Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Another Winter Prep Project Done!

Posted by: Rick

Today, we completed another winter prep project--the Ranger now has tracks!

Ranger with her Camoplast tracks, ready for snow. Parked next to 4 cords of wood.

A slightly different viewpoint.

So, as you can see, we have lots of wood. That is about 4 cords in the photo and we've got well over two cords in the woodshed. All we really have left for winter prep is a provisioning trip to Sam's Club and the butcher.

It was actually quite an ordeal. The Polaris dealer in Laramie offered to loan me a trailer which will carry the Ranger. So, on Tuesday, we drove into town, got the trailer, drove back home, loaded the Ranger on the trailer (after using the winch to move the T@B into her winter resting place), drove back into town, dropped off the Ranger and the trailer, did some shopping then came home. It took all day long!

Then, today, we reversed those logistics. (We really need a trailer.)

Bringing the Ranger home (we still need a name).

The good news is that now they are mounted and adjusted, I should be able to swap between tires and tracks on my own. Oh, I'll need to buy lots and lots of new tools, of course. But, I can be more self-sufficient.

Here are a couple of photos of the T@B move. Normally, on pavement, Lynne and I can move the T@B with some pushing and pulling. But, on the dirt driveway, it was just too heavy. So, we used the winch on the Ranger to pull the T@B toward her winter parking place, we then used manual labor to turn her and get her lined up. Then, the Expedition backed her into place.

The winch on the Ranger.

Connected to the tongue of the T@B.

The winter parking spot, sheltered from the wind. We'll put the cover back on soon.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Destin: 7 Months

Posted by: Lynne

Destin continues to grow ... and grow! When we weighed him a week and a half ago he weighed in at 75 lbs. and I think he's had a growth spurt since then. He's taller than Hailey now, his head and bone are both bigger than hers. He still has a way to go to catch up with behemoth Bella, but heck, he's only 7 months old!

He continues to bring us joy each and every day with either his cuteness or mischief-making. He's getting better about coming in after he's been outside, but we are still working on that. He tends to get the zoomies and then he wants us to catch him. Not a fun game when the goal is to get him in the house. We were making great progress until the snow came into his life. Oh, what fun is that white stuff! Sigh. Otherwise, he's good as gold. Smart smart smart. Maybe too smart. He is well muscled from all the good exercise he gets with uneven ground, logs to jump over, space to run. All the world is his yard.

Trying to get him to hold still for his montly photos at Serenity Point are getting tougher and tougher. Especially those lap photos! At one year I think I will make a collage of all those pics taken month by month to show his growth. Should be interesting!

Plus, with my butt plunked down on this snow covered bench was no picnic, let me tell you.

Who knows what the landscape will look like for month 8!

Holding still was never his strong point.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Strange Couple of Days

Posted by: Lynne

Rain makes itself heard.

It beats a staccato on the roof.

It taps against the windows.

It plunks itself into puddles.

But snow ... ah, snow.

Snow makes no noise. It arrives stealthily in the night, falling ever so softly to the ground, wrapping everything in a soft coccon of white and silence.

When dawn breaks, it's a Winter Wonderland.



And so this is the scene I was greeted with this morning. Each time it snows (this is the third time) it sticks a little more. On Monday it snowed all day long but we only accumulated about an inch. Had it stuck and not melted as it was coming down we would have had about 4 inches of wet snow. On Tuesday morning when I opened the curtains and glanced down I saw that someone had been taking a walk along the upside-down canoe right under our window. We looked up the prints and decided it was indeed a bobcat. Take a look.

Does it creep me out to think a bobcat was right under our window? YES. But I am not afraid, only in awe of this life we are living here.

And this morning our driveway was a trail of these prints, which we think are coyote. Notice that the prints of the cat above are wider and less elongated. You can almost see the claw marks on the below photo which mark it as canine. Also, I am not showing the gait of the animal here, but it was more like a dog walking than a cat. It was just ambling along. Plus, I thought I was awakened by a few sharp barks about an hour before the sun came up.

We had a bit of trouble getting Destin back in the house after his morning romp. He loves the snow, of course even though he looks to be giving me the raspberry, this is probably more a "I don't want to come in Mom" than "I don't like the snow Mom" reaction.

I am assuming that you saw Rick's blog post on our anniversary cook-out dinner just a few days ago? Here is what the same scene looked like this morning:

Brrr! Build that fire back up!

This post was going to be longer and include the past few days' goings-on but it is late in the afternoon now and we have a pot of chili on the stove. We have not been able to use our oven now for over a week due to a faulty switch that switches between the broiler and the oven, so a part has been dispatched from Canada and is on its way. Total bummer. 

