Dad’s Alaska

14-21 May 2020 It is still summer which means that I’m still busier than a one legged pirate in an ass kicking contest. This is Sunday the 21st and like last Sunday I’m slacking off for a couple of hours to write this blog. I finished up last Sunday by moving dirt for a couple of hours and trying to get some irrigation onto the garden and into the greenhouse. Did not accomplish the irrigation project. Mostly didn’t move the pump. etc. due to the fact that the spring box had recovered somewhat and we needed to water all that we could with whatever water was there. If you weren’t living in Alaska you would not suspect that there was a potable water shortage. I’ve been told, recently, that one of our neighbors had 700 feet of well drilled only to come up empty. I’m guessing that the ‘dry hole’ cost them close to $30,000 or so. Well drilling up here is an expensive and risky proposition. And that, sports fans. is why Summer and I haven’t had a well drilled.

Monday. Spent part of the day attempting to repair a pump whose housing had burst last winter. A breaker tripped and left the heat off for several hours and the plastic housing cracked. Got some JB Weld epoxy and some wire mesh (Screen off an old screen door) and used the epoxy to fill the crack and attach the screen over the crack. All that was left to do then was wait 24 hours for it to cure. After that I loaded the trash and some other debris into The Beast’ and left for the dump. I am constantly amazed how two people and four dogs can generate so much trash. If I didn’t make the dump trip, at least once a week, we’d be buried in it. When you add to that the trash generated by our outside activities, it becomes near a pickup bed load every week. After stopping at the dump. I stopped in at Safeway for some ‘make your own dinner’ stuff. Summer has been equally busy and is now working a few hours a week on her regular job with Homer Hounds. Some evenings she just doesn’t feel like cooking dinner for herself much less for me. Can’t fault her for that. Some nights, it almost seems too much trouble to microwave something to eat. On the way home I stopped at Fritz Creek Welding only to find that Mr. Charlie had not had time to do the welding on the rear lift for the travel trailer. Promised to have it by Tuesday afternoon. Arriving back at the homestead, I checked on the pump repair only to find that the epoxy was still not set. After that I loaded the dishwasher and swept the floors. Another semi-productive day in Alaska.

Tuesday. Spent all day diddling with trying to get some irrigation going. Went to town to buy a foot valve for the piping I was going to put into the pond. Of course, no one in town had one. They all stock them but they were all out of stock. That happens a lot up here. The freight is so expensive that they only order at regular intervals. If the regular intervals don’t conform to your needs it’s just ‘tough toenails, Dude’. When I arrived back home, I started going through my plumbing supplies to see if there was anything that could be used instead of a foot valve. In amongst the PVC fittings I found a brass check valve. The reason for owning this valve escapes me. I’m sure that it must have cost $25 or more and it looked brand new. A foot valve is just a check valve that goes on the end of the piping in a well. I decided that this might suffice for the water emergency we were experiencing and would work until I was able to buy the correct foot valve. I found and assembled some 1″ hose that would be attached to the pump and would be placed into the water. I attached the check valve to the end of the line feeding the pump. Started the pump and no water flowed. Then I decided that the pump has lost its’ prime. This required a vodka bottle full of water and a small funnel. I got the water but could not find the funnel that we had been using to prime the pump. The problem is that the opening to prime the pump is so small that it requires a smaller that normal funnel. The funnel search took up a half hour, before I remembered that there had been one in the kitchen. Got the pump primed and turned it on again. Still no water. After some cussing and a closer examination of the valve, I decided that the spring on it was just too strong for the pump to suck it open. This led to the removal of the spring which meant a trip to the Conex tool shed. Back at the pond with the spring removed, I turned on the pump. Success at last, water was flowing and the sprinkler in the garden was sprinkling. It ran for almost three minutes before the repaired housing on the pump burst open and covered me in dirty pond water. There were a number of permutations and time consuming searches for piping, hose and tools during the day that I haven’t recounted. This project was about as aggravating as something might get. If you haven’t grasped the fact that all of this was going on for hours, you just don’t understand. The day ended with me frustrated and still no water for the garden or the greenhouse. Also, I did not get the rear jack from Fritz Creek Welding because I was so focused on the water problem.

