Dad’s Alaska

March 7, 2020 Saturday

Vodka:30

MUCH LATER…. As in two days later. Last post was on Thursday and it was short. The best laid plans etc. etc.

Thursday was spent thawing out a pipe that the heat tape had died on. Found out when I removed the insulation that water had run down the outside of the pipe for about six inches. The insulation was frozen to the ground. There was no was that the heat tape could generate enough heat to keep the frozen ground thawed. Hence dead heat tape and pipe frozen below ground level. Everything was just peachy keen. Used the jet heater to thaw the ground around the pipe then installed 4″ of foam insulation board below ground level and around the pipe. I carried this foam board out about 12 inches all the way around. That should help the new heat tape keep the water flowing.

Moved onto lowering the house. This entailed belly crawling 30 feet in the fine powdery dust that gets everywhere. It’s on your clothes, in your clothes, in your mouth, up your nose, sifting through your clothes into every crack and crevice that is your body. Whether you spend hours or minutes crawling through the stuff you end up like Pig Pen with a cloud of dust accompanying you where ever else you go. Anyway got the board out of the way that needed to be out of the way. This allowed me to remove the hydraulic jack as its’ holding capacity was replaced by one of the newly located screw jacks.

The next project was to extricate a hydraulic jack from the frozen mud. The boards holding it up collapsed where the rain soddened earth slipped away. I did not notice this event as it wasn’t supporting anything. I was much surprised to find the damned thing sticking out of the ground with all but the ram exposed. The ram and the fully extended screw top were buried nearly straight down into the frozen mud.. Frozen mud is only slightly less hard than concrete. I chopped at it with an axe, a shovel, a big screwdriver and hammer. Got out the propane torch and tried to heat the ground but this resulted in melting some of the plastic paraphernalia on the jack. As a last resort I decided to try to pull it out. All I accomplished was fully extending the ram. Still stuck. Getting the jack body out of the was allowed me to get back in with hammer and screwdriver. I loosened it enough that I was able to fling the thing back and forth violently a few times uttering choice words of wisdom. Suddenly it was released and I was sitting on my ass in the muddy snow. Since my time in the US Navy, I have found that certain choices of words seem to have an effect on inanimate objects. Like John Kerry, I served in Viet Nam. I didn’t, however, get three scratches that ended up as Purple Hearts and a ticket home. Never mind. Water off a duck’s back.

Along about 5:00 Friday morning with my gout ridden left foot hurting like hell, I took two pain pills on an empty stomach. A very short time later I was heaving my guts out. I had slept little Thursday night as the pain kept me awake much of the time. The entire day was a day of sick stomach and inability to hold down liquids or solids. I spent almost the entire day in bed. Then I noted that my blood pressure had spiked again and I had to force myself to hold down a sip of water and the pill. Later, I had some chicken broth and went to bed again. It was a miserable damned day. But HEY! I’m still alive.

Discovered on Thursday that the main reason for no running water in the house was that the pump had died dead. Installed the new pump today. Turned on the feed water to the pump, no water. Looked inside the 500 gallon tank and discovered that there was no water. This led to the discovery that one of the lines had come loose and that all of the water had run out under the snow. So it appears that the pump ran empty until it died from wearing out an internal thrust washer/seal/bearing in the pump. This seized the motor and the motor, it seems, went out on its’ internal overload. Chances are the motor is okay. The newly purchase pump is exactly the same pump under a different brand. You can buy parts for the new pump. Oddly enough, there are no parts available for the old pump. If the motor is okay, I have another nearly new pump for a fraction of the cost of the one I just bought. My silver lining for the day. Water pumps are a good spare to have on hand. Might use it for an irrigation pump this summer.

For over 2 years we have diligently been attempting to turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. We have for various reasons had to abandon the work for periods of time. Still there are times that I am certain and I believe that we can do it and others when I wonder aloud “What the hell am I doing here?”. Today after discovery the missing 500 gallons of water, I was certainly wondering. There’s little I can do but shake my head in disbelief, shrug my shoulders in resignation and plow on through this mess. Water will be delivered Monday AM. In the mean time, I’m melting snow for the animals and for flushing the toilets. Both life and dirty dishes, as usual, continue to be a mess to clean up. See ya.

