Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Snow Guards and Other Winter Topics

Posted by: Rick

The “front” of our cabin faces north(ish). I quote the word “front” because our use of “front” and “back” when describing the cabin is highly ambiguous. By the plans we used to build it, the front is where we have the screened-in porch and a set of steps leading down to the yard. And, the back is on the opposite side, of course. However, the driveway is at the back, along with the outbuildings and the door we use to go in/out about 90% of the time. So, that entrance is often called the front. And, the front is called the back. But, sometimes we call the back the front. So, it can be very confusing.

We’ve always used the front landing for a wine fridge 

Anyway, in the past we did not use the front steps to access the yard. It became impossible to use after the first snow or two because snow would avalanche off the metal roof and pile up on the stairs and landing at the top of the stairs. Since this side of the cabin faces north, we got very little melting, so the snow would continue to pile up all winter. Sometimes, one could even climb it up to the roof. The snow pile on the landing was used more for storage of wine (we just pushed the bottles into the wall of snow), than access to the yard.

Now that we have a fenced in yard area, it is really nice to be able to let the dogs out/in via the front door. So, we really needed fix the snow avalanche problem.

Lynne, illustrating the height of the front snow bank

Because several feet of heavy, wet snow would sit on the landing and steps for many months at a time, the railings and steps had begun to rot. They were actually dangerous to use. So, we had a contractor (actually, the guy who was the general contractor for the cabin build), replace the steps and railings. (The steps are done, but the railings are custom built and not yet installed as I write this.) And, we had him put snow guards on the roof to keep the snow from avalanching. 

Snow guards are small attachments to a metal roof that stick up a couple of inches and hold the snow on the roof instead of allowing it to slide.

We also had him put some on the back of the cabin above the new deck to keep the snow there from also sliding down and covering the deck. 

So far, they seem to be working great. We did not put snow guards where the solar panels are since I want the snow to slide away from them. I actually have to get on a ladder and use a snow rake to pull the snow off the roof below the panels.

Here, there are no snow guards. Note the snow overhanging the gutters. I climb the ladder to scrape snow off the roof and solar panels here.

Here, there are snow guards on the roof. Notice how disciplined the snow is.

We may not have really gotten any avalanching like previous years anyway.

We had gutters installed on the front and back, and the gutters were acting a bit like a snow guard in that the snow did not tend to slide off in huge chunks. Instead the gutters held it back. But, it would cover the gutter and start to hang off over the eve, and then form icicles as well as drip into ice pools on the ground or the steps or the deck. Very dangerous. And, not good for the gutters.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Timberrrrrrrr!

Posted by: Rick

We had a couple of 100+ year-old beetle-killed pine trees close to the cabin that we cut down recently. I guess the correct term is "felled". I don't think they'd have damaged the cabin or fence when the fell naturally, but they could easily have taken out dozens of still living trees and caused a lot of damage.

The trees are just to the left and right of the center of this photo, taken from our front porch.

Here is an "after" photo for comparison.

We hired a lumber jack (of all trades) to cut the trees. My saw looked like a toy next to the saw required to bring these trees down. One now lays pointing north along the side of the ridge, the other pointing south. He felled them in exactly the positions we wanted to allow for game to still come up from the valley and to minimize collateral damage. You can see videos of both trees below.

Jay (the lumberjack) would cut a notch at the bottom of the tree to direct the tree to fall in a certain direction (although with old dead trees with some rotting, this can be a challenge), then a cut from the opposite side to create a hinge arond which the tree falls. It took a lot of skill to be as precise and he was. His son, James, would also push on the tree with a long pole to direct it. All this was done in pretty high winds that were not blowing in a helpful direction.

While here, we also had Jay cut up the large tree that had fallen across our hiking trail last year. Here are before and after shots of that:

We'll get some great firewood out of that tree! And, we may use some of it to create an entry sign at the driveway. Maybe. Someday.

This first video is of the tree that was felled to the south. The video is a bit long because there were some problems getting the tree cut. Despite the use of a huge saw and wedges, the saw blade got bound in the tree and a second saw was called into action;

 

The next video is of the tree that was felled to the north. It went a bit smoother:

It is nice to have these trees down. The view from the porch is a bit nicer. And, we also now have a better view of the bottom of the valley where moose and elk often hang out. The beetle-kill epidemic from several years ago has certain changed the whole ecosystem around the cabin.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Way Behind

Posted by: Rick

We are way behind in preparing for the winter. And, it seems winter has already come--several times.

By this time last year we had about 5 cords of wood cut, split and stacked. This year, we are well behind that goal.

