Spring in Alaska is an ugly, but happy time of the year. The winter was lo-o-ong. Interminable seems a good description. We have worked all of the way through. I was led to believe that when the winter set in the work outside stopped. You would spend the winter eating, drinking and getting fat. That might be true somewhere in Alaska but not here. I am fully disabused of this fairy tale. The work never stops. Critters must be fed and watered. Water has to be hauled. Firewood brought in. Fires built and continuously fed. And all of that is just the daily stuff. The longer term stuff has been continuing the remodeling of the house, getting Summer’s new garden store ready, snow mowing. For Summer’s business, we got the deck down and the greenhouse/tent up before the winter set in. During the winter we spent a lot of time getting the interior ready for the opening in the Spring. We have been struggling to fund the store. It seems simple but it takes a lot of money to get the business started. Summer has bought thousands of dollars in inventory in preparation for the opening on April 29. I sold Spike. I really didn’t need to keep making payments on that big Ram Dually for it to spend, sometimes, a week or 10 days sitting idle. Most of the use of Spike was to haul trash to the dump. Not a really good use of a $37,000 truck. Summer’s business was the beneficiary of the Spike sale after we purchased a 3/4 ton dual cab Ford truck. It’s a nice truck but it ain’t Spike.
There is a lot to be said for being completely out of. debt. BUT I sure do miss Spike.
We had frozen water problems AGAIN, this winter. I have had it with water worries. I took 12′ of the Conex, walled it up and insulated it. I had to leave a walkway through for the time being. I will be installing another door ASAP. I had expected to install the 1000 gallon tank in the Conex. However, the tank was frozen to the ground and was not moveable. As of this morning, the tank is still frozen to the ground. One of the reasons, beyond the freezing water problem, for the larger tank is the cost of water. With the small tank (500 gallons) the water delivery service is charging us about $270 a month for their service. If we install the larger tank they will deliver the water for about $65 dollars a month. That is the reason that every Monday I haul water from town. The water is free but the gasoline is not. At any rate, the gasoline is way yonder cheaper than having the water service deliver. I’ll finish this project, after the tank comes loose from the frozen ground. Once the new tank is in place and plumbed, I can cease the water hauling operation.
I built shelving for Summer’s store. It was an easy enough task. It took a lot of time but I figured out the first shelf unit and then was able to precut all of the wood. The assembly was relatively easy. Time consuming but easy. She has already filled most of them with pots. She is going to Anchorage this weekend to get all of the plant starts. The wholesaler has been a little behind so Summer is a little behind in making the plants available for sale. I had installed a small wood stove in the greenhouse portion of the business. It has not worked out very well. I tried to convert it to a drip oil stove and this worked less well than the wood fuel. Now I am going to install a oil fired heater. It has a fan to circulate the heat and is very efficient. This will give the greenhouse a little heat. The current night time temperature is still falling into the mid 30s. That temp will not be good for the new plants. In a couple of weeks the night temps will be in the 40s which will be okay and will allow the end of heating problem.
Summer has installed the new oak flooring in this upstairs of this ramshackle house we purchased. She did it with some help from Dan (her significant other) and a fair amount of cussing. It looks very good. I am happy that it was her project and not mine. I don’t think I have the patience for the intricacies of hardwood flooring.
Well that’s it for me. I’ll try to post more often. Thanks for reading the blog.
Sorry that it has been so long since I wrote on the blog. I’ve been a bit discouraged by the progress that Summer and I are making here at the homestead. It hasn’t been for a lack of effort. It seems that, during this winter, it has been three steps forward and two and a half back. The house leveling has continued. The more I work at leveling it the more certain I am that it cannot be permanently leveled without some major construction. The house sits on 5 beams that are in turn perched precariously upon wooden pilings. A 7.0 earthquake 3 years ago moved the house sideways and partially off the pilings. Another later 4.6 moved the house a little further off the pilings. I was planning a solid concrete footing with treated 6×6 posts under the front wall of the house. I got the 40 feet of form in place and then it began to rain and rain and rain. All of this water washed a few tons of dirt from under the house. This loss of dirt has made the house even more precariously perched on the edge of disaster. When the rain, finally, stopped the form was completely covered in dirt. It was an emergency situation because the weather was beginning to turn cold. I hand dug individual holes for concrete footings for the new pilings that I placed under the existing beam. The original plan was to install a new beam under the outside wall with 8′ 6″x6″ pilings and 18′ wide by 16-18 inches thick, steel reinforced concrete footing. The individual footings were steel reinforced concrete but since they are not connected to one another they are able to move individually. Individual movement defeats the whole purpose of stabilizing the house. However, had I not installed the new pilings I’d likely be writing this from a rental house somewhere. The old house would be a pile of debris in the hole we had dug so as to make the foundation improvements. The hole is now filled with about two feet of ice as the drain line has frozen. For a while I had nightmares about the house falling over into the hole. Not so much after I installed the new pilings. I’m still worrying about an earthquake sending us sliding into the abyss.
Last Fall, I cut 8 cords of spruce logs into rounds and then split them all. Most of that has been burned by this time. We had both tents full of wood at the beginning of winter. We have a bit over a cord left and 6-8 weeks of cold or cool weather left this winter. I really don’t like cutting it this close so next winter I’ll put up 10 cords. This has been a weird winter in some respects. Snow, then rain, more snow, then more rain, then a crap load more snow. It has not been particularly cold this winter up until this morning. The temperature when I got up at 7 AM, to stoke up the wood stove and make coffee, was 2.9F. As the sun was rising the temp fell to 1.2F. I don’t remember when it was that I began to think of any temp above 25F as warm. Now any day above 35F is a veritable heat wave.
The geese and the ducks have been residing in our garden in a hastily constructed edifice cobbled together from two large packing crates, a couple of sheets of damaged and mostly useless plywood and a few old wooden pallets. They’ve done well, in spite of the hasty construction. We had intended to move the old boat house (the superstructure off a neighbors skiff) but winter caught us before we could move it. It was frozen solidly to the ground by the time we were able to find the time to move it. The original plan was to move it next to the new pond and then fence the critters in. That project will have to wait until the ground thaws in late May or June. The chickens have been living in the greenhouse all winter. Their home was not remodeled due to the lack of time or, perhaps, the misuse of time.
That old saying “When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember that the plan was to drain the swamp”. That has been an apt description of our 3 1/2 years here. It has been something pretty much every time you turn around. The tractor is axle broken, the water pump has quit, a pipe has burst and we lost 500 gallons of precious water, the kitchen sink cold water is frozen, the bathroom commode water is frozen, the bathtub water is frozen, the sewage line is clogged. the sewage line is frozen, an eagle got a young goose, the spring box water supply has dried up., the pond is nearly dry, the tractor battery is dead, the Rover battery is dead, the lawn tractor died, the small trailer has two flat tires, the big trailer had two blowouts and destroyed both rims while hauling firewood logs, too much rain, not enough rain, a moose walked through the garden fence and the chickens and geese had a holiday feast, a bear was in the old chicken house, a bear wandered into the yard and on and on and on. Makes me tired just remembering all of the trials and tribulations. Through all of this and more, Summer and I have persevered. While we have admitted to being discouraged at times, we still have the will to continue. At 76 years old, I can still lift and carry 80 bags of concrete. It hurts, but I can still do it. Maybe this summer, I will get the solid foundation and pilings under the front wall of the house, the chickens moved to a permanent home, the geese and ducks into a permanent home and the 4500 gallon water tank installed to catch the rainwater coming off the roof of the house.
