Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Unexpected Demise of a Pack Rat

Posted by: Lynne

Ah, pack rat season has begun. Last week there was a little "gift" left for us by the door on the back deck. It always starts this way. A little leaf, a chewed-off flower or maybe a pine cone or some other treasured little piece of pack rat paraphernalia. Sometimes the gifts change daily, almost always artfully arranged. Also artfully arranged is the beginning of a nest under the hood of our vehicles. 

Although extremely cute, they are nasty little beggars and stink to high heaven. They also chew through wires under the hood and once we even had one get tangled up in the serpentine belt of our Surburban, kiling the rat and throwing the belt right off. And trust me, the truck doesn't go anywhere without it. In short, they are a nuisance. And, every year at this time of the year it's the same old routine as the rats prepare to bed down for the coming winter.

So, we've been setting the no-kill trap evey night, baiting it with pupperoni dog treats because they smell so much. Each night the bait is taken, but the trap is not tripped. Last night while laying in bed I thought I heard the clang! of the trap springing shut. This morning, sure enough, there was the pack rat in the trap. (The bait this time was an apple slice.) He was not very happy. For some reason I just couldn't feel sorry for him.

We loaded him up in the Ranger and drove off to find a spot in which to release him. We stopped, pulled over to the side of the road, opened the trap and released him. Instead of running for the wide open meadow the stupid creature tried to run over my feet and promptly ran right under the Ranger. It did not come out the other side. sigh. There aren't too many places underneath the Ranger where he could hide, but we didn't see him. We knew he was there and we sure didn't want to drive him right back home with us, so we went for a ride hoping to lose him along the way.

I told Rick he should step on the brakes really hard and maybe that would jar him loose. He did so and we immediatley smelled the stench of pack rat. Rick said, well I guess we at least mananged to make him pee himself ... but we didn't see him anywhere behind us. We drove around for a little while, jamming on the brakes here and there but to no avail as far as we could tell. We took the bumpiest way home we could think of. Still nothing.

When we got home I got out of the Ranger and could smell pack rat stench. I looked down at the right front tire and saw bits and pieces of what used to be the pack rat lodged in the wheel. So that was where the critter was hiding! When Rick washed the wheel out he found the remains of the rat almost intact. Sorry, rat, we tried our best to save you but you had to be a smarty-pants.

So much for our no-kill trap.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Moose Walk

Posted by: Lynne

We went for a walk the other day to collect the game camera cards and change them out. As we were walking past the part of the trail through the forest that gives a glimpse of the bog, Rick happened to glance over and said in a hushed voice, moose, a cow. I looked over and sure enough there she was, at nearly noon laying down and taking a nap. You can see her through the branches in the above photo. She wasn't too disturbed by us, but she did rise to her feet.

And, look whose head popped up when she did — baby girl moose! Silly me, I should have realized it was mamma and baby as they like to hang out around our area. Now we really had to cautious. It made me a little nervous being on foot. Thank goodness we didn't have the dogs with us like we usually do, but Destin had just had a bath and Bella was still not ready for a long walk even though she is well on the way to recovery from her nasty bout with kennel cough. 

It was difficult to get a good shot of them through all the branches because the camera wanted to focus on the branches instead of them.

We debated about whether or not to make the circle trip to retrieve the rest of the camera cards since our route would take us right past them again, only a little closer on the other side of the bog. We decided to chance it. As we grew closer to the bog we walked as quietly as we could. When we saw them, mamma saw us too. She lifted her big head and pointed her nose right at us, nostrils flaring while she took her measure of us. Baby Girl Moose meanwhile had run into the denser willows to hide. I was basically holding my breath, but mamma was not concerned with us much and went back to stripping willow leaves.

To take these photos I just had my normal lens on (18-135mm) so we were pretty darned close. I'm sure she was keeping an eye on us even though she appeared to be pretty nonplussed, but as long as we kept going and did nothing threatening she was just going to carry on eating.

I am may be anthropomorphizing here, but we think she knows our scent since she frequents our cabin and the whole area surrounding it. In a sense, she knows us. Maybe she has even gained a bit of trust in us. Not that we trust her all that much ...

She's a very big moose. Even bigger when you are standing near her!

Since that day she's been around the cabin quite a bit. The same night that we had seen them on the walk we let the dogs out for their final duties around 8:15, and we did not see her and baby girl standing by the salt lick. But Destin did and he started barking and doing his jumping-on-hind-legs jig at the edge of the fence. She just stood there and looked at him. (Thank goodness for the fence.) I went out to get him and chased him around the yard some before he decided to go in. The moose did not budge.

