Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Friday, April 28, 2017

Springtime

Posted by: Rick

We haven't posted much lately. My excuse is that nothing very newsworthy has happened. It has been kind of boring lately. Still snow on the ground, so we can't start wood gathering. Cold, even freezing at night (it is 22°F as I write this), so we can't really do any decorative planting yet. There has been very little wildlife. For some reason we are not motivated to take long walks.

Blowing snow after one of our Spring storms.

It is a difficult time of the year for us. The weather teases us with Spring. We have had a few bright sunny days in the 60s. I want to get outside and start doing outdoor chores: building a planter box, cleaning up trees that came down in the winter, refurbishing the cabin exterior, sitting by the campfire in the evening, fishing! Then, the next day it snows. We are in that seam between Winter and Summer and the weather just can't make up its mind.

April is typically a very wet month. We get heavy wet snows often. But, the snows melt quickly leaving behind mud and the moisure needed for the wildflowers. I've started a Spring 2017 photo gallery that you should visit occasionally. I'll stick photos of the flora and fauna this Spring in that gallery to document our progress. You can access all our photo galleries using the link on the right-hand side of the web page under "Photo Galleries". Just scroll down a bit to find that link any time.

With the melting snow and the warmer weather we start to get sprigs of grass and the trees start to bud. This brings out some of the wildlife in the area. Over the past couple of weeks we've started to see elk--there was a herd of 10 hanging around for a couple of days--as well as some moose. The mule deer are more prevalent, too. Soon, we'll start to see the babies. While the bears will already have had their cubs, the elk, deer, moose and antelope will drop their babies in late May and June.

The fox, who we see all winter, is still visiting.

We've got the itch to take a trip in the new RV. It is pretty well outfitted now with what we think we'll need. We just need to add clothing and food and we are ready to go. The plan was to take off on 1 May for New Mexico to visit my (Rick's) family in Albuquerque. But, the weather is not looking great. I am writing this on the prior Friday morning and we just got a Winter Weather Warning for overnight and tomorrow with the possibility for lots of snow. We'll see. If it does snow a lot, we'll postpone our trip. If not, we will probaby try to go.

Just sitting there ready to go!

The long days are nice. It starts to get light about 5:30 in the morning with sunrise around 6:00, so the dogs begin to stir and Destin jumps up on the bed repeatedly trying to get us up. Then, once we are up, he goes back to bed. Often with eBay (the cat).

Destin and eBay.

The sun goes down around 8:00, but we have twilight long fter that. This means great conditions for a solar powered house. Even on somewhat cloudy days we have a long enough sun exposure to get a good charge most of the time.

With the longer days and the dream of Spring-like weather, comes the itch to grow something So, I've started some herbs indoors. Lynne got me an herb kit for Christmas and I was excited to get it going. But, nothing ever grew. Even after 3 tries. We'd see a bud or two of something green, then they would die. I finally threw away the soil they had provided and used some old potting soil I had in the barn. That seemed to do the trick and now we have starts on oregano, parsley, cilantro, chives, basil and thyme. I've started some mint, too, but it has not sprouted yet. And, we have rosemary and sage that we bought as more mature plants. Just need some tarragon and we are good to go for the summer...assuming they continue to grow.

 

Herbs.

We've been trying a lot of new recipes too, lately. Anything to break up the "same old thing" day after day. Some have been fantastic. Some, bombs. But, it is fun to try new things. Maybe we'll start posting more foodie stuff on the blog!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Not ALL the Snow is Gone ...

Posted by: Lynne

Yesterday we donned our snowshoes and went to check out the status of the big drift on Avalanche Slope. There was so much snow we could not snowhshoe around the drift safely, so we went through the woods below instead.

In the photo above, there IS a road underneath all that snow, level with the aspen trees sticking out of the snow on the left side. I think it will be awhile before anyone can drive on Hidden Meadows Lane! We've had a lot of melting going on and in places the snow is down by several feet but it hasn't seemed to affect this drift very much.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Looks Like We Made it!

Posted by: Lynne

"X" marks the spot over our land. The cabin is in the trees to the left.

I am being a bit premature here folks, but as Rick's last post indictated, we have made it through our first winter and spring is imminent. We will have a few backsliding moments and snowfalls, which at this time of year can be in feet instead of inches, but it won't last.

I liken getting through winter to a woman's labor to give birth. Now mind you, I've never had a child being that Rick and I chose not have children, but I've had enough friends that have given birth to know something about the subject. At the moment all you can think of is the pain it's causing and in the throes of labor you say I'm never doing this again. But then, finally, your baby arrives and is put into your arms and you forget what you've just been through. Given a little time you will have forgotten all about it and you're ready to do it all over again.

That's about the way I feel regarding this past winter. It wasn't all that bad and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, or shall I say, the actual ground where the snow is completely gone. Spring will be just as sweet and welcome as a newborn baby when it arrives (it won't be long!) and we'll forget about the not-so-fun aspects of the winter we've just gone through. By summer it will be only a fleeting memory.

So, yes of course, we are staying on for the next winter. 