A few days ago, whilst walking head down paying close attention to where i was putting my feet on the icy ground. I almost walked into a moose’s rear end. The knucklehead was standing in the middle of the road and I was as previously stated no paying attention to my surroundings. Fortunately, the moose was unperturbed by my proximity and continued to snack on the small branches of an alder bush. I had walked up to about 10 feet from it before I noticed this 800-1000 pound critter. I backed away to about 20 feet and then hightailed it the 30 feet to my Conex (shipping container) workshop. After I saw that this young moose wasn’t going to do anything but eat Alder stems I did go back outside and try to take some pictures. Looked at my phone later and there were no pictures. Don’t know how that happened. I mentally butt kicked myself several times to remind me that I needed to be more careful as moose kill more people in Alaska than the bears of all three flavors. 7-8 more steps and I’d have collided with the moose’s hindquarters. That as Martha might say “Would not be a good thing”.
This week I spent about 6 hours jacking up the Conex in an attempt to level it. I raised the back end of it about 24 inches. It is almost level. Almost because I want some drop from end to end to shed the rain water and snow melt. We purchased a 1000 gallon water tank (cistern they call them up here) last summer. Another project that didn’t get finished. The point of jacking the Conex level is to install the 1000 gallon tank and move the existing 550 gallon tank into the Conex. I will frame up a fully insulated room to house them inside the Conex. This should do three things: One is the added water capacity so as to not run out of potable water every two weeks; the second is to insure that the water supply lines do not freeze; the third is house all of the pump and filtration equipment in one relatively warm, easily accessible location. I’m giving up 12 feet of workshop/storage for some wintertime peace of mind.
I have two admit that I am sick and tired of the snow. Last fall I was looking forward to and could almost not wait for the snow. While I have continued to work on one project or another all through the winter, I am looking forward to ‘Breakup’ and Spring time. The snow and the frozen ground has put a great deal of needed work on hold. I’d like to get to it while I’m still on top of the sod rather than under it. One of my projects for this summer is to get the downhill side property line cleared. I know where the corners are but can’t see one from the other due to the trees and brush. My downhill neighbor is adamant that I not cut anything on his property, but I’m not quite sure how I will know what is on his property and what is on ours. I one conversation he did not want me to remove a rotten log lying across the property line. I’m not sure what his logic is but I just cut the log off at the line. It’s seems irrational behavior but it is Alaska.
Well that’s it for me. I will attempt to do a better job of keeping you updated in the future.
I have decided, that on this last day of a very lo-n-n-n-g year, that I shall do absolutely nothing beyond this blog. I will do nothing except drink coffee in the morning, sweet tea in the afternoon and vodka in the evening. I’ll do this without the slightest bit of guilt knowing that I have worked my ass off for the past 364 minus a few days of unadulterated laziness. Maybe not laziness. Both the mind and the body need respite from the ongoing aggravations that seem to, like apparitions becoming solid, rear their ugly heads just when you think all is well. “What can possibly go wrong now?” is a question I have ceased to ask aloud or even think. The very thought or utterance of those words invariably gets a very quick and inconvenient answer. When the weather started getting to below freezing I plugged in all of the heat tapes for the various plumbing pipes. One heat tape failed immediately. The drain pipe burst in the downstairs bathroom. Now the bathtub and the hand sink are unusable. I may have told you this before but I’m having to shower upstairs and brush my teeth at the kitchen sink. Fortunately, the downstairs commode still works. Well, it worked right up until it didn’t. One ot the heat tapes on the main drain line failed and it froze. That it did not burst is a blessing. I ran the jet heater under the house all day to no avail. Suddenly the temperature outside went above freeing for a couple of days and it cleared the line. I suspect that the line was not completely frozen. Likely a layer of ice collected at a low spot and the trapped debris flowing down the line. That debris then froze and so on until the line was completely clogged. The solution to this problem arrived a couple of days ago. It is an inside the pipe heat tape. I’ve been going to install it but the weather has been totally weird. Yesterday, for example, we had a blowing snow blizzard in the early part of the day. Then we had sleet, more snow, then rain and sleet, then sleet and snow, then snow and, finally, the sun came out and we had blue skies and puffy white clouds. Because of the oddly warm weather (NO man-made Global Warming comments, please) the entire yard seems to be covered in an inch or more of ice. You take your life and health into your hands, if you set foot outside without ice cleats. ICE CLEATS!! I’d never heard of such a thing before I moved here. Now I have two pairs of shoes with them semi-permanently installed. The only entities allowed outside of the house without cleats are Taco and Betsy Boo and, occasionally Suzy. Even with four feet on the ground, they often find the going, in the backyard, a little tough. Anyway, crawling under the house is possible just not recommended. The ground under the hose is now mud. Made so by the warmer weather. The snow and sleet melting off the roof and the rain is dripping out of the broken gutters. Gutters are another of the myriad of lesser projects yet to be completed.
Just finished off the pot of coffee and was planning a glass of iced tea. A minor problem arose. The tea pitcher was near empty and there was only about a half of a small cup of tea inside. That it when, like so many of my British Isles ancestors, decided I’d have the balance as hot tea. Way back in the history of the USA, before there was a USA, King George put a heavy tax on tea. This drove our ancestors to drinking coffee because there was little or no tax on coffee. This points up a valuable lesson that politicians have yet to learn or maybe they have. If you tax a product at a high enough level people will either stop using the product or find a substitute. King George whose intentions were to punish tea drinking colonists made coffee drinkers out of the majority of those colonists. His actions had an unintentional consequence. This is something our politicians haven’t learned.
Spent some time yesterday evening trying to look up old acquaintances lest they be forgot. I’ve, apparently, reached the age where most of my oldest friends, old friends, acquaintances are dead. I am still in contact with some of the people from my home town (Brighton, Alabama) and some people with whom I attended Hueytown High School during the Jurassic Period of my life. My closest friends of the past 50 years, including my late wife, are all dead. The move to Alaska did not improve my relationship with the few new friends that I made when living in Florida. As i’m wring this, whatever this is, I am watching the disc turn on the record player that Summer gave me for Christmas. What I was watching the record turn and a question came to me. Does the inside of the record turn faster than the outer edge. If it, in fact, does why is the music not in warp speed sounding like Donald Duck on steroids? Another mystery that I really don’t have the care to solve. Some things are just better to be left as a mystery.
