Dad’s Alaska

Here’s looking to winter to get some rest.

October 18, 2020 Sunday

Today was spent removing stuff that we thought we wanted when we moved to Alaska in September of 2017. Clothes purchased and worn once and some not at all. Summer’s dive gear that she is not likely to ever use again. Several thousand dollars in dive gear that she has been unable to sell for $500. Summer’s excess collection of film cameras, lenses and paraphernalia that no one wants any more. Most phones now take pictures that are almost as good as a dedicated film camera. Old technology superseded by new technology. I’ll be 76 in just 14 days. I’ve seen a crap load of superseding in those preceding years. I removed a half dozen coats and thick hoodies from a storage closet. Most of them I had forgotten that I owned. We removed a twin bunk bed set from the upstairs bedroom along with several boxes that should have been in my Conex ( 40′ shipping container) workshop. How they got upstairs in that bedroom is a mystery. All of these last minutes of activity in what is now Fall up here is a spasm of claustrophobic remembrance of the lack of interior space during the last tough winter. All of this excess will be on sale to people who may or may not need all of this junk, but, thank the Lord, will buy it. We’ll do two weekends unless it begins to snow and whatever is left goes directly to the Salvation Army. We’ve already donated a couple of truck loads of stuff. Since we moved here we are finding that much of the stuff we thought we needed is either useless or superfluous. Also, as I have achieved well past my “three score and ten”, I’m finding that I just really don’t want or need very much. The sale goes on rain or shine in the new tent/greenhouse that I built for Summer to house her new gardening business. She closed for the season yesterday, stored her inventory and will be going back full time to her other job. The store will be open to sell all of our excess. How convenient.

We’ve had several projects going on at the same time. When one was stalled we moved on to the next. This rock walled flower bed was one of my side projects. If rocks were dollars we would be billionaires.

Piling rocks for a flower bed
Another view of this Fred Flintstone flower bed
There were some beautiful and unusual rocks. These were still caked with dirt. Rain later cleaned them.
Thought I had a picture of this in full summer bloom. Guess not.
Another view

Had really great intentions to get a heavy duty support wall under the front of the house and thereby level the entire house. However, other seemingly more urgent and important problems kept cropping up until the rainy season began. The rain made mudslides under the house that completely filled and covered the forms for the concrete footing under 3-4 feet of water infused mud. The area out past the mudslides was filled with water that covered 4-6 inches of mud. I very nearly lost one or the other of my rubber boots every time I stood still for more than a few seconds. Why the house hasn’t slide into the void is a mystery and nothing short of a miracle. Three of the posts supporting the house were completely undermined and were simply hanging from the beam that they were supposed to be supporting. All in all it was a big fricking mess. I spent most of two days moving this water ladened mud with my little tractor. (I got my little Pasquale tractor repaired in the Spring. I had to buy another tractor ($2000) for parts so that I could make the repairs). Once I got the mud removed, I poured 3 concrete piers so as to replaced the posts that were no longer supporting anything.

The mudhole with unremoved mud slides on the left
Another shot from different angle
Before the mud slides.

I have been having a great deal of pain in my left shoulder. Humping those 80 lb. sacks of concrete around did not lessen the pain. It took me two days to finish digging and pour the piers. There was so much water seeping into the holes I dug that I ended up using a couple of plastic tubs for forms. The first wooden form kept floating and the water seeping in made it almost impossible to get the concrete to the correct consistency. As a last resort, I poured two full bags into the form without adding water. I was then able to mix them and shove the rebar down into the mixture. This was to be the most important pier as I am intending to use it as the point to jack the house back up to level. What was left to do is wait 10-14 days to allow the concrete to properly harden before I start using a 40 ton jack to lift the house. More fun is yet to come and I’m hoping that the ground will freeze before I have to start jacking up the house. I am well and truly tired of the mud.

Mud up to the line muddy water above that.

I finished the piers on Wednesday and went to the doctor on Friday. I said “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” He replied “Well, don’t do that.” Anyway that was the result of the visit. He injected some crap into the left shoulder joint and told me to quit lifting anything heavier than a glass of iced vodka. I told him that those were doctors orders that I could follow. I’m hoping that 10-12 days of respite will suffice as I have to put the new posts under the house. They aren’t that heavy but they are heavy enough to hurt when I lift them.

