. Another problem solved. The rear leveling lift had never worked. I had on numerous occasions threatened to repair it. As per usual, there was always something more pressing that required my attention. All four of the struts that hold the two legs were bent. How that happened, I have no clue. They didn’t seem to be nearly robust enough for the job they were meant to do. I had Charlie at Fritz Creek Welding straighten and weld on some reinforcing material. He did an excellent job. I put these back onto the lift lying on my back under the trailer with dirt falling into my eyes. Wearing my ‘close up’ glasses did not seem to block much of the dirt. With this potentially blinding task completed, I gave the lift a try. The motor ran but the lift did not move and it made a clunking noise. That was when I discovered that the slot in the drive shaft of the lift (that connects the motor to the shaft) had split open. The clunking noise was the drive pin in the motor shaft slipping though the split open drive shaft. Another piece of equipment not built heavily enough to do the job for which is it was destined. The only way to repair it was to remove the entire lift from the trailer. This turned out to be pretty easy. The whole damned thing was held onto the trailer frame by four 1/2 inch bolts. More stuff that didn’t seem properly robust enough for the job. It seems that the manufacturer or some engineer had seriously underestimated the forces that would be applied to this piece of equipment. After it was removed I carried up to my work bench and used a propane torch and a hammer to get the split shaft back to close to factory specs. It could be welded back together but it still wouldn’t be strong enough. It would split again the next time someone tried to use it. I wasn’t going to have the new owner cuss me for doing some half assed repair. I would repair it like I was going to be using it. The repair entailed cutting a one inch piece of pipe and the splitting it in half. I cut a slot in each half so that the motor drive pin could engage it properly. I was going to weld the pieces into place myself. Then I remembered ‘Dirty Harry’-“A man has to know his limitations.” I loaded the lift and the two handmade pieces into ‘The Beast’ and took off to Fritz Creek Welding. Charlie is infinitely more qualified to attach the new shaft pieces than I am ever likely to be. He told me that he would have them done by Monday. That would now be tomorrow. Just when I thought that the only thing left was to clean the interior of the trailer, I moved the kitchen faucet, to get some trash out of the sink, and the spout came off in my hand. There was no reattaching it. The plastic threads had broken off and it was now junk. This led to a series of screw ups. I was going to go to town and buy a new faucet. The I remembered that Dan was a remodeler of kitchens. It stood to reason that he would have saved an old faucet or two. That would save me $50-$60, if he did and he would give me one of them. It turned out that he had several. I decided that since we were about to remodel the kitchen, and we’re getting a new faucet, I’d take our kitchen faucet and use it in the trailer. All of the faucets Dan had were single hole and the trailer needed a 3 hole faucet. Problem solved. NOT! The first faucet Dan gave me didn’t work. I couldn’t figure out why and didn’t want to spend any time or money trying to repair it. Money was the primary consideration. Spending nearly $40 on a Moen repair kit didn’t seem like the smart thing to do with a free faucet. Summer went to Dan’s house and got another. While she was gone I installed the three hole house faucet into the trailer sink. There were some piping modifications needed and, fortunately the piping was PEX. I’ve owned PEX crimpers and fittings for 20 years. I repiped this house using PEX pipe. PEX pipe is forever pipe. If it freezes it simply expands and when it thaws it contracts back to its’ original size. If you use the brass fittings and copper crimp rings your children’s children’s children might have to replace it, maybe. Anyway, I got the repiping done and the faucet installed just about the time Summer returned from Dan’s house. Only one problem. The house faucet had a sprayer and there was no hole for it in the trailer sink. I was going to drill a hole in the sink until I found that the sink was porcelain over steel. In other words, the sink was of a better quality that most of the rest of the trailer. I don’t understand how that could have happened. Had they been consistent it would have been a fiberglass sink. I could have drilled a hole in the porcelain sink. I have the tools. BUT I was afraid that the porcelain would shatter or crack in ways that could not have been hidden by the sprayer escutcheon. The solution was to plug the sprayer outlet on the faucet. I cut off the sprayer hose to about 4 inches, found a bolt that I could force into the hose and hose clamped the bolt into place. Attached the modified hose to the faucet. The trailer kitchen faucet is now working properly. Back at the homestead, I attempted to remove the non-working faucet. I had done the job too well and couldn’t get the faucet off the sink. After a bit of cussing and stomping around, I realized that, when I had installed the sink into this temporary countertop it was temporarily installed. It was only caulked into place. I removed the sink, got the bad faucet off, put the next faucet on, caulked the sink onto the countertop and connected the water lines. Job done. WRONG! This faucet didn’t work. This unfortunate fact led to me investigating the entire water system only to find nothing wrong, The faucet I put into the trailer was working when I took it out of the house sink. There should have been no problem with the water supply. When I had turned this new faucet on it sort of dribbled out some dirty water before I turned it off and went looking for nonexistent problems elsewhere. After deciding that there was no supply problem, I took the bubbler out and cleaned it. No real improvement. It was still just a dribble. At that point, I decided to just leave it on and see if it might improve as the little bit of water passed though. It took about 10 minutes for the flow to become adequate. It only flows about half the water the original faucet flowed but we can live with it until we install the new kitchen.