One of the sad things in 2020 was the need to put our old friend down. Gandie was a flea bitten rescue by Summer when we lived in St.Petersburg. He was a terrible mess. Matted hair, skinny as a rail and eaten up with fleas. I don’t think anyone but Summer would have adopted him. He was leading a miserable life even fo a dog. He turned 14, we think, this year. All his get up and go was gone. He, mostly, just ate and slept for the last two years. The Vet looked at him and pronounced him “OLD” a couple of years ago. I the last couple of weeks before we had to put him down, the Vet looked at him again. There was nothing she could do for the old fellow. He was whining in his sleep, he could no longer climb the stairs to take his rightful place on Summer’s bed. At that point, he was in pain, his stool contained blood. The time had come. We just couldn’t let him suffer any longer. We took him to a Vet in Soldotna who put him to sleep while we petted him for the last time. After we left the room, he gave Gandie the fatal dose and his pain was over. A couple of weeks later Summer drove back to Soldotna and picked up his ashes. We have picked a large rock surrounded flower garden where he will come to his final resting place along with the late Cookie. Cookie was part Beagle and something else. She was a good substantial dog that Summer had adopted as a puppy when she was attending Auburn University. She, too, had lived a long and happy life of good food, excellent care and a loving owner. Sometimes, I wish I was some nice person’s dog. Nothing to worry about for all of your life and then a calm and peaceful death when you become critically infirm. Neither Gandie nor Cookie seemed to recognize anyone of us at the last weeks and months of their lives. The had, in the last stages of their lives, what in humans would be Alzheimers or what we once called Senile Psychosis. Good Bye, Old Friends.
Another friend died up here this year. He will be missed by his many friends here in Fritz Creek. He was the best friend of both Dan (Summer’s significant other) and Dave, Dan’s older brother. They had known and been friends with him for most of their lives. For me, he was more of an acquaintance but he was Summer’s friend. Steve Pelletier was a wealthy younger, mid fifties guy. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. Had a pile of money but you’d have never known it by the way he acted and dressed. No fru fru, no flairs just an everyday guy that I liked. I have made a life of not liking anybody very much. Those that I do like can have my wallet, my car keys and the clothes off my back, if necessary. Those people have been few and far between. ANYWAY, They found Steve lying in his driveway dead. I did not hear anything about the cause of death but I surmised that her had a heart attack. He did have some heart problems with which he and his doctor were dealing. I suspect that they same thing that very nearly killed me at 58 years old, was the cause of his death. My doctor referred to it as”The Widow Maker”. It is a blockage of the artery on the heart that feeds blood to the backside of the heart. If it clogs solid you are dead with in seconds. A significant number of men in their fifties are just going along minding their own business with no apparent symptoms. Then on that fateful day they simply fall over dead. No warning. One minute you are alive and well the next your have gone to meet your maker. Probably not a bad way to die. A moment of sudden pain then nothing but a funeral.
This week has been a complete bust as far as getting any work done on the house. For the last several days the temperature has been at or near 40F during the day and barely below freezing during the night. The completion of the house leveling has been postponed due to the ground not being frozen solid. I could jack it up by putting concrete or wooden blocks under the jacks. With the ground so soft the blocks would just disappear into the ground. I did that last Summer and I really don’t want to, unintentionally, bury any more wood or concrete blocks. I did get a few things done: I made a dump run; cleared off my work bench in the conex; cooked beans and rice for the critters (That’s another story): Sharpener all the axes, the chainsaws; swept the floors; rearranged the hallway we are using for a pantry; sanded the driveway; hauled in more wood’; moved wood in the tent where the hole was allowing the rain in to a dryer spot; picked up items in the snow that the rain had exposed; damn near walked into a very big cow moose and dozens of other things that I cannot remember as they were done so quickly or of such little note to even register as some task done. One thing i can say for a certainty is that I did not expect “rain delays’ at the end of December. I guess 2020 is simply not going to quit be the hellacious year that it has been.
This year has been just one unaccomplished thing after another. Like the old saying in the Robert Burns book ‘To a Mouse’ and John Steinbeck’s book ‘Of Mice and Men’. “The best laid plans of men oft time go awry” has been a substantial understatement in describing 2020. Summer’s Garden Store was completed two weeks too late for the fall bulb planting season. She only had two weeks before the ground started freezing and precluding the planting of all of those beautiful flower bulbs. Now she is holding over inventory until Spring and hoping that the mice won’t destroy them. I did not get the tractor repaired. It continues to leak gear oil all over the place. When I park it I am placing a coffee can under the leak so as to collect the expensive gear oil. The green house was to be recovered with plastic. That didn’t happen. All we had time to do was pull a tarp over the missing panel locations. The permanent chicken house and run didn’t get built. Neither did the permanent Goose enclosure that we had planned. The Land Rover started making some weird noise on the back axle and a mechanic deemed it necessary that we should spend $800 on a $1500 car. It didn’t happen as we are crazy not stupid. He was a nice guy and when I went to pay him for his trouble he said “Merry Christmas”. That was an unusual bright spot in 2020 and I’ll be taking him some business in the future. It took me from February until late October to get any response from my auto insurance company USAA. I was trying to file a claim for the fender I damaged and for the other fender someone at Home Depot had so graciously smashed along with the rear bumper. In early November, they sent a couple of checks, which I, somehow, managed to throw in the stove to build a fire one morning. I am assuming that the fire was their fate, as I have yet to find them. I called their Rep in Anchorage. He had them reissue the checks. By this time it was almost December. I found a local auto body shop and gave them the checks, they ordered the parts necessary one of which was a complete fender. The fender arrived bent. pretty much, in half. They had to reorder the fender and as of this date we still don’t have a fender. That bent fender was the only one in all of Alaska. I, now, have no idea when the truck will be repaired. I’m selling the damned thing as soon as it is repaired. I can sell it for nearly as much as I paid for it in Florida 3 1/2 years ago. I might be 3-4000 down but I drove it for 3 1/2 years. A $1000 a year doesn’t seem an exorbitant price to pay for using a Dodge 3500 Double Cab Dually with a 8′ bed. It is a big truck that I no longer need. Seems a waste to haul trash to the dump and pick up a bit of lumber from Home Depot in it.
For those of you on the East Coast you are either drunk or getting drunk as it is a bit after 9:00 PM your time. Only just after 5:00 PM here in Fritz Creek, Alaska. I’M CALLING IT DONE. Stay safe and DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.
The night before Christmas and all through the land the Democrats are saying, “Your Christmas is canned”. Out in the street I heard such a clatter went to the window and saw Black Lives Matter. Up on the roof top of my neighbor’s car was an ANTIFA whacking it with an iron bar. In tighty whiteys, shotgun in hand, I ran through the door thinking that the fun had began. I fired one shot into the air and they kept comin’ and I didn’t care because I knew I would just keep gunnin’. Loving wife in her house coat brings me the ammunition to keep me afloat. The BLM zombies kept coming and coming and not a moment too soon my neighbors came running. We bashed them, we shot them and splattered them asunder. We knew pretty soon the whole bunch would soon be six or more feet under. After it was over Steve, with his backhoe, dug a big hole and into the abyss their bodies we did roll. The moral to the story is that what the Socialist and Communists do in the Democrat big cities ain’t gonna play well in flyover country.