The front of the house when we arrived.
The front of the house now. Dug out and cleared for a new foundation to support the house and 4 new rooms.

Dad’s Alaska

February 26, 2020

Somewhere there are people that live where nothing ever goes wrong and every project goes perfectly. That place ain’t here and I’m certainly not one of those lucky people. After we got the water drainage situation under control, and the weather warmed up enough that the downstairs shower was again operating, the damned fresh water is not leaving the water house. It seems that the water delivery man may have bumped the heater that was the secondary method keeping the pipes from freezing. The heater has a very sensitive tilt switch and when I looked into the problem, I found the heater had turned itself off. The heater being off would not have been a factor except we had a single night of +5F temp. If the temp stays above +15F the heater in the, heavily insulated, 500 gallon tank keeps everything flowing. The tank is kept at a constant +40F. I tried to thaw the piping out yesterday afternoon with no positive result. This morning I will attempt to defrost the piping again. I left the heater running overnight. I’m thinking that the pressure switch may have failed in the interim. When I’m sure that the supply line is thawed and the pump doesn’t work, I’ll change the pressure switch. I guess I’ll get my shoes and socks on and get after this aggravation by putting the jet heater to work. If there are frozen lines anywhere, it will thaw them. However, my most important job for the morning is taking 4 dogs to the groomer to get the toenails clipped. I know that this seems very weird under the circumstances.

Started the jet heater blowing into the water shed while the truck was warming up. Diesel engines really don’t like temps below +20F so I really wanted to make sure that it was warmed up properly before hitting the road. After the truck warmed up some, I loaded all four dogs into the truck. The water had still not thawed so I left the jet heater running with the hope that I wouldn’t return to a burnt down shed.

At the groomer I hauled the dogs in one at a time. Taco, the Chihuahua, tried to bite the lady trimming his sharp toenails. All of the other dogs went through the process with no more drama. Back at the homestead the heater thawed out the piping. I returned to find that the water as flowing again. I surmised that the problem was that the supply pipe to the pump was freezing because the heat tape had failed. Heat tapes are my enemy. Had to rethink the insulation and how to trap the heater’s output in a way that heated the water supply line. Built a bulkhead that covered the lower 1/3 of the door and held insulation above the heater. Anyway, the heat should stay around the supply pipe for the pump. Hopefully, the water problem is solved.

Third project of the day was to get the Range Rover running. It had been sitting dead for nearly three months. The battery had died and I just didn’t have the time to bother with it. The first thing I had to do was dig my way through 15 feet or so to get to the car. The snow had accumulated to 2-3 feet deep around the car and there was 12-15 inches piled up on the hood and windshield. All of that had to be removed before I could raise the hood to install another battery. Got the hood up after about 20 minutes of shoveling. Removed the old battery and installed the new one. The darned thing started right up. I was amazed. I let it run until the ice was melted off the windshield and then backed it out into the street. I ran it back and forth several times to make sure that it could be driven out of the snow bank whenever we want.

Next project was to fill six 5 gallon Homer buckets with snow, The water from these will be used to water the ducks and geese. I just set them near the wood stove and they melt down in a few hours. It isn’t one of the difficult projects but it has to be done daily. A bucket full of snow becomes about 4-5 inches of water. Four buckets of snow fills a 5 gallon bucket to about 2 inches from the top. The need is for two 5 gallon buckets of water on a daily basis. Not heavy labor but a constant need.

The sun has been out all day. This has melted the snow off the south roof of the house, the big tent and other buildings on the homestead. Since the temperature was still well below freezing the dripping water was freezing into icicles. Falling icicles are a dangerous hazard. With that in mind, I knocked some large chunks of ice and icicles off the roof that were hanging over the back door. A couple of them weighed near five pounds. Some were big enough to send you to the hospital with a bleeding head and a concussion, if they didn’t kill you outright.

That was the last of my projects of the day. Time for vodka.