See the green tarp in the photo above? Last year, that stack of wood was as wide as those poles sticking up and extended outward to where that stack of logs is. The good news is that we do have lots of raw wood close to the cabin. (You can see a pile of aspen logs in the right-bottom of the photo, and another large pile of beetle-kill pine logs to the far left-center.)

Another piece of good news is that after several early-season snow storms, we now have great weather predicted for the next couple of weeks. That will allow us to gather even more raw wood from around the land and get it hauled to the cabin site, where we can cut and split even in winter if needed.

A stack of logs from cutting up a tree that had fallen in the meadow.

We don't have tracks on the Ranger yet as it is needed to continue to haul logs that we cut in the meadow to the cabin site. We don't have our winter provisioning done either. And, we don't have our final fill-up of propane yet. (No worries, as none of this was done at this time last year, either.)

What the heck did we do this year? It has passed so fast!

Well, we did get the exterior of the cabin refurbished. We built a deck on the south side of the cabin. The dogs got a fenced in yard (which has been a huge hit). The barn got stained and painted. We did several dogs shows as well as a few weeks of "vacation". We've been busy. But, now we've got to buckle down and finish getting ready for winter. Who knows what lies ahead?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Snowed Out

Posted by: Rick

If you read this blog last year, you know that we spent a lot of time and effort making sure we would be okay if “snowed in”. With no winter access other than our own ingenuity, getting snowed in at the cabin for several weeks at a time is a real possibility. 

However, we are not prepared to be “snowed out” as we are today. 

View from the cabin into the meadow, from the webcam.

We attended a dog show in Denver over the weekend (where both Bella and especially Destin did well and had a great time). We took the RV and stayed at the show site. We left there about 6:00 p.m. on Sunday and soon realized that, as predicted, Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming were being hit with a big snow storm.

Rather than risk pulling the RV over 8500+ feet passes in snow, we decided to stop in Fort Collins for the night. We were able to find a nice spot after-hours in a KOA campground where we are weathering the storm.

From our webcam as well as reports from neighbors there is about 12” of fresh, heavy, wet snow at the cabin. We are planning to stay here at the campground until we can be assured of getting back into the cabin. We still have to haul the RV to Laramie and put it in storage. Then, make our way home from there. We will give it a day or two, I think.

We learn new things every day. Since we were towing the trailer behind us, it made sense to stay in a campground. But, that was not our first thought. At first we planned to stay in a motel. What a pain that would have been, moving all our stuff from the truck and trailer to the motel room. But, I had winterized the trailer before leaving the dog show site. Since the weather forecast for Laramie was calling for very, very cold temperatures tonight (Monday night), I decided to buy a bunch of RV antifreeze and go ahead and winterize the trailer before towing it back. So, that was one reason to get a motel. But, the trailer is “home” and very comfortable, especially when hooked up to electricity, water and sewer. And, since the “de-winterizing” (summarizing?) process is relatively simple, we decided to do that instead. It took about 1/2 hour (in the cold, wind and snow), but was worth it since we are now cozy in our moveable home. Next time, I’ll think twice before winterizing “on the road”.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Air Ambulance Coop

Posted by: Rick

I just renewed our membership with AirMedCare, a network of air ambulance providers. It is not insurance, rather a coop. By joining, if we ever need air ambulance services and use a member provider, all of our out-of-pocket expenses would be covered. They bill our insurance and any costs not covered by insurance are picked up by the coop.

Air ambulance services can be very expensive, running into the tens-of-thousands of dollars. Given our remote location, it seems a small expense for the peace of mind we get being members. I don't mean this to be a commercial, but rather a way to inform you of this kind of service.

I guess they have about 3 million members nationwide. They cover 39 states with a variety of air ambulance companies. We'd be served by Northern Colorado MedEvac out of Greeley or REACH out of Loveland. You can check them out at the link above. If you decide you'd like a membership, let me know. If you give me your name, city, state, and phone number, they will contact you. And, if you decide to sign up we each get 3 months of free coverage.

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Recent Comments

  • Being a log cabin, with all log walls and 12” purlins every 3’ to support…

    Posted to: ‘Snow Guards and Other Winter Topics’ by Rick on 11/21/2017

  • Fun hearing about your unique mountain problems & solutions.  Is there any concern about increased…

    Posted to: ‘Snow Guards and Other Winter Topics’ by Glen Leinbach on 11/21/2017

  • No surprise that the concept of “vacations” for any but the rich is a 20th…

    Posted to: ‘Way Behind’ by Glen Leinbach on 10/14/2017

  • You also had a lot of company distracting you from your preparations!  Posted to: ‘Way Behind’ by Carolyn Clarke on 10/14/2017

  • We have about 3 cords split and stacked. And, probably another cord ready to split.…

    Posted to: ‘Snow? Oh no. No. No. No.’ by Rick on 09/22/2017

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