Curiosity is an odd thing but recently I have found that I am uncurious. Incurious? Non-curious? WHATEVER! My curiosity, like my ‘get-up-n-go’, seems to have got up and went. I’m not sure where it went. I am sure that it either no longer exists or exists only minimally in some parallel universe. I’ve decided that my lack of curiosity is attributable to either “I just don’t give a damn” or, perhaps, I already know everything I want to know or need to know. One thing I know with some certainty is that my ‘hard drive’ is full and that it keeps deleting stuff when new stuff is inputed. This causes me to leave one room and go to the next and not remember why I went there or not remember names of people I’ve known most of my life. I find myself at a point where I really don’t care why birds can fly, why grass is green or why a little salt makes sugar sweeter. Those and many other things happen daily and I marveled at them long ago. I now just accept that they proceed without the benefit of my curiosity. The point being that elections in the past 160+ years have assumed the same status. They just happen. I was sixteen, when Mayor Daly (Democrat, Chicago) stole the presidential election from Richard Nixon. A electoral cheating incident that is universally accepted as fact today. Cheating in elections is as American as apple pie starting in the 1850s by Tammany Hall in New York City. That set the bar high for the Democrats. The Tammany Hall method was copied in all of the major cities in the US. Cheating in elections was rampant and expected, if Democrats wanted to keep control of those cities. In this last election, the Tammany Hall (many of you didn’t get a single history lesson) formula was carried out on steroids. Cheating is not new. The cheating on the scale that just took place this past election is unprecedented. We Americans have always looked to the court system to rein in the avarice and unconstitutional behavior of the political class. This time, that has not happened. The entire court system seems unconcerned about the violations of state and federal law. They have refused to even examine the mountains of evidence and sworn affidavits of malfeasance. They have no curiosity and have simply accepted it. They have proceeded as if nothing has happened. As I’ve stated they have proceeded without the slightest curiosity as to the facts. Their determined refusal of oversight does not bode well for our Democratic Republic. Please to note that we are not a “Democracy”. The problem with this cheating is that, in order to compete, the other side will be forced to cheat. Either that or they will never win another election. With both sides cheating as fast as they can, the end of our Democratic Republic will be pretty damned close. There will be no confidence by any citizen that any politician was legally elected regardless of party affiliation. There really is only one solution. That solution is to do away with machine counting and only have in person voting. Then all votes will have to been hand counted. Sure there will be some cheating but not on the wholesale scale of this last election. Any solution that fails to do these three things is ripe for massive cheating in other ways. Humans adapt and will find another new way to cheat, if such a way exists. Without free and fair elections we are no longer a country we are just another ‘Banana Republic’.
We have been working hard to get the house in order. That has been an all consuming job. The super hard freeze I’ve been hoping for hasn’t happened. In the last hard freeze, I did get the center of the house leveled from end to end. The weather keeps warming and water keeps running under the house. The underneath is a swamp of mud, goose crap, duck crap and feathers. Not a place where you want to go belly crawling. The back part of the house needs to be lowered about and inch and a half. With the ground being soft, it is really not possible to jack it up and remove the shims. As soon as the rear wall is leveled the kitchen will get remodeled. New hardwood floors installed. New cabinets installed and we, finally, have something approaching normality. Summer will begin installing the hard wood flooring in the upstairs as soon as the rear wall is down. The remodeling of this old house is proceeding even with all of the impediments. Hopefully, by the Spring we will be at the end of our construction trials and our associated tribulations will be coming to an end. At last, I’ll be able to get the hell off this hill and get a life.
We’ve still got the geese and ducks in their own compound. The wind storm night before last knocked down the pallets that were acting as both gate and fence extension. Funniest thing is that the critters would not walk across the pallets to escape. Their freedom was right there in front of them and they were too afraid to move. Sounds like a lot of people around the world. Oddly the same thing happened to the chickens. A panel blew out of the greenhouse and it was right behind the roost I built for them. They could have stood on top of the roost and flown to their freedom but they didn’t. We Americans may be standing at similar point in time. Our freedom is right in front of us but we stay in the virtual government prison.
It has snowed, froze then rained and the froze again. The ground is covered in an inch or more of ice. Walking is scary. The thin cover of snow does not keep your feet from pressing through to the ice. I have gotten to the point where I do not go outside without wearing ice cleats. The time or two that I did I came dangerously close to bustin’ my old ass on the ground. Ay my age, 76, a hard fall on the ice might just be the Coup de Grau, The End, T-T-That’s All Folks. Since I am extremely allergic to death, I have assiduously avoided it regardless of the cost. By all rights, I should have been dead numerous times. I have been so close so many times that once I thought I saw the grim reaper standing in the hallway looking into my hospital room before my heart surgery in 2001. A couple of days after my 47th birthday I was visiting my father. This was just shy of two months before he died. He had lung cancer that was metastatic. He was paralyzed from the waist down and was confined to his bed. I, in my usual self absorbed Boomer manner, was telling him how I’d never really expected to live so long. He listened to my rant and at the end said nothing for what seemed several minutes. He had been staring at the wall in front on his bed as I talked and he continued to do so after I quit talking. After the pregnant pause he turned to me and said “Hell, Boy, I didn’t think you’d live to be 21”. That gave me a whole new perspective on life. He died in December and I cried like a baby at his funeral. I, like many first born sons, had a love-hate relationship with my father. This the 29th December after his death, I still remember.
Tomorrow is December 7th-Pearl Harbor Day. I wasn’t in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I was in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1963. only 22 years after the Japanese destroyed Pearl Harbor and sank a lot of ships including the Arizona. The ship I was on tied up to Hotel Pier which was just about 400 yards from the Arizona Memorial. I could walk out the back door of the Combat Information Center on the 03 level and look right at it. I saw it everyday when we were in port. I watched the boats taking the tourists to the memorial. To me it was a daily reminder that ships sink and people die. I never visited the Arizona Memorial. Just seeing it every day made me sad enough without setting foot on the Memorial platform. I was 19 years old and and becoming old man at the same time. In my three years onboard the USS Ponchatoula AO-148, I did nothing heroic. I did my job. That’s the contract you sign when you join any branch of the military. You agree to do a job, you are expected to do the job and the vast majority of military personnel do their jobs without question or serious complaint. They see their duty and they do it. I sometimes wear a baseball cap on which there are the military service medals. Often people will say “Thank you for your service” to which I reply “Thank you. I didn’t do very much.” A lot of us didn’t do very much. We simply did our job. The cap I wear was given to me by the son of a ‘Brown Water’ (River Boat) sailor who earned medals for his heroism while just doing his job. I’m not allowed to wear his heroic medals but I wear the cap with the ones that I am allowed in his honor. My youngest brother was in Vietnam with a Marine Recon group that killed a lot of people just doing their job. After returning to civilian life he was never the same. Most of the men and women who come back are never the same. They just did their jobs and those of you who were never in the military will not and cannot understand. So next time you see an active military person or a Military Vet say to him/her “Thank you for doing your job.”
