Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Monday, June 29, 2015

Excavations

Posted by: Rick

Oscar did the requested excavations at the cabin site last week.

This shows the 24' x 24' site for our new barn/storage shed/workshop/garage (truly, a multi-purpose building). The building is 20' wide and 14' deep, and will sit about 6' back in this space. This was excavated slightly above the driveway grade. David, who took these photos for us, is standing on the driveway. This is looking Southeast. I'll need to drag the downed trees away and clean up the boundary some, but that is a chore for another day.

If you turn 180° to look across the driveway to the Northwest, you can see where Oscar put all the dirt he took out of the barn site.

It was used to create some additional space for parking and turn-arounds. 

The ground here is mostly decomposed granite. That is a perfect base because it is like rough gravel. It packs into a very hard surface that does not get very muddy when wet.

Turning just a bit more to the North, here is a shot down the driveway to the cabin.

There is a spot, just to the right of this picture where we had some ground removed to create a larger flat spot next to an existing shed. We'll store fire wood there. I'll build a cover in that area and we will be able to store about 4 cords of wood close to the cabin door and in a sheltered spot. If you walk toward the cabin, you see the final excavation.

This spot already existed as a parking spot, but the width has been doubled. That small split rail fence is there to keep anyone from driving on top of the septic tank. And, the parking slot was just about as wide as the fence. This is where we plan to put our travel trailer--not only for parking/storing it, but also to serve as a guest bedroom when you come to visit. We'll back into this space, keeping the left side of the trailer to the cabin-side of this space (right side in the photo). That way, the door will open toward the meadow.

All this is just another step in the process of preparing the cabin for year-around living. Grass should start to fill in soon to further, and it will look great in a few months.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 2015 Cabin Visit Projects

Posted by: Rick

This visit to the cabin had several purposes:

  1. Confirm this is really the place we want to retire to as soon as possible. 
  2. Vacation. Have some "down time" and relax. Take it easy.
  3. Projects to prepare for our move and full-time life at the cabin.

Check off number 1. There is no doubt.

We had to balance between #2 and #3. Even on vacation there is always a long list of chores and projects to do. The cabin requires maintenance, for example. Batteries need distilled water. Windows need washing. Etc. 

I thought we'd get more #3 projects done, but we got some big 'uns covered.

I wanted to get our mailbox installed at the Wooden Shoe Ranch. But, I could not find a mailbox mounting pole anywhere in Laramie. So, a neighbor has volunteered to install it while he does maintenance on a couple of existing mailboxes. The mailbox itself is ready, with our address labeled on the side and front. I've written a letter to the Laramie Postmaster asking for mail to be delivered to the box. We'll see.

Mailbox is ready for mail!

One small project was to repair the plumbing vents that have been broken by the snow. These have broken and been fixed before (making this fix more challenging). This time, I added some strapping to hold them vertical even with a large snow load pulling them over. I think this will work fine.

Maybe this strap will keep the snow from breaking the vent pipe.

Sam Burnham our "off the grid" power resource came by. She and her new apprentice John went over all the projects we have planned for her. We are going to add about 1500 watts of PV to our existing (800 watt) system. Lynne proposed a location for the solar panels (which is brilliant) and we confirmed it was an excellent location. So, those will be installed sometime this summer. 

We are also replacing our 13-year-old batteries. And, growing from 8 batteries to 12. Having twelve batteries will give us additional power during times when there is little sun or wind. But, they need the additional charging the new PV will give us. The new batteries will likely be installed at the same time as the new PV panels.

We will need to re-commission our wind turbine, too. We discussed it, located the tie-down points for the guy wires. Etc. But, that project will wait until we are here. No need to run a piece of mechanical equipment to generate electricity no one will use while the cabin is vacant.

We also discussed the installation of a propane powered generator. That was also a project for this summer, but due to the complications associated with selecting and installing a generator, that project is now "on hold" until we are here for a while.

The other big project we had on the list to help us prepare for full-time living is a new shed/garage to use for storage and a small "shop" for me. We selected a pre-built unit that is perfect for out needs at Rocky Mountain Barn in Ft. Collins. But, we won't actually order it and have it delivered until we are settled here. But, we did select a location and met with Oscar who is a full-timer up here and also an excavator. 

This is what our "barn" / shed / garage / workshop will look like. Except, I think we'll do a greenish stain instead of this reddish one. Also, there will be two doors on the front--the one you see which goes into the shop area and another where the window is for the ATV.

Oscar will do three excavations for us soon. Two are small, one is big. The big one is to excavate a 24' x 24' space for the shed (which is 20' wide by 14' deep). The two smaller projects are to level a spot for the travel trailer (a good place to put guests!), and to move some dirt to create a place for a wood shed.

I made measurements for the installation of a drain for a washer/dryer combo unit. Also, a commercial plumber with a cabin not too far from us dropped by and confirmed my plans. I think I can do the plumbing work in the future without too much problem.