Even though it looks as though we have a snowstorm bearing down on us today and snow on and off next week, I can't really complain too much. Like I said, it won't stay around for long. This past week we've had such glorious weather. It gives one hope for more to come. I've been doing laundry at a frenetic pace (two load per day is a lot for us) and hanging it all out on the line. With the brisk breeze, the sun, and temps above 50 it doesn't take them long to dry. When I bring them in they smell so sweet and fresh. I'm almost caught up with the backlog except for sheets and a duvet cover.

We've sat outside on the porch. We've taken walks after dinner. All things that we could not have done even a few weeks ago. Yesterday I even sat on the front porch to weave. It was a bit chilly but not bad at all.

Here is proof of our progress:

Rick standing on propane tank, March 2nd.

Propane tank March 8th

Propane tank a few days ago. wowza.

Snow fence March 4th

Snow fence a few days ago.

Bench in the aspens March 13th.

Bench in the aspens this morning.

BUT ... now that the snow is gone in places we are left with ugly beaten-down vegetation that hasn't seen the light of day since December! It's not pretty. And what snow that is left is dirty and not very pretty either. It's kind of challenge to walk because there are spots without any snow mixed with some pretty deep drifts that are now slushy and we're not able to walk on top of it anymore. So, snowshoes aren't very useful either unless you want to take them on and off. The dogs can't figure out why they are suddenly sinking in places that before there were able to walk on top of. We tend to stick to the roads on our family jaunts.

All in all, it's a pretty good outlook from here on out, even if we get a big snow (which of course we will, always do).

Bald Eagle on Brubaker Lane

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sure Signs of Spring

Posted by: Rick

It is the first day of Spring, and while we will still likely see lots of snow, there are some sure signs that Spring is arriving.

Other than the tremendous amount of snow melting which Lynne posted about recently, there are other signs:

  • There is now more than 12 hours of official sunlight each day. The batteries are getting a full charge by early afternoon.
  • Instead of snow, we have mud. You can tell it is Spring by the amount of dirt on the entry rug.
  • There is the slightest hint of a green hue in the prairie grasses.
  • Prairie dogs are out of hibernation and active. The hawks and eagles love this!
  • Lots of "new" birds are around: Colorado Mountain Bluebirds, Evening Grosbeaks, Robins, Pine Siskens.
  • The owl is starting his evening ritual of hoo-hoo-hooing.
  • People are starting to venture into the area, driving around to see which roads are open. Landowners are assessing access to their cabins.
  • The heater has not run overnight in almost a week. Overnight temperatures are staying well above freezing. (That can change!) It is warm enough for us to sit on the porch for lunch or for an evening glass of wine.

We are watching for other signs, too. More active wild animals; the first pasque flowers (a wild crocus); buds on the trees promising leaves soon.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Snow Fence Experiment

Posted by: Rick

A couple of weeks ago, I strung some 4' high, 50' long snow fence through the trees on the west side of our driveway.

The hope was that this would capture the snow that was clogging up the driveway whenever the wind blew after a snow storm. You can see the fence and the open driveway in the photo above.

There is a "rule of thumb" for installing snowfence in this part of the country based on the typical wind speeds. It is a pretty easy calculation. The area upwind of the fence is call the "fetch". If you have an "infinite" fetch, in other words there is nothing upwind of the fence to catch and disrupt the blowing snow, then the fence should be set back by 34 times the height of the fence to avoid any snow on the area you want to keep clear. With my 4' high fence, that would be 136'. But, I have trees in the fetch, plus did not have the luxury of putting fence poles exactly where I needed them and had to use existing trees to mount the fence. So, my fence is only about 30' from the road. But, I thought it was worth a try.

The good news is that the fence works. It captures a lot of blowing snow.

Just look at the drift it created on the downwind side! That is snow that would be in the driveway.

However, it is not far enough back from the driveway to keep it clear. I need to install an additional fence further to the upwind side to create a shorter fetch for this fence. And, there are still places where there is no fence because I'd need to put fence poles in the frozen ground to mount it. 

In the photo above, you can see the amount of snow the fence is capturing, but you can also see that the driveway is filled with about 2' of snow again. 

We are just going to leave it this way for now. We don't really need truck access to the cabin. This spot is only a few hundred feet from the cabin. And, we can always use the Ranger to ferry from open roads to the cabin. Later in the Spring when we are unlikely to get bad snows and high winds we'll open the driveway back up again.

This coming summer we'll put posts in the ground and put the snow fence up in the right locations. Still, I think the experiment was successful in that we can see just how well the fence can function if placed appropriately.

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Recent Comments

  • Definitely a good characterization of Colorado.

    Posted to: ‘Spring Snowstorm’ by Rick on 05/21/2017

  • PS, our friends in Stockholm sent us this today…could this be Colorado instead?  Or Oregon?…

    Posted to: ‘Spring Snowstorm’ by Tom Davis on 05/21/2017

  • Yep, no question, that’s a traditional Colorado spring. 
    smilePosted to: ‘Spring Snowstorm’ by Tom Davis on 05/21/2017

  • I can certainly understand how that delivery would be monumental.  I am anxious to hear…

    Posted to: ‘Miracles do Happen’ by Tom Davis on 05/19/2017

  • Many hugs from us miles away.  I understand your loss.  Thanks for sharing with us…

    Posted to: ‘Missing Hailey’ by Tom on 05/18/2017

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