This past week has been a doozy. Monday morning we awoke to 9F temperature. Tuesday morning it was 6F and snowing. Wednesday was another 6F morning. Thursday was a 2F morning and the water froze during the night. Friday was another 6F morning, Saturday was the same as Friday. Today, Sunday, it is 38F and raining. Dressed properly the 14-16F afternoons weren’t bad. I got a good bit of outside work done.
On Wednesday, Summer had to go into work. It was around 6F when she started her walk with the pack of dogs she supervises. The uphill walking made her feet sweat. Sweating is about the worst thing you can do in extreme cold. Her feet were hot right up until they weren’t. The dampness conducted the cold and by the time she got the dogs back to the van her toes were aching from the cold. It took thirty minutes or so for her toes to thaw out and they hurt like hell whilst they were thawing. She had, apparently, decided to wear the wrong boots for the weather. Fortunately, she carries extra clothing including socks in the event she gets wet. With her toes thawed she took her second pack of dogs for a walk that afternoon. Same thing happened and it happened sooner as her boots were slightly wet inside. Even after she got home she kept complaining about being cold. She now carries two pairs of boots along with a couple of pairs of dry socks. Lesson learned. I, on the other hand, spent the day kneeling, lying in and rolling around in the snow. My big task for the day was to remove the tires from the ‘parts’ Land Rover. The first thing was to shovel over a foot of crusty snow away from the vehicle. I needed room to get the jack under the car and to get the tires removed. I spent over an hour shoveling what seemed like a ton of snow away from the Rover. Then, because I have always aspired to be a bonafide redneck, i went to get concrete blocks to set the car on. A impediment to my aspirations to redneckness presented itself. The damned concrete blocks were frozen together. A drizzling rain late last week had wetted them enough that they were attached for the duration of the winter. I tried to separate the and managed to break one. That was four dollars shot to hell and the end of my redneck aspirations, concrete blocks and the beginning of jack stands. The ground is frozen and as hard as concrete so the jack stands will suffice until Spring. After that they’ll sink and likely disappear into the ground. Sometime between now and then I’ll need to get out my propane weed killer torch and defrost some concrete blocks to fulfill my redneck dreams. I had recently removed the lug nuts on the rear tires and replaced them with the non-factory lugs nuts off the ‘good’ Rover. When I did that lug nut switch, I only needed a 24 inch breaker bar to remove the lug nuts on the ‘parts’ Rover. The first thing I did was attempt to remove the lugs nuts from the front of the ‘parts’ Rover. I put all of my 200+ pound fat ass pushing down on the first lug nut and could not make it break loose. This led to a 20 minute search through a snow covered pile of scrap metal trying to find a piece of pipe heavy enough to use as a cheater bar. I found a three foot piece of pipe and returned to the task of removing the lug nuts so as to remove the tires. With it slipped about a foot over the 24 inch breaker bar, I now have 4 feet of leverage. With all of that leverage and again my 200+ pound fat as I was just barely able to break those lug nuts free. The kneeling in the snow was caused by taking off the loosened lug nuts. The lying down in the snow was caused by the need to place the jack and later to place the jack stands. The rolling in the snow was caused by tripping, sometimes on my own feet, and falling into the snow. I, usually, fell backwards or sideways and when attempting to get up I’d have to roll onto my belly and push myself up. The kneeling made the snow melt onto and into my snow pants, jeans and thermal underwear. When I would get up to walk around they knees of the garments would freeze. After the first tire removal, I was kneeling on ice knee pads for the removal of the other tires. All of this effort is to get the studded snow tires on their own rims. Having the tires changed from rim to rim ends up costs near $200 every year. If you have two sets of rims with the proper tires for the season, you can change them yourself for free. I am really, really fond of free. Yes, I did start sweating from the exertion. First I shed my trapper’s hat, shortly after that I shed my heavy wool sweater and I swapped gloves three times. Wet fingers are cold fingers.
On Thursday, we got up early to take Spike to the Dodge dealer to have the radio and the backup camera checked out. The radio comes on and turns off by itself. The backup camera comes on while you are going forward down the highway. Sometimes it comes on at 60 mph or won’t work at all when you shift into reverse. Both problems are random and therefore unpredictable. In my old age,I have come to expect things and people to do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it. Actually, that is something I’ve expected for the majority of my life. Oh Boy, have I ever lived a life of constant disappointment! The highway to Soldotna had areas of ice on our way up. Coming back the sun had heated up the asphalt and the road very near ice free. However, at this time of the year the sun is so low that there are places on the highway that get no direct sunlight. These places remain icy for the entire winter. Fortunately, there aren’t very many of them and the traffic makes ruts through them. All you have to do is stay in the ruts and you are driving on solid pavement. The rut thing remind me of times when I tried to keep my balance while walking on the rail of a railroad track. After dropping off the truck we came straight home. We had several chores that needed to be done. Bring in firewood, feed the critters, thaw out the water lines and a half dozen other menial tasks that I cannot remember. I think one of those chores was watering the critters. Since the house water was frozen, Summer shoveled snow into the water in their trough. The water trough has a heater that comes on for an hour every 4 hours the snow would be melted and the critters could drink their fill. By the time we finished it was beginning to get dark. Darkness comes early at this time of the year. The sun sets at just a bit after 4 PM and will set even earlier until the winter solstice in the latter part of December. By then the sunrise will be near 10:00 AM and the sun will set at near 4:00 PM. You have four and a half hours to get done whatever that needs to be done, if you don’t want to do it by flashlight. It is incumbent upon you to have a well planned day under these conditions.
Friday is a blur. I couldn’t tell you all of the things i did because they were small things and a lot of them. The only one I remember is installing the black iron gas pipe into the downstairs bathroom. That entailed drilling holes through several studs and an outside wall. That which would be a one hour job in Clearwater, Florida that took over two hours in Fritz Creek, Alaska. I can’t really use the downstairs bathroom anyway. The pipe that drains the bathtub and the hand sink burst in the first hard freeze. It did the same thing last winter. The problem is that burst on last summer’s repair and cannot be repaired again. The commode is unaffected by this problem. So now I take my showers upstairs and brush my teeth at the kitchen sink. It is a little inconvenient but later this winter I’ll be tearing out he bathroom and remodeling it so that all of the piping is larger and further under the house. Every winter the pipes burst or they freeze because they are all on an outside wall. By moving them inboard, making the drains larger and the angles deeper there should be nothing in the lines to freeze. After three years of this, I am well and truly tired of this annual aggravation.