So, while it feels like we did not do everything I planned to get us better prepared for living here, a few of the biggies will be done. We will be in great shape for solar power. And, we'll be ready to order and install our shed/garage and host visitors!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Here for a 2-Week Visit

Posted by: Rick

Over the past three days we've trekked across half of America to spend a couple of weeks at the cabin. It is three days here, and three days home. So, a two week visit to the cabin is really three weeks away from New Jersey.

We drove Lex, the new Ford Expedition. Wow, what a nice vehicle to travel 1800 miles in. The ride was smooth. The V6 engine does a great job. The turbo kicks in if you need power, but mostly it hums along giving us around 17.5 mpg the whole way. That is a good 2 mpg better than the Suburban ever did. And, the conveniences in the truck are great. Sure, there are adjustable seats and steering wheel, dual climate controls, etc. But, the "gadgets" are the best. The ability to hook up the iPod and listen to music or podcasts, is great. (Although, for music we usually listen to SiriusXM satellite radio.) But, Lynne really likes the ability to view a weather map on the touchscreen display!

It has been raining. A lot. But, we found mostly dry roads on the way in and arrived with a mostly clean truck. Not what I was expecting.

Our chores upon arrival, more-or-less in order, are:

  • Close the water drain taps in the crawlspace and turn on the water
  • Turn up the water heater
  • Sweep up the thousands of dead cluster flies in the cabin
  • Turn on the propane to the oven/stove and light the pilot lights
  • Turn on the propane to the refrigerator and spend 20 minutes trying to get it to light
  • Build a fire in the wood stove to heat the cabin up
  • Power up the satellite Internet (it worked!), and reauthorize the satellite TV
  • Unload the truck and put everything away
  • Walk the dogs

Those are the big ones anyway.

Dinner on the first night is almost always "trailer spaghetti". We call it that because it has been our "first night out" dinner any time we travelled somewhere with our travel trailer, (and later motor home and now T@B trailer again). Fry up some hamburger while you boil water. Pour a store-bought jar of pasta sauce in with the meat and simmer. Cook spaghetti. Combine, scoop onto a plate, top with grated Parmesan and eat.

It rained and hailed. It is not unusual this time of year to get afternoon thunderstorms. We got rain, thunder, hail--and for most of the afternoon. Still, it is wonderful to see the green countryside and to know that the trees and grasses are getting a good soaking this year.

Today, our first full day here was spent doing a few small chores and mostly getting rest from the long trip and starting the altitude adjustment process. (Yes, "altitude" not "attitude".) We are about 8650 feet up. That's about 8000 feet higher than the house in NJ. The air here is thin. Water boils at 180°F.

I'll write about two events of note, and then close for the day.

We saw a beautiful young doe in the meadow this morning. She actually circled around the meadow three times, each time checking out a stump on which we usually leave a salt lick or mineral block.

And, I baked some bread.

When I told Lynne I was posting a photo of the "doe", she thought I meant "dough". Doh! Anyway, here it is:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Making Lists and Checking Them Twice

Posted by: Lynne

"Don't Fence Me In"

One week from today we'll be on the road west, somewhere in Ohio. I'm starting to make lists upon lists. Lists of things to take. Lists of things we need to buy and take with us. Lists of things I need to do to the house to get ready to leave it for three weeks in case someone comes to look at it. Stop the mail. Buy paint so Ray the Painter can paint our outside walkways while we're gone. Leave a check for the cleaning ladies and the plant watering lady. Don't forget the cowboy hat! And so it goes ...

I don't know what kind of weather we'll find up there since they've had lots of variety in the snow and rain categories. But we'll take whatever it gives us and enjoy each day. 

Our new furnace was hopefully installed this week so that is one less thing we'll have to deal with when we get there. We'll be planting our grass seed that instead of being delivered to our neighbors up there, is now making its way from Cheyenne, Wyoming to our address here in New Jersey. The FedX guy could not find the address for the life of him. The seed will be well traveled.

Here is a look at the mess our meadow was in after having it logged back in 2010.

Here is how it looked last year after having it cleaned up.

The slash piles you see have been burned over the winter and are no longer there. Here is where the grass and wildflower mix will be planted.

We have plenty of other things going on while we are there such as a refurbished propane generator to replace our tiny little gasoline one. Much better than lugging fuel cans full of gas from town, this will be hooked directly in to our propane tank for the cabin.

And of course, there are jigsaw puzzles to be done, books to be read, walks to be taken. Hopefully we'll see some moose while we're there since this is "baby" time for them.

And maybe a herd or two of elk.

We're counting the days!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The House is For Sale

Posted by: Rick

The house was actually listed for sale on 1 April. But, we got our sign today.

Anyone interested?

The house is in great shape. Over the past few years we've remodeled and updated the kitchen, our master suite, and all the bathrooms. It has a new airconditioner and heater. A new roof thanks to Sandy. The carpet is in great shape and was recently cleaned. And, we've been busy "decluttering", boxing up stuff to keep, carting away or giving away other stuff. We are ready to show the house!

In a way, it is a bit sad. We've been here for over 9 years, now. And, enjoyed it much. But, it is time for the next chapter.

When we get a solid contract on the house, I'll give a date to my company. And, we'll kick off a hectic process of getting moved.

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