Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Arrival of the Barn ... Finally!

Posted by: Lynne

Our barn finally arrived on the 6th of July. I was going to blog about it right after it was delivered, but I've been lazy. I guess that's my excuse. Doesn't it look great in its spot? Let's back up a bit and show you a little bit of the process of getting it here and getting it down our driveway.

Phil from Rocky Mountain Storage Barns in Ft. Collins had come up a few weeks earlier and traced the path, measuring the width of the cattle guards and making sure the barn would have safe travels. The barn was fully assembled in Ft. Collins all 20' x 14' of it, so it was quite large. And bigger and it would not have made it here. At least not in one piece!

They called us when they arrived in Laramie and turned down Sand Creek Road. Rick and I drove out to meet them. Here are some shots from along the way.

When we first saw it coming down the road.

Making the turn at Wooden Shoe Ranch through the cattle guard.

Kind of a tight fit through this cattle guard.

The approach to Chimney Rock Ranch and the tighest of all the cattle guards. (Darth Vadar Rock in the background.)

Squeeze!!!!!

On the Colorado side now.

And arrival at the top of the driveway, finally!

And that was the easy part! They loaded the barn off the trailer and got the Mule out, which is nothing more than a glorified fork lift but a very cool piece of equipment. It was very tight getting the barn down the driveway and we had to take out some smaller aspens but nothing major. It took them about an hour and twenty minutes to get the barn down and in place. I can't say enough about the professionalism of Phil and his crew. They did a great job of getting the barn here and in its place. We love it!

Here is a short video of the last part of it.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Memorable Weekend

Posted by: Rick

Last weekend was a memorable one. Mainly because I travelled to New Mexico to attend my father's memorial service. But, it was memorable for other reasons, too. So, let me walk you through the weekend.

I had a 3:30-ish flight from Denver to Albuquerque on Friday. It is about a 3 hour drive to the airport from the cabin if I take County Rd 80C. That road is 37 miles of dirt road, the first half of which is pretty bad with ruts and washboard. The latter half is well graded and even treated with something that makes it almost like a paved road. I took the Suburban and we bounced down the mountain, joined Highway 287, popped over to I-25 at Owl Canyon Rd, and then took I-25 and later E-470 to the airport. I drove into the economy parking lot on the east side and went up and down several aisles to find an open parking spot. Just as I spied one and aimed for it, the truck went "putt putter putt putt, wank, wank, poof", lost all power and died. I coasted into the parking spot. Clearly, something is terribly wrong and I suspected something fuel system related. But, I had a plane to catch so I took a photo of my location (to remind me where I parked), and headed to the airport.

I guess I should even go back to Thursday. Lynne and I drove into town so I could riffle through boxes of clothes. Turns out I had nothing at the cabin appropriate for a memorial service. Really all I have are jeans, most of which are pretty worn, t-shirts and work shirts. I found a pair of black slacks and a couple of nice shirts--casual, but okay for a memorial service in a town that will see 103 degrees during the day. I forgot to grab a small suitcase, but luckily, I was able to cram those clothes along with several changes of underwear into my backpack.

The only semi-appropriate shoes I have are some black leather Sketcher slip-ons. They were really dirty with dust and mud, so I had them polished at the airport. They came out looking pretty good, so I felt prepared for the weekend. Well, I still needed to decide what to say at the service as I was to give the "Family Memories" speech.

I arrived in Albuquerque (do you mind if I just write ABQ from now on?) and my cousin Debra picked me up at the airport. We immediately headed for Las Cruces, which is about 210 miles south and the city where the memorial was to be held. We got into Las Cruces about 9:00. I grabbed a bite to eat and headed to bed.

The memorial was the next day at a Baptist church in Las Cruces. There was a nice group of family there, and a lot of people from the community and parents' church attended. 

A nice photo of family. Notice I don't have any glasses on. Yup, lost them a few days earlier.

My brother made up a nice memorial board for the service.

When I got a chance to talk, I addressed five topics.