Saturday we hit the road to Soldotna to pick up Spike at the Dodge dealer. We picked up the keys and Summer drove me to the back of the dealership where Spike had been parked. I turned on the ignition switch and the thermometer is reading zero. Diesel engines really hate cold weather. That is the reason for block heaters that you plug into 110v house power. There was no house power out in the back lot of the dealership. When I turned the key it took almost a minute and a half before he glow plugs got hot enough to start the engine. The damned thing really struggled to run when I cranked it and it was 30 minutes before it got warm enough to defrost the windshield. When it, finally, warmed up enough to clear the windshield I dispatched Summer back to Fritz Creek. I went to Home Depot to get parts to install the heater in the downstairs bathroom that I can’t use. Nobody ever said I was smart. Upon my arrival home I had but one task on my mind. That task was to get the tires I had struggled to remove from the ‘parts’ Rover into the bed of the truck. After that get the studded snow tire into the truck. It seemed to be two simple tasks. Just get the little trailer, hook it up to the 4 wheeler and load all four of them up. Simple. Not simple. The trailer had a flat tire, the 4 wheeler wouldn’t stay running and when it was running you could only carry one tire at the time. that which should have been a twenty minute job took almost an hour. Then all we had left to do was dig the studded tires out of the snow. They were between the two firewood tents. Simple, right? Not simple. The previous week’s rain had caused the snow to become ice and the tires were solidly frozen into on immovable pile. Summer tried digging them out but tit was to no avail. I got the jet heater, which was conveniently out of fuel. By happenstance, I had bought 5 gallons of diesel fuel for the tractor on my way home from Soldotna. With the jet heater refueled it still took almost and hour to extricate the tires. Now all that was left to do was load all eight rimmed and un-rimmed tires. Simple. No problem. WRONG!! The bed of the truck was completely full of snow and under that snow was 20 2x4s I purchased on a previous trip to Home Depot. 30 minutes later after shoveling out a bed full of ice ladened snow and removing the 2x4s we were able to load the tires.
Well, fellow campers, it is 00:41 AM December 7, 2020 In a few hours from now 79 years ago 3000 people died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Let us not forget their sacrifice.
Your Millennials have been indoctrinated (nay programmed) to think that all of their ideas and thoughts are not only original but brilliant. Even though they were all given a trophy with no achievement, they think they have accomplished some mythical task. Praise for failure and ‘self esteem’ boosts with no effort to excel. “Very good Cindy 2+2 can equal 5, if you want it to”. These over-educated, under-knowledged robots are destroying history. They have no concept of history. They haven’t been taught history (Ancient, World or American) so they have no idea that the majority of their brilliant thoughts have already been thought. The vast majority of all ideas put forth by these Millennials have already been tried and failed miserably. Their current big idea, Socialism, has failed dozens of times. Not only has it failed, it has murdered 100,000,000 plus humans and polluted much of the earth.. The murdering and polluting continues in Socialist/Communist countries around the world. You likely can’t find a single Millennial that recognizes the fact that America is the least polluting industrialized major nation in the world. The European Union (Pop. 340 million after deducting the Great Britain’s 70 million population) is far more polluted and poverty stricken. They have a standard of living, on average, about half that of the US. WHY? Socialism is the answer. Socialism/Communism is always the answer when you ask why a particular country is poverty stricken. India is a prime example of a socialist, mass polluting, poverty stricken country. A few people are very wealthy and the balance live in abject poverty. That, also, explains why so many Indians immigrate to the US.
Spent much of the day building a goose house. We’re using an already fenced area (last summer’s garden) to round up and keep the geese in one place for the winter. The geese have been running loose and making nuisances of themselves for over a year. We had intended to fence in an area for them this past summer. The problem is that reality got in the way of progress. Same for the chickens with the same results. Chickens and the three remaining ducks will be living in the greenhouse for the balance of the winter. Winter is upon us with the concomitant problems.
The goose house construction consists of two packing crates in which Dan had windows delivered. They, by happenstance, were of the same dimensions in length and width. One was deeper than the other but stacked atop one another they created a container tall enough for a goose to stand up inside. A couple of 2x4s, two sheets of plywood, some other scraps and several pallets made up the balance of the snow blocking enclosure.
23 November 2020 Monday
I spent part of the day getting electricity to the goose house. I wanted to keep the power cord off the ground so that it would not get tangled in the snow blower or be frozen down so solidly that it could not be retrieved until April. I scrapped around through my junk looking for something to create a mast. I found a piece of 2×2 and a crutch. The crutch was one of a pair that I’ve been hauling around for over 20 years. I never needed them again, couldn’t give them away (Salvation Army has dozens of them) and never found any other use for them. By screwing the crutch onto the 2×2, I was able to get the power cord almost 10 feet off the ground. Problem solved.
The next challenge was to move the water trough to a position next to the goose house. The moving was easy but hauling 10 gallons of water to it whilst walking in the snow was a challenge. When I, eventually, got the water into the trough I plugged in the heater to keep the water from freezing. After that I shoveled a big pile of snow on top of the water to finish filling the trough. You can see that in one of the pictures above.
The balance of the day was spent bringing in firewood, picking up stuff that the snow had not yet covered and, generally, taking care of things inside that had been neglected because of all of the work outside.
24 November 2020 Tuesday
Snow still on the ground but the need to go to Home Depot in Kenai overrode the trepidation of getting out onto the roads. They take very good care of the roads close to town, The roads out of town get a lot less attention. This hills will be sanded but the valleys in between are often neglected. I was supposed to go to Anchorage today to get cataract surgery. I listened to the weather forecast yesterday morning and with that information. and the possibility that Summer had been exposed to the Dreaded Covid, I decided to put off the eye surgery until next spring. The Chugach Mountain road, while very good, is very curvy and at a fairly high altitude. The mountains are a 140 miles or so north of Fritz Creek and has passes that are at 1000 feet or so. These roads are subject to avalanches especially after it rains. Rain was part of the weather forecast that stopped my trip. Also, some of the curves on this road are inverse pitched. This means that if you slide you are likely sliding to the outside of the curve and the outside is often a drop off of several hundred feet. I may have mentioned this previously but let me reiterate. “I am allergic to death.” Anyway, I toddled off to Kenai with a great deal of care. They road indeed had some bad patches but was in overall pretty good shape. Since I am, because of the cataracts, very night blind I was in a hurry to get to Kenai and back before dark. I hurried every chance I got and when I got to Home Depot, Wal Mart and the Three Bears Grocery stores I rushed as much as possible. Home Depot took nearly forever as the clerk ignored me for over over 10 minutes, while I stood at the Return Desk. She processed three other customers before turning to me and telling me that she had to use the register that she was on. I was just a little peeved but remembered just in time that there is no cure for stupid and no point in arguing with an idiot. She was a polite idiot but an idiot nevertheless. It took her near 10 minutes to sort out the receipt and return two pieces of stove pipe I’d purchased last week. Twenty very long minutes were spent with me pacing in place with the extreme need to get to the restroom all the way across the building. At last, with cash in hand, Suzy and I dashed across the store cursing those ambling shoppers who seemed to have no particular destination in mind. Sometimes, store traffic reminds me of vehicle traffic in Florida. You’ve got a bunch of people on the road with no where to go and in no hurry to get there. Many of these impediments to progress are a bunch of old farts. I used to tell Connie that “If all of these damned old people would get out of the damned way I could get to where I was going in the same decade”. Of course, I was in my late 60’s when I was saying that. I’m sure everyone has seen some of these people just meandering up and down the aisles of your favorite store with little or nothing in their basket and stopping every three feet to look at something. These are the same people who will get side by side on the freeway, block both lanes and with me directly behind screaming “Get the hell out of the way, you stupid @#**+@#s”. Wal Mart and Three Bears went pretty quickly. Except that at Wal Mart I became mesmerized and found myself wandering aimlessly like the people I’d just been cursing at Home Depot. Anyway, with my purchases made, a sandwich from the deli and a full tank of diesel, I hit the road for home. The road home was, virtually, ice and snow free. The temp had risen to the mid thirties and the road had absorbed enough heat to be clear but wet. I made it home just thirty minutes before dark. Enough time to bring in firewood and feed the critters. With myself safely ensconced in my easy chair I sipped a well deserved bourbon and coke. Yep. I went for the bourbon instead of the vodka today.