It was also going to include my weird experience with Rick's "burning sage for good luck" over the campfire. (also in above link). But I don't have the time or mind for that now. I'm hungry. So you will just have to wait to read about my experience "smoking sage" or rather breathing in sage smoke.

Until then!

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Perfect Evening

Posted by: Rick

Yesterday was windy. We had sustained winds of around 20 mph with gusts up to 26 mph. That is not nearly as bad as it will get this winter, but was enough to put a damper on outdoor activities.

Sunday's Super Moon. Slightly out of context, but a nice photo.

We did take the dogs for a walk along the road in the morning before it got too bad. (We can't walk in the woods when it is windy because of the risk of a dead tree blowing down.) And, I stained some wood trim for an upcoming project on the porch.

But, mostly we read, Lynne worked on a puzzle some, I played some games on the iPad. A nice lazy day.

At around 5:00 the wind suddenly stopped. It became dead still. I took the dogs out for a pee and Destin immediately ran down to the camp fire ring. He was trying to tell me something--maybe it was a good evening to have a camp fire! 

Destin, alert at the sound of coyotes calling.

We had thawed a flank steak for dinner, so it was also a good chance to finally use my camp fire cooking setup. I could hang the grill over the fire for the steak, and we'd also hang a Dutch oven to cook blistered green beans.

Me, with the camp fire cooking setup. The box of wine is essential.

So, I started a nice fire. We dispose of old grease in the fire pit, and so it is pretty easy to get a roaring fire going. I had a big, hot fire in no time, then fed it small logs to build up a bed of coals.

It was chilly outside. I could see my breath. So, the heat of the fire and its crackling sound was comforting.

View of the cabin from the camp fire.

I set up the cooking kit. I filled a 2 gallon bucket with water and put it by the fire (just in case). And, I got a glass of wine. 

The flank steak was actually 1/2 of a flank steak. There is no way Lynne and I can eat a whole steak. I made a quick marinade of some olive oil, soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil, some granulated onion, garlic and ginger. Salt and pepper. All that went into a zip bag for about an hour and marinated while the fire burned down to a nice bed of coals.

What can I say?

The bean recipe is a great one, especially for an outdoor fire. I simply stirred green beans with a little oil, salt and pepper, in the hot Dutch oven then let them sizzle. Turning them once in a while, they soon develop brown blisters. I occasionally tossed them in the pot until they were blistered on all sides.

While fire crackled, the beans sizzled, and drops of fat from the meat hissed on the fire, we also heard coyotes calling in the distance. A couple of great horned owls called and responded. Otherwise, the stillness and silence was almost deafening.

Here is a 15 second video of the fire. Turn up your speakers and listen to the crackling of the fire:


As we ate our steak and beans the sun set and the hunter's super moon rose. It was HUGE and so bright it hurt our eyes to look directly at it. Stars began to appear and fill the sky. Coyotes sang. Owls hooted. Dogs lay by the fire. It was a perfect evening.

Happy dogs!

We topped it all off with some roasted marshmallows, some whisky, and burned some sage for good fortune. 

We had planned to go to town for dinner tonight to celebrate our anniversary, but decided last night's wonderful meal and experience is celebration enough.

Hailey wanted her photo included.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Looking Back on September 2016

Posted by: Rick

I think I've said it before, September is a huge transition month in the mountains. Unlike New Jersey where we had four seasons, all of roughly the same length and well defined by the weather trends and flora, here we have two seasons--winter and summer with a few weeks in between. September is our Fall season and we transition from Summer to Winter quickly. 

Fall color in the Laramie River Valley.

Average daytime and nighttime temperatures are now 20 degrees cooler. We've had a number of frosty mornings and even a couple of snow showers. The leaves, mostly aspen but also some willows and cottonwoods, have turned to bright warm autumn colors, then fallen off. The wildlife we see has changed, with fewer moose and a lot fewer birds.

We had a couple of snow showers in September.

It is pack rat season. September is when they start working on a nest for winter hibernation. And, they seem to like it under the hoods of the trucks, in the storage shed, or other cozy places. We caught one in a live trap and released it. Two more fell victim to regular rat traps. After those three were eliminated, it seems we don't have any more this year. Knock on wood.

It has been a productive month for us. We got the propane generator installed and wired to provide backup power in case the PV system can't keep up over several stormy days. The same propane tank is now also hooked up to our (old) refrigerator in the storage shed. That shed is outfitted with shelves ready to hold winter food and other supplies. The shed is mostly insulated (with a bit more to do) and has a fresh coat of paint. It still needs a new roof.