Last night around the same time I got up to close the curtains and looked out into the meadow. There they were again. Mamma at one mineral lick and Baby Girl at the other.  We watched them for a while from the porch and could even hear them licking and smacking. Once it got dark Rick went out with the flashlight and could not see them so we let the dogs out. Turns out, they were both there in the aspen forest and Destin started to bark. They just stood there and Destin said oh what the heck, and stopped barking. No big deal. Just the moose again. It would be great if he got used to them being around and didn't bark at them. 

Now that we know she's here a lot of the time we need to take extra precautions when we go for walks. (Destin always wears a bear bell when we have him off-lead.)

Note: By the way we know it's a baby girl moose because all female moose have a white anal patch just under the tail.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Thermal Runaway

Posted by: Rick

You may remember from earlier posts, that we have a small shed across the driveway from the cabin where we keep our winter provisions. It has a chest freezer for meat. A second propane refrigerator for overflow from the one inside. And, this summer we installed a propane dryer for drying clothes. I worked, last summer, to get the shed insulated and critter proof, with plenty of shelves for storage. This article talks about the provisioning step.

The shed worked well throughout the winter. The heat from the propane refrigerator and full insulation helped keep it warm. Yes, there were a few times when it got very cold outside that we had a few items freeze. So, this winter, only "dry" goods and other items that can be frozen will be stored there. It would be nice to have some source of heat just for those cold days. After all, the freezer and refrigerator tend not to run when the ambient temperature is that cold, so generate no heat to warm the shed.

We have the opposite problem in summer. Even with all the insulation, the inside of the shed gets warm. Sometimes very warm. That causes the refrigerator and freezer to run more. And, the more they run, the warmer the inside of the shed becomes. And, the warmer it becomes the more they run! Thermal runaway results! We don't use the fridge for much in the summer, so I could just turn it off. But, we do use it for beer and wine.

To fix this issue (somewhat), I purchased a solar powered attic fan. It consists of a 70 watt solar panel that powers a 12 volt fan mounted in a 12" diameter housing. I replaced one of the passive vents in the shed with the fan. When the sun is shining (and likely warming the inside of the shed), the fan comes on. The fan speed varies with the intensity of the sun. The fan then pulls air through the shed, blowing the warm air outside and pulling cooler, ambient air inside.

70 watt solar panel that powers the fan.

The fan from the inside of the shed.

The fan vent cover from the outside along with the wires from the solar panel.

I haven't permanently mounted the solar panel yet. It just sits horizontal to the ground on the stack of snow tracks for the Polaris Ranger. It gets sun from first thing in the morning until late afternoon. The fan makes some noise, but I'm pretty happy with the situation. I can just unplug it for winter.

Ten O’Clock Musings

Posted by: Lynne

 

NOTE: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and debated about whether or not to publish it, but here it goes! I've got several blog posts pending so I hope over the next few days to wrap those up and get them posted. Laziness.

Okay, it's late and I can't sleep. Sometimes I lay there and thoughts run through my head and they won't leave so I have to write them down. I did that quite a lot when I lived in New Jersey and had my blog, but it hasn't happened in a long long time.

I find it interesting when we have company to visit and seeing what they make of where we are living and how we live. So far every one of them as asked us if we have a land line (for phone) when their cell phones don't work right up here unless they have Verizon, for which we have a booster here at the house. Uhm, that would be a no. We are "off the grid" and have no services.

They don't much wonder about our little solar-charged-battery-operated house either because in the summer months it hums along without much thought to most people. We don't stress about electricity as much as we used to either since our new array of solar panels, new batteries and the like were installed just before we moved. We know because we live here that we can't operate multiple big usage things at the same time, such as the vaccumn cleaner and the power sucking microwave. Not that we use the microwave for anything but warming things up, melting things, and the occasional emergency defrost. We never cook our food by nuking it.

Our range and fridge are powered by propane. Even the range has nothing that uses electricity. Now to be honest, our range has been problematic since the day we brought it home. It's from Canada, what can I say? They recently agreed we had a lemon (the broiler does not work; the oven might light if we are lucky, only to go out 15 mintues later which might require another 15 minute wait before it will light again) and sent a replacement range which we just put in today, so fingers crossed. It's pretty though in all its stainless steel glory, even our neighbors think so. Well, pretty is as pretty does goes the old saying.

They don't think about water for their showers either which we take much longer showers in the summer than in the winter because of the electricity that the water pump uses to pump the water from the well.

They also can't believe that we don't have "streaming." The only "streaming" going on around here is when the dogs go in and out of the stream that trickles from natural springs that flows through the old aspen, spruce and fir woods in the bottom of our property.

