Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Friday, November 11, 2016

Reflections on October 2016

Posted by: Rick

October was a busy month. We "finished" our winter preparations (ha). The month started off with some cold weather and a few snow flurries. But, mid-month the weather pattern changed and it has been warm (in the 50s) during the day with frost at night. We have had little wind, and no moisture. It is dangerously dry.

We had some snow early in the month.

On one hand, it is nice not to be battling snow drifts yet. On the other hand, we really need the moisture.

We got a lot of chores done. We put some acrylic windows into the screened-in porch. They were custom cut to my measurements at a plastics supply place in Fort Collins. While not fully enclosing the porch, they do block the prevailing wind and will keep the porch dry in winter. They, along with a portable propane heater, may allow us to have some porch sittin' time even in winter.

We got the wood shed built and painted. And, filled with a couple of cords of wood. It is just outside our back door, so easy to access. We also have a cart we can use to haul several armloads of wood through the house to the front porch where we keep about a half cord of wood. Altogether, I think we have about 6 cords of cut, split and stacked wood. I was originally planning on 7 to 8 cords, but I think we'll be okay with what we have, especially with a slow start to the cold season.

The wood shed is done, painted, and has about 2 cords of wood in it.

Our old propane fridge is now running in the storage shed, and the shed has been outfitted with additional shelving. It is also now fully insulated (not very pretty, but functional). Since the fridge and freezer give off some heat, I'm hoping that with the insulation in place, the shed will stay above freezing. We'll see.

Tracks are now installed on the Polaris Ranger. It looks like a real beast. It is nice to have them on and ready for snow, but now we can't take occasional drives on the back roads to explore and sight-see. Oh well.

Tracks on the ranger, alongside about 4 cords of wood.

We had a few setbacks this month. One was with our new propane range. We had a guest over one night and I'd made some homemade rolls, and we could not get the oven to light. Very frustrating. I corresponded with the manufacturer and they confessed to a quality problem with the toggle switch that switches between the broiler and the oven. So, they sent a new one by FedEx. A week later we still did not have it. First, it was delayed in Canadian customs (the manufacturer is Canadian). Then , it was bouncing around Wyoming and Colorado in search of our address. I must have spent 3 or 4 hours over 4 days on the phone with FedEx trying to get our mailing address into their database of valid addresses. They use a 3rd party to vet all addresses. And, that 3rd party relies on public records to verify addresses. Well, our mailing address will never show up in those public records which will all focus on the physical/legal address. I finally gave up. Instead, our strategy was to get the phone number of the distribution center in Cheyenne and just call them to alert them to any shipments coming by FedEx.

FedEx is struggling to get shipments to us.

It used to work just fine. FedEx deliveries were brought directly to our doorstep. But, obviously, something changed. Turns out, the FedEx delivery guy just walked off the job one day. (Probably because he saw a package addressed to us and was sick and tired of delivering to our door.) When he left they "lost the recipe" on how to deliver to Sand Creek Park.

We did finally get the toggle switch, and once installed the oven works fine.

We had a bit of a scare also this month with Hailey. One night, she had terrible diarrhea on one of the rugs in the cabin. She was fine the previous afternoon, but got very sick overnight. This persisted for another day and I got very worried. Hailey is approaching 13 years of age in a dog breed that has an 8 year average lifespan. She has all kinds of benign lumps and bumps on her, and I feared she may finally have internal problems, maybe even cancer. Lynne was more confident it was just gastrointestinal problems.

Hailey gave us a scare, but is fine.

Early in the month, Destin had the same problem. We got him fixed with probiotics and now he is doing fine. They tend to get bacteria in their bowels from eating scat from deer, elk, moose, bear and who knows what else. We tried probiotics with Hailey and they did not work.

A vet visit brought the reassurance it was just a bacterial infection in her gut, and treatment with Tylan powder brought relief after the first dose. We now have Tylan powder in stock. We've used it several times over the years to treat bacterial infections in our dogs. With winter coming and emergency travel possibly restricted, we need all the tools we can to deal with these kinds of situations.

