17 November 2020 Tuesday
I got a haircut today. Paid $15 instead of the $25 going rate for Homer. The woman barber complained that my hair could have been cleaner. I’d showered Sunday night and had not been sweating. I think the problem lies in the fact that every couple of days I have to change the oil in my hair. I wasn’t going to shower until I got a haircut. I don’t want to go to bed at night and be breathing in loose hair. In addition, we don’t live in town on city water so our water is delivered. Water is an expensive commodity that you can’t afford to waste. My hair may have been a little greasy but I’m pretty sure I didn’t stink as I put on clean clothes daily. I might wear a pair of jeans twice. This isn’t Florida where you sweat all year round.
It was a heat wave today. The temperature got up to just over 33F. I still had to wear gloves and a hat but it was remarkably warm for this time of the year. Summer told me that it will probably start raining tomorrow. Rain instead of 8 inches of snow will be a good thing. I still have a crap load of stuff that needs to be picked up before the snow, even though I’ve spent much of the day picking up and storing stuff. I finished picking up and stacking the last of the firewood fairly quickly. A couple of hours of avoiding distractions (that would lead to sidetracks that would lead to a point where none of the tasks would get completed) got that chore completed pretty quickly.
The 20 year old Range Rover is making some kind of weird noise at the rear wheels. I removed one of the rear wheels for an inspection. The was no obvious problem to account for the scraping noise it makes when the wheels are turning. Also, there isn’t any consistency in the noise. Sometimes it makes a lot of noise and sometimes it makes none. It is a mystery. I’m thinking that the non-factory lug nuts may be allowing the wheel to move on the lug studs. This could account for the problem as they are somewhat smaller that the factory version. Tomorrow, I’ll swap out the lug nuts. We bought a junk Rover of the same make and model. It has a bad engine but is full of good parts we may need to keep our Rover on the road. It has five good tires, a new battery amongst those good parts. Only paid $500 for it and the tires and rims are worth more than that. Had to put the ‘new battery’ into our Rover a couple of weeks ago as the tractor battery died and I had more use for the tractor more than the Rover. Oddly enough, the Rover with new battery installed had to be jump started almost every time we wanted to use it. I, presumably, solved that problem by disconnecting the battery after every use. Connecting and disconnecting the battery was a pain in the ass. It seemed that the Rover had a short in the electrical system that kept draining the battery and it was the most simple of all possible solutions. That was until the damned car wouldn’t start when the battery was reattached. Summer took the battery back to the parts store where it was purchased and it tested to have an internal short. I suspected that the Rover had a short somewhere I just didn’t expect it to be in the battery. The nationally known auto parts chain store did not want to warranty the battery because we weren’t the original purchaser of said battery. Talked with my friend, Bill Enright, in Clearwater, Fl and happens to work for the same chain. He told me that that was company policy, no exceptions. I was disappointed and resigned to buying another $150 battery He, also, told me to have that store manager call him that he’d get me a new battery at cost. Now I was down to a $100 battery and was still not happy about it. I guess I’m one of those people my Dad often described as “You couldn’t make them happy if you hung them with a new rope”. I never understood what that meant until I got to thinking about it just now. A new hemp rope is oily and the rope will slide easily through the 13 coils of the noose. The ease and quickness gives a sharp snap of the neck and a quick death. An old rope might slide more slowly and the poor soul would just hang and slowly choking to death for several minutes. So chronic complainers don’t appreciate whatever you do for them and would complain if you hung them with a new rope. I guess I’ll just rethink my complaint and resign myself to buying the new battery.
Later Summer came home from work we discussed the damnable battery again. I asked if her friend, who originally bought the battery, would return the battery and have it warranted. I was still trying to avoid the noose. A quick text received no answer. The $100 noose was tightening.
18 November 2020, Wednesday
Well, it’s a day later and the rain did not come as was predicted, by Summer and The Weather Channel, a couple of days ago. Today, I have a laundry list of chores that need to be done. Take the factory lug nuts off the ‘parts’ Rover and put them on the ‘good’ Rover. This entailed removing two lug nuts from each Rover and swapping their location. I did it that way in order to avoid the need to jack up one and then the other. All that jacking cars up and down would have taken a half day. Even the swapping them two at the time took over an hour. Take off two lug nuts, walk 40 yards to the other car take off two lug nuts and replace them with the ones from the other car. It took 7 roundtrips as the 24 volt impact gum wouldn’t remove them from the good Rover. This led to needing a 24″ breaker bar to loosen the nuts and a trip to the Conex. Got two off and went to the ‘parts’ car only to find out that the lug nuts were a different size and had to make another trip to get a larger socket and the breaker bar. After that it was pretty simple and only entailed a bunch of walking back and forth. I still had no battery for the ‘good’ Rover so I was unable to test for the noise. Summer was still hauling the battery around hoping to hear from her friend. Much of the balance of the day was spent moving stuff and getting small stuff off the ground so that it wouldn’t end up choking the snowblower. We were given a new snowblower during the summer. The owner never used it and was selling his house and wasn’t going to need it. Also, he couldn’t get it started because he hadn’t treated the gasoline that he’s put in when he brought it home the previous winter. I guess, he figured that no one would buy it. I ordered a carburetor for it ($18) and it runs like a champ. I shoveled paths to everything last winter. Good physical exercise but an exercise in futility when the paths fill up after every snow event. I shoveled the necessary paths, at least, 10 times last winter. 2F and sweating profusely, even after shedding much of the heavier winter clothing, was not fun. When you stop working you are instantly very cold. The low humidity makes the sweat evaporate and evaporative cooling sets in. Frostbite in minutes, if you don’t get somewhere warm.