1. Dad as a provider. He adopted us kids and took great care of us. We had a lot of fun growing up. Weekends at the lake, vacations at a beach somewhere, often in Mexico. Hunting, fishing. He worked hard to provide us with a carefree childhood.

2. Dad as a teacher. He taught me how to drive a boat, run a trot line, waterski; how to work on my car; keep my tools clean and organized; how to assemble a fishing rod by wiping a bit of sweat of the side of my nose and using it to lubricate the joints; "righty tighty, lefty loosey"; even some old Navy ditties like the one that starts "She has freckles on her but(t) she's nice".

3. Dad as a learner. He had an intense curiosity. I remember driving through the Black Forest of Germany one time when he visited us there. As we drove along taking in the beautiful views, he asked the question: "Son, where do you recon they got those mud flaps?" referring to same on a truck that just passed us. He noticed and questioned things that passed the rest of us by. And, later in life, even as he was losing his sight and hearing, he took up guitar lessons and learned to play Native American flutes.

4. Dad as a people person. He could strike up a conversation with anyone. And, he had this uncanny ability to discover relationships with everyone. Throughout out life, he'd meet and start a conversation with total strangers, and then find some linkage back to a family member or friend. I remember one time, again when visiting us in Europe, we were driving over a pass in the Swiss Alps. Dad needed to find a restroom and we pulled over at a guest house with a bar and restaurant at the top of a pass above timberline. After 15 or 20 minutes, he had still not come back out to the car. I went in search of him and found him at the bar talking with a man who knew a guy that managed a gas station in Artesia, NM (where I grew up).

5. Dad as a story teller. Dad liked to talk. And, he had a perfect memory, even of events from 90 years ago. He loved to talk about his childhood on the family farm in Oklahoma; about his first horse; about the weather there; the workings of the farm; family stories; etc. One thing he never talked about was his Navy service. He joined the Navy right out of high school at the beginning of World War II. Actually the theme of Dad as a story teller came up over and again in people's memories of him.

It was actually a joyful celebration of his life and chance to reconnect to family. 

We drove back to ABQ on Saturday afternoon. And, I spent all day Sunday with my Mom. She has moved into a new adult community apartment there. She needed some help unpacking things, moving a few items to storage for a future garage sale, hanging her cuckoo clock, etc. We ate a few great meals together. And, went to see The Secret Life of Pets with my sister. This was all meant to be a surrogate birthday celebration for her. She'll turn 80 in early August and I won't be able to make it back down for that big day.

Of course, all weekend I was thinking about what to do with the truck when I got back to Denver. My sister has worked at GM dealerships managing service departments and inventory for over 30 years. She knows a lot about cars, and especially Chevy's. She suggested several possible problems, one of which was "vapor lock". I did not realize that a car without a carburator could have vapor lock, but she said it could be the problem.

I figured there were three possible alternatives:

Worst case: The truck won't start, I have to call Good Sam's Roadside Service, tow the truck to a service garage, find out that it is really bad and I'll need to leave the truck for several days. In that case, I'd rent a car and go home coming back in several days to get the truck.

Medium case: Same as above, but they can fix the truck within a few hours. This would allow me to drive the truck home that day, only later than I expected. And, that I may or may not be able to pick up the RV washing machine I'd ordered for the cabin.

Best case: The truck starts and acts as if nothing ever happened and all my weekend anxiety was for nothing.

Guess what? It started right up! Per my sister's instructions, I drove to the nearest gas station and put high octane gas in it. I also put in a fuel injector cleaner additive she recommended.

I was able to pick up the washing machine as planned. The whole process was a bit more time consuming and complicated than I had hoped, but I won't go into all that here. The main point is that we now have a washing machine sitting in a utility closet of the cabin awaiting a plumber (next Tuesday, oh please, oh please). Now that makes this a truly memorable weekend!

Friday, July 01, 2016

Progress Reports, Updates and More Moose

Posted by: Lynne

I have been so bad about blogging! I've been pretty active posting photos and such on Facebook but I have neglected the blog. Somehow it's easier and faster to do the Facebook route, but when I do that the readers of the blog that are not on Facebook miss out on a lot. 

