Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Just Clouds

Posted by: Lynne

The other day thanks to high winds aloft, the clouds were pretty spectacular. 

I have been just posting my photos to Facebook without doing an OtG entry for them, but then you blog readers and non-Facebook folks never see them. So today begins the change! If you don't mind too much, will you please leave your comment on the blog instead of Facebook? That way we can keep track of comments, whereas on Facebook it's transitory. Mind you, you don't have to, it would just be nice. smile

Sunday, October 09, 2016

It’s Snow Fun!

Posted by: Lynne

Destin: "lickety" split through the snow.

The dogs love snow. So, basically this is just a post with photos of dogs enjoying the fresh snow that we got a few days back.

Well, okay, and one gratuitous pic of aspens!

Good smells!

Scary Destin.



Thursday, October 06, 2016

A Sign of Things to Come

Posted by: Rick

We woke this morning to a bit of snow on the ground and a fine powder of snow still falling from the sky. It was predicted, and won't be enough to "bother" us in any way. It is really pretty outside, but a sign of things to come.

This is looking up our driveway.

One nice thing about snow is you can see the tracks of animals. It was clear that a coyote had been behind the cabin walking around sometime since the snow fell, for example.

You can see in the photo above that we've got a large pile of about 4 cords of wood covered by a brown tarp. And, more wood ready to be cut. That was to be today's chore, but may wait for the weekend.

We have continued to make progress on our winter preparations. We now have a second refrigerator running off propane in the storage shed. We will be stocking that shed with supplies for the winter soon. The list is still being refined and we are polling others that live up here year-round how they prepare. I guess toilet paper and pet food are at the top of the list. The wood shed is done--even beyond my previous post--as I've put up some trim so it really looks nice. Just needs paint now. We've ordered the tracks for the Ranger, and they should be here in a couple of weeks. And, we are pondering whether it makes sense to get a snow blade also. Inputs welcomed.

Here are a couple of other photos I took on my phone while letting the dogs out this morning. Lynne may add a photo or two and commentary too, so watch for that.


Okay, Lynne here now! Rick is right, this is just a sign of things yet to come. Last week we had a glorious Indian Summer week of weather. Perfection! Now Mother Nature is messing with us and we've had snow showers that looked like a blinding blizzard but didn't end up sticking much on Monday, high winds and much cooler temps all week long. Good old Mother Nature is sending us a sign that we'd better get busy and wrap everything up that we've started and not as yet finished because if she so desires, she will bring her fury on us. 

Am I ready? Hmmm...not really. Not mentally anyway. I have to admit to being a little apprehensive if I have to be honest. I have this idyllis little scene playing in my head: Rick and I sitting around by the toasty wood stove reading, knitting, maybe watching a movie as the snow falls outside. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when the weather breaks. Somehow I bet it doesn't really play out like that.

But I do think that we've just about done everything physically that we can to be ready. We need to fill up the new wood shed, get the tracks on the Ranger when they come in and make a provisioning trip to Sam's Club. The rest will have to wait.

The dogs are certainly ready. Destin had a blast in the fresh snow this morning and we had a hard time rounding him up to come inside.

All in all, the beauty up here in the winter will be something to experience. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Wood Shed

Posted by: Rick

I've done some woodworking--small projects, all--but, I've never done what I would call "construction". So, as with many other projects I have to get done up here, I embarked on something I don't really know how to do, relying on advice from friends, Google searches and YouTube videos: a wood shed.

First, I picked a location. Right next to our existing shed that holds the freezer, second refrigerator, and winter food supplies. We keep bird food in there too, along with other things we want access to with a short walk from the cabin door.

Shed location. This is looking south.

It will be (approximately) 7 feet deep, 12 feet wide, and built as a lean-to that is 7 feet high in front and 5 feet high in back. Of course, all good construction projects start with a detailed set of plans, drawn up with the help of a neighbor.

One reason to be thankful for dirt roads, I guess.

The plan is to set six 4x4 pressure-treated posts in the ground around which I can frame the shed. I have a manual post-hole digger, so started digging the holes as the first step in construction. I did okay on the two holes closest to the existing shed. But, the further I moved to the west, the harder the ground got. I finally gave up when I could not get more than a few inches into the ground. It felt like solid rock. So, on to plan B, which was to use pressure-treated 4x4 posts to build skids upon which I would then "mount" the shed. The trouble with that plan is the need to somehow anchor the skids to the ground. The common way to do that is with anchors that you auger into the ground and bolt to the skid frame. If I can't dig a hole, how am I going to auger the anchors into the ground? (It is important to be well anchored so the shed does not blow away in our 100 mph winter and spring winds.)

The answer came from a neighbor who offered to loan me his trenching machine. 

A borrowed trencher and "test" trench.

An astute observer will note that a trencher is for digging trenches, not post holes. But, I could dig a short trench with the deepest part right where I want the post! This trencher could go 24" deep and that is what I was able to do with the first couple of holes. I'd simply dig the trench, set the post, check it for location and level, fill the trench in while blocking the space right next to the post with some 2x4s, and then put some Quickcrete in the remaining hole next to the post! Voilá.

A post hole dug with a trencher.

I could not get as close to the shed as I had originally planned, but this solution was too elegant to care. I just slid the wood shed location over a few inches.

Rick, trenching hole #4.

It was a lot of work to get a trench deep enough where the ground was more rocky. I had to settle with 17" or 18" holes on the far west side. But, I think that will be fine given we set the posts in concrete.

Destin, of course, is a big help. Especially with his love for fresh piles of dirt.

The bed of the Ranger makes a great work platform.

It was a bit of a challenge getting all the posts to the same height. And, really that is not the issue since the ground may not be perfectly level. The real goal is to get the top of the posts level with each other, the front posts about 7' high and the back posts about 5.5' high. Yeah, the wood shed grew some on the back end. I had three 10' posts for the front, and they were sunk into the ground anywhere from 18" to 24". And, there were three 8' posts for the back. I made a lot of measurements for trench depth and post height, and cut the posts accordingly. But, of course, they were not perfect and some needed anywhere from 1" to 4" cut off the top to make them level. However, with Lynne's help, they are pretty much exactly where they need to be to have a square and level wood shed when we are done. (What's an inch or two out of square going to matter, anyway?)

Here are 5 of the 6 posts set. (Note that the shed needs paint. Got to get that done somehow.)

To make these cuts and get the tops of the posts all level, I climbed on a ladder with the chain saw and made horizontal cuts. This is something my mother told me never to do. Chainsaws on ladders are a "no no"! Lynne gave me an earful when she came outside and saw what I was doing. Anyway, it worked and I'm still with all my arms and legs.

If you want to know how this wood shed turns out, you'll just have to click through for "More...".



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