The messy repair of the pump that failed
Dirty pond water being pumped to garden

Wednesday. Another trip to town. Frankly, I can’t even remember what I went to get. It must have been something important at the time. On the return trip, I was able to pick up the rear lift assembly for the travel trailer. It was my intention to take it home and install it on the trailer. Unfortunately, I could not lift it into place and get the bolts into it at the same time. Taking it off was pretty easy. Gravity was a great assistant in the removal process. Reinstalling had gravity fighting me as hard as it could. Gravity is a blessing and a curse or so it seems. The final solution will likely be Summer at one end and me at the other installing, at least, one bolt each. Another project delayed as Summer was off doing her part-time job for the afternoon. After that it was a return to the water project or my correctly the lack of water project. With the repaired pump broken again, it was time to take out the spring box pump. That was an adventure. I had forgotten and had not noticed that the system was holding pressure. I disconnected the pump and got my second bath in less than 24 hours. At 60 psi and about 20 gallons of very cold water sprayed onto me and the entire inside of the spring box shed. I was thrilled. Here in Fritz Creek the humidity is often so low that water evaporates in minutes. The result was that I was bone dry in about and hour. Got tired of screwing with this pump and watering system. Took a lunch break before getting into this mess even further. Took the pump out of the spring box and moved all. of the garden hoses down to the pond. Got it all hooked up and turned it on. WATER!!! The garden was, finally, being watered. I was ecstatic right up until the power cord running to the pump began to burn at an old repair. It burned so severely that it looked like lightning on the ground. Luckily, I was standing 50 feet away adjusting the sprinkler. It probably wouldn’t have hurt me had I been standing closer but it would likely have scared the crap out of me. Summer was still at work so I watered all of the outdoor gardens, the Tomato Palace and then the greenhouse. All of the above took much of the day to accomplish. After those tasks, I went on to a bunch of menial tasks before it became Vodka:30.

A glacier deposited rock that I removed on Thursday
_Our derelict house before the big dig
After the big dig

Thursday The day was spent on the tractor. We have been waiting for a dirt guy to get back to Alaska. He comes here every summer and lives up the hill from us and is very reasonably priced. However, we just can’t wait any longer. The dirt must move. There was/were many tons of dirt that had to be removed in order to put the supporting wall under the front of the house. This wall will be 8+ feet tall. It is the first stage of adding onto the house. This wall will be constructed with 8×8 treated lumber. The side against the gravel fill behind the wall will be one inch treated plywood covered in a waterproof material trade named Bituthene. It is a tar based product that is absolutely waterproof. Behind the wall under the gravel will be 4″ black plastic drain line. Water is almost pouring out of the raw dirt bank therefore, water drainage is an imperative to keep the wall dry. Though the wall will be waterproof, there is no reason for having the wall wet. Anyway, back to the tractor. I spent most of the day moving dirt. I think it was nearly 6:00 PM when I got tired and bored.

Friday More dirt moving. Same as Thursday except that in the late afternoon the shovel work began. Some of the dirt removal is of necessity having to be done one shovel full at the time. I spent 2 hours with a shovel in hand. The biggest problem was very large rocks that the tractor could not dig out. I dug them out to the point that the tractor could get to them.

Saturday. Another day of digging with a shovel and with the tractor bucket. Big rocks, little rocks, hard gray clay and mix of dirt and rock we used to call ‘churt’ down in Alabama. I have removed 90%+ of the dirt that needed to be removed. This is gets me down to mostly shovel work. Found that one of the newer pilings I installed last fall was not dug in deep enough. This left the concrete footing for this piling 10-12 inches too high. This would make it 10-12 inches taller than the new footing I will be pouring next week. I will have to figure out how to rectify this situation. The day ended with me still on the shovel brigade. Since this isn’t a government job so there aren’t six guys leaning on shovels while one does all of the digging. I had a few other small projects that needed to be done during the day. It was a very tiring day. It was the longest day of the year in so many ways.

Concrete footing underwater next to the monster rock
Rock to the right of me dirt to the left covering the foundation drain line.

Sunday. Got up late. Spent most of the morning writing this blog. After my typing fingers got tired. I got back to the dirt moving project. Have a big rock still hanging in the wall. It is located here I intend to install a new piling to replace the piling with the footing too high to pour our new footing for the wall. Dug around and under this rock for a couple of hours with no success. It simply would not budge. got the tractor started and used that in an attempt to dislodge this monster rock. No luck. After much effort, I decided to just move the new footing for the new piling over a foot or so. I dug the footing hole for the new piling which was in hard clay and the aforementioned ‘churt’. This took over a half hour. Summer who had been galavanting around the neighborhood came home and we had a late lunch. She was taking care of Dan’s dog, Stu, and some guinea pigs for a different neighbor. The guinea pig neighbor had gone on a camping trip and didn’t want to leave her babies unintended. Summer is just too easy to burden with your difficulties. Back to the piling. I, at last, finished digging the hole for the new footing. Spent about a half hour finding everything needed to mix up the new concrete and about 10 minutes mixing and pouring it into the hole. After the concrete I used the tractor to clean up the loose dirt that I had tossed aside from the shoveling project and then picked up rocks that had been uncovered by the shovel work. I was going to use the tractor to pick up and haul away all of the rocks from the garden area and from my digging. But with the concrete project finished and the loose rocks picked up, I went inside. Inside I loaded the dishwasher and swept the floors. ENOUGH! It is Vodka:30.

The little tractor that could beside rocks removed this week
Even more rocks
The little rock of horror next to the new footing

Well, back to the salt mine. Hope you had a nice weekend.

POSTSCRIPT: Thought I had posted this late Sunday but somehow i screwed up. Happy Tuesday


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