First of all, some progress reports:

We now have HD TV. The third try was the charm to finally get a person out to exchange our old Direct TV dish for the new HD one. That happened about three weeks ago and I'm so happy to have a DVR again where we can record our shows, pause shows and all that other good stuff. Our new TV is wonderful and best of all hardly takes any electricity to run at all which is very important in a battery-powered house.

We now have phone service inside the cabin! woohoo! We finally broke down and bought a signal booster and we now have four bars inside and our phone now rings! Amazing! I know this doesn't sound very exciting to most of you, but to us it's a big deal.

The barn delivery. Sigh. Today was the second scheduled day for the delivery of our barn and they cancelled because they were afraid of the rain that was predicted for us. It was put off from its original delivery date of June 17th because they could not get the barn down our driveway without a certain piece of equipment that they had on order. We had to wait for the "mule" to arrive at their facility and then wait for them to mount the "mule" on a flatbed trailer, or whatever. Maybe the third time will finally be the charm for the barn. We are now scheduled for a Wednesday July 6th delivery. Let's hope the roads in aren't muddy and there is not a big rain event happening. We really need that barn to arrive! 

The lupine is rampant in the meadows and along the roadsides right now. All you can see is a purple haze, it's just gorgeous. Now joining the lupine in bloom are the yellow Alpine Paintbrush and the magenta Loco. I need to get out there and take a photo of our "flower garden." 

The rose bushes are going crazy as well as the columbines. I have never seen so many columbines here before. They are spreading across our newly opened meadow.

And folks, none of these were planted, all the flowers are wild.

Now for the birdhouse updates. You'll remember I said we had a resident house wren. Well, that turned out to be a false alarm. He built the nest, sang his heart out for days and when he couldn't attract anyone to come and live with him, he abandoned the twiggy nest. The minute we put another bird house at the top of the driveway, yet another wren made a twiggy nest and then we saw nothing. We peeked in last week to see an egg but no bird around to hatch it. Next time we looked there were a few pieces of shell in the nest and nothing else, so we dumped the contents. Now there is yet another twiggy wren nest being built.

Success with one bird house, a pair of tree swallows are at home and hopefully raising a family. It's supposed to be a bluebird house, but so far no blue bird takers. At least we have a renter, even if it's not blue. We often see them poking their heads out when we go by.

On the moose front, we have seen so many different moose now. Sometimes we only catch them on the game camera, but we've been lucky enough to see a few in real time, like this cow moose and her young calf at our salt lick. The baby was very curious about our fire pit and we watched it as it sniffed our Adirondack chairs. He/she was so close to the cabin that I shot these two pics from the front porch through the screen. The photo of the two of them was taken from the game camera because I could not get a good shot of them. We've caught them on the game camera one other time -- and at the very same time of the day! I vow to look out now every day at approximately 2:30 p.m.

We also had this big bull moose visit us. In fact, on the morning I saw him I had looked out the windows first thing in the morning to be sure no animals were around in the meadow, opened the door to let Destin out and he just stood there looking at something and not getting off the step. When I looked up I saw this huge moose right there in our driveway! Yikes, he was big! I scooped Destin right up and came inside while the moose trotted off up our driveway. The game camera caught him visiting and he was here most of the night before. Here is a capture from the game camera and also a short video clip of him which you can see at the end of the post.

You can see the time stamp on the photos is 4:39 a.m. and I saw him not long after this at around 5:00 a.m. We've seen at least 8 different moose so far and I had started out naming them like I used to name the bears in our yard back in New Jersey. Now I decided that was not going to work -- too many! Love seeing them.

To finish up, we had our very first Rufous Hummingbird of the season this morning. Bossy pants that he is, he's gorgeous! I need to get a photo of him soon.

Well, I hope you've stuck with me through all this rambling on and tons of photos. If you have, bless your heart. I think that about catches you up for now. I'll try and do a better job of blogging so the posts don't get this long!