Speaking of Destin. He continues to grow. He is probably 82-83 pounds now. He is a good dog except for coming when called. Maybe that is not the right description. He just wants to control when he comes inside, and so he has invented a "fun" game. Fun for him. When we call him to come in, he just sits and stares at us. He won't come. If we approach him, he'll run to another spot and sit down. He never lets us get close enough to grab him. And, often he'll get the zoomies and run around in circles at top speed, just grazing by our outstretched arms. We need to work on that. But, other than that behavior, he is an absolute joy.

Destin, refusing to come inside. 

Now, on to other "games". I'm enjoying football. Lynne, not so much. We have a great TV setup and I really enjoy laying on the couch and watching a weekly Broncos game.

It is hunting season, so we are not seeing much wildlife "game". We get the occasional deer, elk or moose on the game cameras, mostly at night. And, we've seen sign from coyotes and a bobcat. But, we are not seeing the numbers we saw throughout the summer. I don't know how they know, but the game seems to disappear during hunting season. 

Awesome elk caught on the game camera.

A skiff of snow helps us see that we had a coyote visitor one night.

One bit of good news this season is that we have not had the traffic and trespassers we've had in the past. Some strategically placed signs, at the borders of Sand Creek Park as well as on our own land may be helping to reduce the number of trespassing hunters. Still, a neighbor that has a place up the road from us found a poached elk last week.

A game camera looking at a "gate" we created to minimize trespassing catches Bella and Destin in a close finish.

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!

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.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Not Much Happening (on the Game Cameras)

Posted by: Rick

A neighbor recentlly made the observation that the number of game shots he was getting on his game cameras had dropped significantly since hunting season started. I agree. Normally after a week, I'll have many hundreds of photos on a game camera. Most are triggered by wind, but there would be a few shots of deer, moose, elk, squirrels, birds and sometimes exotic creatures like mountain lions or cows. But, over the past few weeks, nothing.

His theory is that trespassing hunters are flushing the game off our property. My theory is that the animals somehow know it is hunting season and have gone elsewhere. Whatever the reason, scanning the shots from our game cameras has been pretty boring lately.

Still, I can be surprised sometimes as I'm clicking through the hundreds of shots. For example, the next two shots were "back to back" on one game camera.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Transition Time

Posted by: Rick

When we lived in NJ, this is about the time of year we'd spend two weeks at the cabin. Either September or June. Both are transition times. June is transitioning from Winter into Spring. September, from Summer to Fall and even to wintery weather.

The weather is changing. Days are shorter. Nights are much cooler. We woke to a pretty hard frost this morning and below freezing temperatures. Lynne even built a fire in the wood stove to knock back the chill in the cabin.

The aspen leaves are starting to change. Within a few days we'll be at peak season for aspen. We always like to take a drive or two and see the awesome beauty.

The aspens are just starting to change along our driveway.

The wildlife is transitioning. All the hummingbirds are gone now. In fact, most birds are gone with only some jays and towhees still around. The winter birds have not yet arrived.

Green-tailed towhee at the bird feeder.

And, it is the start of hunting season so the deer, elk and moose have gone to ground. It is musket and bow season now, but starting in October and for almost two months, we will have rifle hunting season. That means trespassers most likely. And, the dogs will need to wear their blaze orange vests and we'll wear our blaze orange jackets when out walking. We don't want to be mistaken for a bear or deer, moose or elk while on a family walk.

99% of hunters are mature, careful, and conscientious people. But, we do get the crazies who can be quite scary.

Hunting is allowed in Sand Creek Park, but only by a landowner on his/her own property (or guests of landowners on their property). Still, we've got landowners that wander onto others' property, and general hunters who can't read that will be trespassing on private land. It is just one of those things we learn to live with.

One big sign of the seasonal changes is the presence of pack rats. If you've followed this blog for a while, you know I hate pack rats. Well, we've got one. He somehow got into the shed the other day and tore it up some. We've also seen signs one has been in the Ranger. And, we'd swear we saw one running across the driveway the other day. So, it is time to start the annual pack rat e-rat-ication process.

And, we are making progress in our transition to winter living. The new appliances are installed and working; the propane generator is working (although not set up for automatic starting yet); we are up to about 4 to 5 cords of cut, split and stacked wood. I think I've given up on the idea of building a wood shed this fall. Instead, we'll just stack wood where the shed would be and cover it with tarps. The wood shed will be a nice project for next summer.

Nifty new appliances!


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