In the last sentence of the previous paragraph, I had to go back and put a comma after the word ‘minutes’. I cannot tell you the punctuation rule that says there must be a comma preceding the word “if” in a sentence like that. My Hueytown High School English teacher was at her wits end trying to teach me the Rules of Grammar. She was a rotund, red faced woman whose face became even redder when dealing with my ignorance. I’d take the grammar tests and get the correct answers but had no clue why they were the correct answers. We alternated with six weeks of Grammar and then six weeks of Literature. I made C’s in Grammar because I could not explain the reason for the punctuation or identify any part of any sentence. Diagraming a sentence was about the same as Egyptian hieroglyphics. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I made A’s in Literature because I would, unlike many of my fellow students, would read the books. That’s way more than enough information excavated from the Jurassic period of my life.
Summer arrived from her work early enough for me to put the defective battery back in and to jump start the Rover. It and the trailer were in Summer’s parking spot. I moved them to a place near the wood splitting debris. I intend to scoop it up and use it as kindling. Having already shredded wood chips and bark for kindling saves a lot of hatchet work and, potentially, fingers. After moving the Rover we moved the three bee hives into the new plant store/greenhouse. I don’t think that they have survived the cold spell we had last week. If they didn’t that would be another $900 poured down a ‘rathole’. Two years of bees, $1800 in bees and bee supplies and we’ve managed to sell maybe $150 worth of honey. Bee keeping is beginning to look like a losing proposition. Summer likes the idea of bee keeping but the realities of bee keeping in Alaska are beginning to set in.
19 November 2020 Thursday
Spent the entire day doing one small chore after another. The downstairs bathroom drain pipe for the bathtub and the hand sink was frozen during the past weekend. I spent a couple of days, off and on, looking for a heat tape that I had just taken off a pipe in the water house last week. I hunted in vain and never found it. I had Summer purchase a new one on her way home yesterday. Today I managed to get it installed today.
Summer’s part time job has recently been including Fridays. Her current off day is Thursday. It seems every Thursday she has errands to run in town. This keeps us from having any continuity in effort. She had a 28-30 hour a week job until this COVID idiocy set in. She has been getting only 14-15 hours a week until someone went on vacation Short hours are not good for the old pocketbook. Pocketbook is such an odd word. I just looked it up. Apparently, in the 1700s people carried a small book in their pocket. In that book the kept notes as well as folding in bills and other materials pertinent to their daily life. It was a small book that you carried in your pocket hence “pocketbook”. My late stepmother always referred to her purse as her “pocketbook”. Never ever wondered about it until now. I guess it must be a ‘Southern Thing’. Anyway, getting back to Summer’s inconvenient employment situation. She seldom worked Fridays before the COVID stupidity set in. That meant we had a 3 day weekend every weekend to get work done here (even if she did have to run into town for something) on the “homestead”. Homestead is a word I don’t really like. It implies a rough life with few amenities like ‘Gilligan’s Island”. It starts with “No Phones, no ??? etc. We are living nothing like that. There is a lot of work to be done but we do have phones and motorcars and quite a lot of ‘luxuries” like running water and flushing commodes.. The problem is that I can’t really think of a word aside from ‘homestead”. “Here at the house” just doesn’t seem to convey enough information and “homestead” seems to me to be an overstatement. And here I am off on another sidetrack. Sorry. The upshot, of the truncated employment plus the inconvenient Friday employment along with the Thursday full of errands, is that I’m working alone most of the time trying to get us ready for winter.
20 November 2020 Friday
We were going to have the geese fenced in by now. But one thing leads to another and we spent much of last weekend replacing the stove pipe on the wood heater. The double wall metal pipe had rusted at the joints and when we took them down, Thursday was a week ago, the inner pipes fell out. They were an unseen fire hazard. Our reason for taking them down was to replace the single wall pipe inside the house and to thoroughly clean them. The stove was not drafting properly and we thought that cleaning the pipes might improve that situation. The new pipe is stainless steel and, for some reason, cost less than the ordinary steel pipe we’d been using. The replacement of the piping has not solved the draft problem on the stove. Until moving here, I had never used a wood stove for heat. My inexperience seems to be a big part of the problem. Today I used a big vacuum cleaner to blow through the intake air tube thinking that it might have been blocked. After blowing it out for several minutes, I built a fire. The drafting problem still exists. Fire burns fine as long as the door is open but diminishes greatly as soon as the door is closed. It is not getting enough air to sustain proper combustion. It’s a mystery and I have no clue. Fortunately, it has been relatively warm mid to high 30s for the past few days. Heat is not a pressing problem at this point.