The kitchen sink in the travel trailer
The nice clean refrigerator

We haven’t had any significant amount of rain since ‘Break Up’. The snow melt filled the ponds and the spring box. Now the ponds are low and the spring box only fills to about 3 feet. We, usually, have fifteen or more feet of water in the spring box. Yesterday I was watering the garden and the spring box was pumped out completely. We still have several thousands gallons of water in the pond next to the greenhouse/garden area that we can pump. Pumping that water will entail moving the spring box pumping equipment to a point near the pond. In the event that it ever rains again, it will have to be put in some sort of rainproof box that I will have to build. All of this is likely to take another precious day of summer that we can ill afford to waste. I have been trying for a month or more to have two days in a row to finish leveling the house. It has just been one damned thing after another. We seem to be sliding down a slippery slope from disaster to catastrophe without a moment to draw a deep breath. It is most certainly discouraging. Chief Dan George’s character told Clint Eastwood in ‘The Outlaw Josie Wales’ that Secretary of the Interior told the Indian Chiefs, (as they were leaving Washington, DC) to “Endeavor to persevere”. We are endeavoring to persevere in the face of many setbacks and aggravations. Much of this has been a job for ‘Stupidman’ and I am he. It’s too late to run away or back out now as it’s kinda like ‘Going All In’ while holding two deuces and with none in the ‘River’. I have my moments of discouragement but then I look out the window across Kachemak Bay and at the snow capped mountains and remember why I’m here.

All of these picture are self explanatory

There have been a dozen or more little time consuming jobs aside from the travel trailer. Each and every one eating up part or all of valuable summer days. Minor repairs to the tractor, the garden, the Land Rover, attempts to organize the Conex, floors swept, dishes washed, dogs fed, laundry done, necessary trips to the store, ad infinitum.

We have been greenhouse shopping. We bought this ClimaPod greenhouse that is a total POS. We have contacted them in an attempt to get replacement parts to repair some damage with no success. I called the corporate number and some guy, with what I took to be a Chinese accent, told me to email them a list of needed parts. We have yet to hear a word from them since. If you were considering buying one of their products DON”T. The damned things are a ten thousand piece jigsaw puzzle with half assed assembly instructions that aren’t even in the correct order. Follow the instructions and you’ll end up taking apart things you’ve already assembled. And as I previously stated. they don’t give a damn about helping you, if the structure is somehow damaged. Enough of that rant. We found a greenhouse supplier we know well but the $4900 20×60 greenhouse is saddled with $2800 in freight. to get it here. This makes it way too expensive for the square footage that it provides. I guess we’re on our way to PLAN B, whatever that is.

Well, I have to go meet Summer at Dan’s house and pickup the scrap wood from his house addition project. It is mostly kindling but some could be firewood. After that I have to clean the refrigerator in the travel trailer. I have avoided that project about as long as I can. I’ll likely be mopping the kitchen floor again. After that, I guess, I’ll start moving the pumping system to the pond.

The fire wood & kindling from Dan’s house.

Y’all come back now. Ya hear?

One thought on “Dad’s Alaska

  1. Been there… always something that “needs” to be done getting in the way of progress, you just have to stay focused on what (has) to be accomplished before the snow fly’s.

    A farm I know about 100 miles further North and West of the homestead in Manley Hot Springs used old military Quonset huts for his greenhouse and we built ours from scratch using rough cut lumber and see through fiberglass material that must have been for some weird roof. We found the fiberglass in the dump and cut the stuff to fit.

    …and my friend I have said it before
    when things get rough
    I would simply walk to the edge of the homestead
    and stare at the valley below and like you the mountains in the distance and
    after a while I knew it was all worthwhile because I was living in a place
    touched by the hand of God.

    Like

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