OH, BUT WAIT ... I left Destin out of this mix. He's growing like the weeds outside and last weight check was this past Monday when he turned 14 weeks old -- 35.2 lbs of puppy! Here he is:

He's had a growth spurt over the past few days and can't lay under the bed anymore. He has outgrown all his favorite spots to sleep and gets very cranky. He continues to be a joy. His adult coat is starting to come in a bit and he has what looks like a receding hairline on his forehead. Pretty soon he'll have a puppy "fro" going on which is always a funny stage of growth. He's growing up fast.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Projects

Posted by: Rick

In discussing "retirement" a friend recently said, "I'm not sure how I ever had the time to go to work there is so much to do in retirement." I know what he means. Every day, I have two or three chores planned. And then, of course, some things come up that are not planned. Here is just a sampling of what we've been up to this week:

We bought some herbs (and flowers) along with pots and soil and now have a nice "garden" of fresh herbs. Most are on the front porch now.

I painted the birdhouses my dad has made while at the VA home.

And, hung a couple of them hoping to attract Mountain Bluebirds.

More...

Friday, June 10, 2016

Failed Erection

Posted by: Rick

This post may not be about what you are thinking. No, that is a topic for another day. This post is about our planned recommissioning of the wind turbine for electricity generation.

Wind turbine tower ready for erection

At our off-the-grid cabin, we get electricity from the sun and the wind. This blog post explains it pretty well. We decommissioned the wind turbine back in 2006 when we moved to New Jersey. It simply did not make sense to have a mechanical generator creating electricity we would not be using. And, our plan was to recommission it this summer in preparation for winter.

Right now, with PV alone, we are doing great. The additional PV panels that were installed last year, along with a larger string of brand new batteries is allowing us to get a full charge every day before noon. Even on days with filtered sun or passing clouds, we are doing great! But, when winter comes the sun is at a lower angle, the days are shorter, snow can cover the panels (till I brush it off), and we can get several cloudy, stormy days in a row. But, the wind blows. So, it is good to have the ability to generate electricity from the wind.

In preparation for the big event, I trimmed a lot of scrub aspen from around the wind turbine tower. When erected, it stands 64' to reach above the trees (which are mostly dead but one these days). It has three tiers of four guy wires to secure it to the ground. A Bergey wind turbine sits at the top.

There was one pine tree that is in the way of a clean and snag-free erection, but it is a live tree. And, I really hate to cut down a live tree that survived the beetle kill infestations of recent years. We've already lost thousands of trees and I don't want to voluntarily kill another.

Last Tuesday was to be the big day. "Sam" from the company that installed our PV panels and batteries, her helper, and Victor from a wind power company in Lafayette, CO all showed up to do the deed. It was quickly decided that the tree would have to go.

But, there was also a lot of conversation about the reliability of wind power at our location. Sure, there is lots of wind. That is not the problem. Actually, too much wind is the problem. It is not unusual for us to have a couple of "wind events" in the winter where winds exceed 100 mph. That tends to burn out the wind turbines. Plus, they are noisy, need maintenance every couple of years, can be unsightly, etc. These guys--who are actually in the business of alternate energy--talked us out of erecting the wind turbine. At least this year. They encouraged us to get through the winter this year and then re-evaluate the need for wind next year. We are having a propane generator installed that will auto-start if necessary, so we can't really run out of electricity. It is nice though, to get it all for "free" from nature.

Victor said he'd hate for us to cut down the pine tree, erect the turbine, and then decide we don't need or want it. He'd rather see us try to get by without it. So, we will.

Now, we have a 64' tower lying in a well trimmed meadow, along with a 1K Bergey wind turbine (and all associated electronics, controllers, etc.) that we need to store. It has been in a box in the cabin (or on the front porch when we are here) for 10 years. Now it will be in a storage unit in Laramie for who knows how long?

Sam, did what she needed to do to be able to quote us the purchase and installation of the propane generator. And, they left.

I am already feeling some regret, wondering if we should not have gone ahead with the plan. We'll see. And, we'll keep you informed.

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