I am going to need to solve this problem before it gets really cold. Don’t know how or when, but it must be done. It’s either that or buy a new stove for $1000+. This stove is only three years old. It shouldn’t be having this kind of problem. One of the things I did accomplish today was to scoop all of the splitting debris up and put it into the trailer. There was still more stacking, covering and storing of loose gear and lumber today.
The Rover is still making the scraping noise. I jacked it up and took off the left rear tire. I, at first, thought that it might be the axle bearing. But it is doing the same thing on both sides. Both rear wheels are making the same noise. That both axle bearing would be defective, with no apparent leakage of the axle lubricant, seems pretty slim. There was no visible shiny metal to indicate where the rim might have been scraping on something. With the tire removed it does does not make the noise but as soon as the tire is replaced the noise returns. It’s another damned mystery. Fortunately, unlike wood stoves, I know a lot about cars. I will sort out this problem sooner or later. Today I just didn’t have time to pursue the problem.
I was walking between the Conex and the house when I noticed a water leak just under the edge of the house. A closer look found that the temporary repair of a burst pipe from last year had burst again. The only reason that I was aware of this re-bursting of the pipe is because the newly installed heat tape had defrosted the pipe. Because of last years’ ‘temporary’ repair no further repair can be made. I unplugged the heat tape and bid the pipe farewell and good luck. It is my good intention to remodel that bathroom this winter. I remodeled the upstairs bath this past summer.
It started raining at about 3PM. Mostly just a drizzle. I took this as a warning to get my outdoor efforts wound up ASAP. The temp was in the high 30s and while there was an occasional snow flake they were melting immediately. About 4:30 it began to rain in earnest and the wind began to blow. The wind and the rain were continuing when I went to bed at about midnight. I’m guessing, but I suspect that the wind speed exceeded 40 MPH in some of the gusts. The howling wind did not disturb my sleep.
21 November 2020 Saturday
Spent much of the day writing and rewriting this blog. Whilst pecking away at the keyboard, I’ve been cogitating about this wood stove mystery. I decided that blowing through the fresh air intake may have been wrong. Perhaps, sucking back through the vent might dislodge whatever was keeping the air flow stifled. I tried that and then blew back through it again. After that I built a fire and it seemed to be working properly. I don’t know that anything I did was responsible but the damned thing seems to be working now. Summer suggested that it might be that the wood is wet from lying outside in the rain where it has been frozen and thawed several times. That could be a portion of the problem. I’m beginning to suspect that another problem might be that we split it into pieces that are too large and that we don’t have enough smaller pieces to make the fire hot. The large pieces were meant to burn slower and sustain the fire over longer periods of time. I’m thinking that between the damp and the size that the problem is that we are simply not getting them hot enough to sustain a fire. They tend to be smouldering rather than burning. Mystery solved, I hope.
What was left of the day was spent in housework. The rain I wanted turned into a monsoon during last night. The entire place is a muddy mess except where we’ve spread tons of gravel. We had hoped to move the Boathouse and pen in the geese today. However, the rain continued until about noon at which time it became rain and snow and later just snow. The temp was still above freezing so the snow was melting almost as fast as it hit the ground adding to the muddy mess. It was funny to watch the geese prancing around with snow on their backs. I recently placed four 50 lb. bags of feed in the greenhouse where we’ve been feeding the critters. Summer went out late this afternoon to feed them and found that the top bag had been opened. After some discussion we decided that the geese had just helped themselves to the feed. Geese are very smart.
Summer’s friend, Toni texted back. They had been out of town and they would be more than happy to take the battery back for a warranty replacement. Summer took the battery to their house. Haven’t heard back from her but I’m hoping that they got the battery replaced. $100 here, a $100 there and pretty soon you are talking about real money.
Tomorrow I start the eyeball meds that precede my Wednesday lens replacement. The cataracts have become worse. The little ones that the eye doctor saw 5-6 years ago have grown to be teenagers. Like teenagers they have become a damned nuisance. Driving at night is pretty scary when the parallax makes it so that you can’t see the road. I have stopped driving at night for fear of killing myself or worse killing someone else. My left eye is the worst and the first to be repaired. I’m driving to Anchorage during the day on Tuesday and driving home during the day on Thursday. I know it’s Thanksgiving but no one is having any kind of group dinner. Summer, Dan and myself are having dinner when I get home. I’ve never really liked turkey. No turkey here. We’re having pulled pork BBQ and shredded beef BBQ, potato salad, baked beans, homemade yeast bread, sweet tea, two kinds of pies (Pumpkin and Lemon Meringue) and coconut chocolate chip cookies. That should be enough food for three people for most of a week. I feel sorry for them fools eatin’ overcooked dried out turkey. Anyway,
One thought on “Dad’s Alaska”
I have missed your words of wisdom…
OK yes that was flattery but having moved away from my ‘homestead’ in Northern Alaska
and now in civilization, you postings are a link to how my life was lived in the wilderness.
I wish you and Summer the best for this Thanksgiving
stay warm and virus free.
My daughter just had a visitor from the lower 48
and while she was with there the temp in Fairbanks hit -16
so you definitely are living in the right (warmer) place.