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,
Tomorrow you get to vote. You have not only the right to vote but the responsibility to get out and vote. If enough of you don’t bother to vote, we will, eventually, lose that right to vote and we’ll be in a society where you are forced to vote. It has happened all through the last century. 200 MILLION people died. They were murdered and starved to death in these countries where you are required to vote or else. The leader must receive 98% of the vote and you are forced to vote for whatever Fearless Leader (dictator) is on the ballot. The Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Venezuela and almost all of the Middle Eastern countries. Even today there is continuing murder of the citizens of many of these countries. So-o-o, Fellow Campers, use your right to vote for whomever you want before you are required to vote for the Fearless Leader.
Yesterday, I achieved another milestone. I reached the ripe old age of 76. One unusual thing that happened was that the night when I was born there was a Blue Moon. The night when I turned 76 was a Blue Moon. I’m hoping this doesn’t portend my imminent demise. This was the first time there was a Blue Moon on Halloween night in 76 years. I was born at 1:00 AM on November 1st under that same Blue Moon. In the event, you don’t know what a Blue Moon is , here is the definition. A Blue Moon is a 2nd full moon in a same month. It is a rarity that caused the old saying “Once in a Blue Moon”. Meaning that a particular event happens very rarely.
The continued effort to prepare for winter is in full swing. We spent part of yesterday afternoon splitting and stacking firewood. We had a little dusting of snow early Thursday morning. Normally, this light dusting of snow would have melted almost immediately. However, the event of the snow, also, brought lower temperatures. Recent nights have been down as low as 12F at night. Fortunately, during the day it warms to 21-22F. This temperature range isn’t a real problem, if you dress for it. Up until yesterday, I would find myself starting to sweat which meant I had to change to a less heavy coat. Yesterday the wind began to blow with gusts up a near gale force. The high wind and the 21F temperature made for a slightly uncomfortable afternoon. We kept on splitting and stacking wood until 5:30 by then the temperature had dropped to about 18F. At this time of the year it is completely dark by 6:30. I spent most of the morning installing the last two support posts under the front of the house. All three new posts are sitting on 16-18 inch thick concrete footings. Moving all of those 80 lb bags of concrete was a chore. Slogging through the ankle deep mud to mix and pour the concrete was just about all a 76 year old man could manage. Moving and cutting the posts was a lot easier. The installation of the posts was a breeze compared to the concrete. The front of the house is now level again. I can now lower the middle and back wall of the house to match the front. The effort to do this little project was almost beyond my ability. I have begun to feel that I might be losing a step. I have, jokingly, remarked that I’m like a 3 day old package of chicken, in the meat case at your favorite grocery store, I am getting very close to my “Sell by date”. I been thinking of it as preparing Summer for the day that I won’t be able to ‘answer the bell’ or maybe, even, get out of bed.
The next project, after the completion of the wood splitting and stacking, is to crawl under the house and remove the shims to lower the house to a point somewhere near level. The leveling will mark the beginning of the removal of sheetrock on the ceilings so that the house can be rewired. I have been scared silly that some part of the half-assed amateur wiring is going to kill us in our sleep. There are multiple wires in Summer’s room that are terminated in one 4×4 box. There are so many protruding out of the box that the idiot doing the wiring could not put a cover on the box. All of the wires were wire nutted together outside of the box. When we first moved in, I checked these wires and found several of them were just barely connected and/or connected with the wrong size of wire nut. Either of these are potential fire hazards. I repaired them as best I could by installing a box extension and a cover but that doesn’t really solve the entire problem. I have 5 smoke alarms and 3 Carbon Monoxide alarms posted through the house. I am more than just a little bit paranoid. We got a bit of a scare last night. I had the wood stove dampered down for the night. I had been in bed for less than an hour when the smoke alarm in the upstairs hallway started beeping. The beeping started Summer’s dogs to begin barking. The barking caused my dog to start barking. It was all of that barking and beeping that woke up both Summer and myself. The house was pretty smoky and I hurried around trying to find the source. I discovered that we were not, in fact, on fire. I took a look at the wood stove and discovered that the high winds were blowing down the stove pipe and forcing the smoke out through the combustion air inlet. I had, for three previous winters, meant to connect that through a wall vent to the great outdoors. This was a problem we’d never had before. Now my project for today is to put the hole in the wall and start drawing our combustion air from outside and putting the smoke outside when we get back pressure from the wind. It’s always just one more little thing that needs to be done.
We have run a ‘Garage Sale’ for the last two weekends. The first weekend brought in over $1000. The second weekend brought in less than $100. The problem was that no one wanted to come out in the snow. Now we only need another $4000 or so to pay for the inventory for Summer’s business. She started her business, Greer Rd Greenhouse, with the hope of being able to raise the $10,000 by January. We may get very close and not have to cancel some of the Spring inventory. Like Poker we are ‘all in’ here in Fritz Creek. We have money to finish the house but I’m concerned that her under capitalized business will die on the vine. I’m considering selling, Spike, my 2016 Dodge Ram 4WD 3500 is worth a minimum retail of $36k here in Alaska. I don’t really need the big truck anymore. I can buy a good used truck for $6000-$8000 that will suit our current needs. We no longer have the bi36′ travel trailer and I’m using a $36k heavy duty truck to haul trash and, occasionally, lumber and other supplies from Home Depot. This does not make sense. The proceeds, if any, will go to finance Summer’s business.
Again this year, we don’t have a proper chicken house and the ground has frozen so I won’t be putting a fence up to container these critters. I guess we’ll be putting them in the greenhouse the same as we did last winter. The construction of Summer’s business took me almost six weeks. It had to be constructed for the fall ‘Bulb Season’ and needed to be ready before the February Spring sales season begins. Summer sold all of the Garlic bulbs and about 25% of the flower bulbs. She learned this season that garlic bulbs are the money makers. Next season she will be heavily into garlic bulbs and a whole lot lighter on the flower bulbs. Every business is a crap shoot. I’ve never started a business that did not make money. I’ve closed several that were making some money but were more trouble than they were worth. This time I’m not in control. To say that I don’t like not being in control would be just a teensy bit of an understatement.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday were beautiful, sunny days. I arose this morning to pizzling rain, and a cold wind out of the northwest. A raw, cold cutting wind that just cut right through three layers of shirts and sweaters like I was standing outside naked. This weather almost makes me look forward to snow. Went back into the house and got my lined rain jacket. That made things much better. We got mud, mud and more mud. Where we don’t have mud we have rocks. The temperature is a balmy 40 F. without the wind it would be tolerable and any activity would have you shedding a layer of outer clothing. We seem to never get rain in the summer when we need it for the gardens and to fill the duck ponds.