We do have satelite TV and internet, although our internet is limited. Our band-width is limited (unless it's from the hours of 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. when we have unlimited access and also when we are asleep), so I don't watch all those videos people post on Facebook. If I want to do a blog post I upload all the photos before 8:00 a.m. 

Pretty much, I think that they believe we are certifiably crazy. Especially after seeing our drive in to town.

Yes, the roads are dirt and at most times washboarded which shake your vehicle to death. But ... we see and encounter the most amazing things on the way. Eagles are very common, both balds and goldens. Various hawks, vultures, cows, antelope, deer, badgers and the ilke. The other day we were coming back from town on the way in that has fencing. An antelope was trotting down the road  toward us and when it saw us, it panicked (like they are prone to do, such skittish creatures) and tried to jump the fence. Antelope cannot jump, they usually go under wire fencing, but in this case this particular stretch of road is not antelope friendly and has an extra row of wire at the bottom so that they can't really go under it. The antelope got caught trying to jump the fence and had one hind leg caught up and was struggling to free itself. We backed up, got out of the truck (Rick grabbed a padded blanket we had in the back) and went over to the fence. I saw that its hind leg was twisted in the barbed wire and couldn't visualize how we were ever going to free it, when after several hard tugs of the leg, the antelope finally freed itself and bounded off. Just another day! Or how about the day we saw a badger family waddling across the road and stopped to take a photo (from the safe confines of the truck) and Daddy badger tried to take on the truck and went for our tires.

Friends of ours often wonder how we cope with being "in the middle of nowhere" meaning that we are not close to a city. Rick and I have lived a pretty lush life in my opinion. We lived for many years overseas in three different countries, experiencing things most people have no clue about and travelling a lot. We've wined and dined in some of the best restaurants in France and met Paul Bocuse along the way.

I can be that woman who dresses up and goes to posh events in New York City, the Oscars (while staying at the Beverly Wilshire) or I can be the real me who doesn't put on makeup every day, gets smoky sitting by a campfire and can enjoy the simple things of life. I suppose I am probabaly a little bit of both of those people but I prefer the unfancy side of me. I don't have to have the fanciest of cars, the biggest of houses, designer clothing and all the material things that people seem to strive for these days (I mean really, who needs a car that is so snobby it doesn't even have a spare?). 

All I can say is that we are happy and where we need to be at this time in our lives, and that's all that really counts.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Total Eclipse of the Sun

Posted by: Lynne

sing along with me!

<snip>Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun <snip>

"You're so Vain", Carly Simon

Well, today we attended one of the greatest free shows on Earth, thanks to the dear old Moon and the Sun being in the same place at the same time, and we didn't have to fly our Learjet anywhere! All we had to do was get up and leave the house at 6:00 a.m., drive 2.5 hours north in light traffic, take out our chairs and wait for the show to begin.

We could not have found a more tranquil and peaceful spot to set up on except for maybe our back yard. But, in our back yard we could never have viewed the totality of the eclipse and stared directly into the sun. How many people can say that they've stared right at the sun?

Plenty of cars drove in afer we arrived, but they just drove straight past us. There was a higher ridge further on that we could see where a lot of cars were parked, and I assume they were heading there. In the above photo you can see the road snaking back the way we came from, about 20 miles in on Little Medicine Road off Highway 487.

I whiled away quite a bit of time searching for cool rocks and came home with a bag full.

 

When it started it just looked like a tiny bite had been taken out of the sun. It was really cool to watch the progression. I was surprised to find that when there was only a sliver left of the sun it was still very light even though the light was very eerie and like nothing I've seen before. I felt like I was going slowly blind although I can't describe it to you. And, here I am talking about how it looked around us and not through our glasses. Not like normal setting sun kind of light at all. More like a 360-degree sunset.

When totality finally arrived and we could take off our special glasses and look at the sun directly (when I took the first photo above), it looked like the moon had a very special quivering aura. The photo I took makes it look more flaring than it actually was, but that's just the lens. Words cannot describe the eerieness of the silence (except for those people on the far ridge cheering and whooping). It was not completey dark as we had expected it to be, but more like deep twilight. 

We had about 2 mintues of totatily where we were. For those few minutes it seemed like the Earth stood still and everything held its breath. Before we knew it the sun started to peek back out from behind the moon and it was time to put the glasses on again. It was very cool to imagine all those other people across our nation seeing the same thing at the same time. A true bonding experience!

The line of cars coming back was almost comical, but the traffic flowed smoothly and went along mostly at 70mph, with a few slow moments like below on approach to Medicine Bow. But the police in town were on top of it and directed the flow of traffic back onto Highway 287 seemlessly. Good job Medicine Bow!

We weren't going to go but I am so thrilled that we did. It was indeed TOTALLY magical.

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