We built a wood shed. I am very proud of the result. We now have a place within steps of our "back" door where we can store several cords of wood and keep it dry. We might even sacrifice some wood storage to keep the snow blower in there. Not sure yet. The shed is done, nicely trimmed and painted, even beyond past photos documenting our progress. We don't like the paint color, so will still need to do a coat or two to change it.

And, we've cut several more cords of wood, some now in the wood shed. There is more to go. Assuming we burn an average of 5 square feet of wood each day over a 200 day fall/winter/spring, we'll need about 1000 square feet of wood. A cord is 128 square feet, so that is about 8 cords. I think we have about 5 cut, split and stacked.  My goal was to have 7-8 cords by the end of September, so we did not meet that goal. But, we are in very good shape and it is possible to continue to harvest and cut wood through much of the winter.

Starting to fill the wood shed!

I have learned a lot about my chain saws. John at the Hegge Lumber Saw Shop has showed me how to better sharpen the chains. And, I now have multiple chains for each saw and can change them quickly. It makes a huge difference cutting wood with a sharp saw!

We've started using some of the wood with early morning fires to get rid of the overnight chill in the cabin. We keep the propane heater set to 65 degrees, and it has started running once or twice a night.

I had some acrylic panels made to fit in the screened-in porch windows. We are hoping that by blocking off the porch to the outside air with these panels, we will be able to extend the time we can spend on the porch. In any case, these panels will keep the wind and snow off the porch. We have a portable propane heater, too, that might help keep it warm. It won't be completely closed off, but enough to be comfortable  (we hope). I still need to cut trim to use to secure the panels in the window openings and get them installed. Maybe a good project for this weekend.

We ordered a set of Camoplast tracks for the Ranger. I got word today that they are in, so we need to arrange to take the Ranger into town to have them installed. That will mean no more day trips in the Ranger, at least until we get snow. The tracks are four season tracks, so it is okay to use them on the dry roads, but the experience would not be as fun as with tires. So, we can still use the Ranger to gather wood, etc, but not recreationally. With the tracks installed, we can be highly confident in our ability to get out of here even if the roads are closed due to snow.

We plan to leave one of our trucks at the state line, especially when there is a forecast of heavy snow. We still need to be introduced to the person who owns the property where we'd like to leave it.

Destin continues to grow and bring us joy. He is now 75 pounds at just over 6 months of age. He thinks the whole mountain is his yard and will roam freely anywhere we've taken walks. Often, he'd rather roam that come to us when called, so we need to work on that. Meantime, with hunting season starting, he and the other dogs wear blaze orange scarves and coats when we go outside. 

Destin in his blaze orange vest, ready for hunting season.

We took Destin to a dog show in Greeley, Colorado early in the month. He did not do well, but it was great to see a lot of our "dog show" friends that we had not seen in 10 years.

Destin, second from the left, with his brothers and sisters at the Greeley Dog Show.

Last month we took delivery of and installed some new appliances. We now have a shiny new propane refrigerator and stove. We've had some trouble getting them working right. The refrigerator would not start and we finally got someone from town to come out and fix it. The manufacturer reimburse the cost of that. And, now the range is giving us problems. The stove and broiler just won't light. The manufacturer thinks it is a switch and they are sending me a replacement. Once we get everything working, I think they will be great appliances--far better than the 16 year old versions we had.

Football season has started. I am enjoying taking Sunday afternoons off and just sitting in front of the TV and rooting for the Broncos. I did not watch football weekly for the past 10 years. It is not Lynne's favorite thing, but she stays occupied reading or knitting.

We got a couple of day trips in last month. One day we packed up all the dogs and went in a big circle through Red Feather Lakes and home by Deadman Road. It was a multi-hour trip, all on dirt roads. It was very windy, so we did not really get out of the truck other than to grab some lunch in Red Feather Lakes. But, the aspen trees were in full color in many places and it was fun to make the circle. Bella does not like riding in the truck, but we made her go.

Aspen trees just starting to change on Deadman Road.

On another day trip, also leaf peeping, we went up the Laramie River to Chambers Lake on CO Hwy 14, then down to Walden, up to Woods Landing, the back up the Laramie River Valley to Sand Creek Pass and home. Destin and Hailey had a good time and even got to sit with us as we ate lunch at a cafe in Walden. Bella stayed home.

We now have Colorado drivers' licenses. And, the trucks are registered. Ouch, it costs a lot to register a vehicle in Colorado. We also registered to vote.


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