Funny, to me, I got a call from a polling operation. They were, obviously, push polling so I told them what they wanted to hear. Yep, I’m voting for Biden, Gross an all of the Democrats. At least, that’s what I told them. I usually hang up on the pollsters but I thought this might be fun. He asked the same questions about 4 different ways. His problem was that I am really good at taking tests. If you’ve ever taken a test for a job, you’ll remember that the often ask the same question several different ways. The test is designed to trip you up. Unless you can remember how you answered the last permutation of the question, you might answer the next version differently and cause you to not get the job. Anyway, he hung up fully certain that he’d just talked with a loyal Liberal Democrat. He was happy and I got to amuse myself for a few minutes.
We’ve been running a “garage sale” in the tent/greenhouse. Now that the bulb planting season is over we have no garden stuff to sell that can be planted in frozen ground. The ground has. been kind of crusty frozen for several of the past mornings. It thawed later in the day but this is the bellwether announcing that the hard as rock ground is not too far away. The sale was pretty good Friday and Saturday but today has been a bust. Since there were no customers braving the rain, we started unloading storage containers out of the loft of the storage tent. 16×20 with an attic built in and slam full of stuff we no longer need or want. The only things in the tent that we really want and need are the new cabinets for the kitchen. The kitchen installation has been delayed and then delayed and then delayed some more. Summer and I are both sick of the half-assed kitchen we’ve been using. Not only that we’re living amongst neatly stacked boxes of hardwood flooring that cannot yet be installed. Both of these projects are held up by the need for the final leveling of the house. That grinding task is still a few days away. I’m still waiting for the new concrete footings to be fully set. I’ve been advised to allow them to set for, at least, three weeks because of the lower temperature since they were poured. In the mean time, we are just going to continue the sell off of our excess personal property for an additional week.
26 October 2020 Monday
Woke up at 6:00 AM to a deluge of water falling from the sky and the wind rip roaring around and shaking the house. Today, in spite of the rain and the wind, I’m doing a dump run this morning. After the dump run, I’m changing the truck over to my studded winter tires as it has been snowing in the passes on the way to Anchorage. Will be checking the front disc brake pads. I may need to replace the the brake pads and have the discs turned. We have put some 50,000 miles on these brakes. I’m fairly certain that I’m doing brake work today. I hate brake work but the local mechanics would charge well over $350 to do a job that will cost only about $100 for parts and paying for the discs to be turned. I understand ‘overhead’. However, for a job that would take them about an hour, I can’t bring myself to donate $250+ to their profit margin. It will end up taking me 3-4 hours because of having to wait for the discs to be turned. I guess I’m just a miserly old man.
Tomorrow I’m off to the big city of Anchorage. Anchorage is the stinky armpit, maybe crotch, of Alaska. It is a crime infested, vagrant filled Lib/Prog/Communist craphole. When in Anchorage, I only get out of my truck at the supply house and to pump fuel. I really don’t want to become an Anchorage crime statistic. The Mayor of Anchorage just had to resign for emulating Bill Clinton behavior. The reason for the trip is that Summer has merchandise, for her garden center business, that needs to be picked up. My trip will cost about $80 and the freight to have the stuff delivered would be about $200. I’ll drive the 430 mile round trip which will save $120. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Anchorage. The day will be close to 10 hours from home to home. I’ll be leaving before daylight and I have a real problem seeing at night. Cataract surgery is being scheduled. This will be a nice change and a good trip for Suzy and myself. She hasn’t been anywhere in several months and I think she gets bored at staying home. I know, for certain, that I do.
Well, I’m off to the dump. Y’all do your best to behave.
Vodka is a deserved reward for a job done well, or just okay, and sometimes when the job goes completely sideways. Nothing of any great importance has transpired since Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were just hours of dragging long unused items from inside the house and the Conex. I am selling tools. I have always told anyone that would listen “Never sell tools”. Yet here I am selling tools. I have a bonafide, excellent excuse for this heresy. Take drill motors for instance.. I have a Milwaukee 1/2″ Holeshooter that is almost as old as Summer. Still works like a champ. I have a Black&Decker 3/8″, I have 4-18 volt RYOBI Cordless units, and a 18 volt RYOBI Impact drill. I, also have a drill press. All of this drilling horsepower led me to selling the Black&Decker. Sometimes it’s just time to weed the garden and I’m probably going to really miss that B&D even though I haven’t used it in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, in these trying times, sacrifices have to be made. The bottom line is that, if I own more than two of a particular tool one has to walk the plank. The number of some tools of the same ilk in my possession was a little alarming. he number of tools still new in the box was horrifying. I had no idea that I was hoarding tools. I was always buying them with the caveat that I would, eventually, need that left handed pipe wrench or the chrome molybdenum counter rotating grommet remover. I have an Oxy-Acetylene setup on a cart with two tanks, brand new hoses and regulators that I bought 5 years a go from an estate sale. I have never used it. When I watch that TV show ‘Hoarders’, I’m thinking “Boy, these people are really stupid”. BUT are they more stupid than a guy who buys and hoards tools that he will likely never use? Probably not. Unfortunately, a lot of men suffer from the same, nearly incurable, ailment. I’m going do this the same way I quit smoking 30+ years ago. I’m going to get rid of the tools just like I got rid of the cigarettes, I’m going ‘cold turkey’. It might not be easy but rarely is anything of value achieved easily. An odd story about my quitting. When I quit, I decided to give the near two cartons of cigarettes to a guy I really didn’t like. He took them gladly and this is where the odd thing came in. He went cold turkey and quit a couple of weeks later. Magic cigarettes??
Today was the first day of the sale. For reasons that need not be discussed, we did not get the garage sale open until nearly 1:00 o’clock. Well, I guess it would be alright to discuss the reasons we didn’t get open. Summer had an important conference call and I drank coffee and listened to Rush Limbaugh until the show ended at 11:00. I wanted to hear what he had to say about the ‘debate’ on Thursday evening. I listened to some of the debate but turned it off after about 20 minutes. Honestly, I just can’t stand to hear Mr. Biden talk. I’m sure that some of you have had the experience of someone’s voice grating on your every nerve. There is no logic or sense to it but that is Mr. Biden’s voice for me.
Anyway when the sale, at last, began there were very few customers. It was after all a work day so I suspect that was the reason for the paucity of paying customers. About 5 o’clock when Summer was about to call it a day there were several customers that had, apparently, just gotten off from work. So in spite of the late start it turned into a pretty good sales day.
I guess that gets you up to date on our trials and tribulations here in Fritz Creek.