It is nearing the season of snow. The sun is setting earlier and earlier leaving even less time to do the work that must be done. Summer has been operating her new business from Thursday through Sunday. It is bulb planting season in this part of Alaska. Time to get you garlic and bulb flowers into the ground before the freeze makes the ground so hard that you couldn’t drive a shovel into it with a sledge hammer.. Between customers she has been splitting firewood. I chainsawed up just over 8 cords and piled it up. Summer has been splitting and then stacking it in our woodshed tents. She is a long way from finished and I guess that I’ll have to jump in this week and try to get it done.

What is left of the 8 cords of firewood.
Another firewood picture.

I mentioned earlier that I had built Summer a place for her garden center business. Here are some pictures of the construction.

Posts sitting ready to be tamped in.

Every post had to have 6 inches of dirt removed for2 feet in all directions to accommodate 2 inches of foam insulation. The insulation is there along with the plastic wrapped and stapled to the post to keep the frost from lifting the post out of the ground. Anything buried less than 4 feet and without the plastic and insulation is likely to be lifted right out of the ground. It is a serious problem that must be addressed regardless of the time or monetary cost.

Platform with 2×4 floor joists still showing along the edge.
Completed tent and attached greenhouse

It took me just over 4 weeks working alone to get the platform finished. This included rain delays, material delays and a few days of “I just don’t feel like it” or more precisely “I just don’t give a damn”. I wasn’t sick so much as I was sick of the project. I had a guy and a machine dig the post holes. The only problem was is that almost all of the 24 post holes were several inches from where they needed to be. In addition, every one of them was drilled at an angle. That meant you couldn’t stand the posts up straight. I redug every post hole with a manual post hole digger to get them straight and in the correct position. After that I removed all of the dirt (up to a foot deep and 4 feet across) to install the insulation. The only easy part of this operation was using the tractor to cover the insulation with about a foot of dirt. Covering the insulation took an entire day.

Me not giving a damn about working.

When the actual construction started, I thought that It was going to be a ‘piece of cake’. Wrong again, Murgatroid. While I had been so careful to line the posts up along the length, I had failed to line them as precisely across the width. Meaning that two of the posts might line up but the third would not. The third one could be either end or the one in the middle. The only solution was to attach a 2×6 on either side of the three rows of posts. This would allow me to place 8′ floor joists across the width. Not what I had intended. This stupid mistake left me with not enough 2x6s to put in as floor joists because I had to use 360 feet of 2x6s to tie the posts together down the length of the platform. Buying enough 2x6s from Home Depot was almost $1200. I was stumped. I decided to consult with Dan, Summer’s signifiant other. Dan is a Master Carpenter with years of experience and, actually, went to school for carpentry. He suggested that I use 2x4s instead of 2x6s and put them on 12″ centers instead of 16″ centers. Just as strong for half the money. One hundred 2x4x8 cost $580 and the problem was solved.

Store open
60’ of aircraft carrier deck

Well, it isn’t entirely finished. There are still some minor tweaks to be made so that we can put the bee hives in the greenhouse portion for the winter.

This has been a season of numerous bear sightings. We’ve only seen one on our property so far this year. Thankfully they will be hibernating soon. Mostly the only bears we and others have seen are black bears. The brown bears (Grizzly bears) are usually not seen very often in our little corner of Alaska. This year, however, we’ve heard a number of reports of brown bears and some of them with cubs. Any bear with cubs is especially dangerous and not to be taken lightly. Every time we go out the back door we pause on the steps with the door still open and take a careful look around. I have no ambitions of becoming bear poop or being trampled to death by a mama moose. Summer has attributed our lack of bear sightings (even though people near us have seen bears) to the noisy geese. It seems that these honking bastards scare the hell out of almost everything except eagles and other birds. I really, really don’t mind not seeing a bear.

Well, that’s about it for me tonight. My shoulder is hurting from the position I’m sitting. Time to quit writing and drink vodka.

One thought on “Dad’s Alaska

  1. Thanks for the update…
    I have missed you postings and this was a welcome posting.
    Your lucky your in the South because my daughter has had not only a few inches of snow
    and single digit temps but today freezing rain producing black ice on the roads.
    Be safe and have a good day


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