Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It Takes a PhD to Move a Mailbox

Posted by: Rick

The same day that a neighbor planted our mailbox at the Wooden Shoe Ranch, someone knocked it over with their car/truck. They probably were not used to it being there and hit it with a mirror or something. Anyway, that broke a hinge on the door. And, while it had limped along working well for a long while, the other day it broke. 

Of course, I used duct tape to provide a temporary fix, but realized I needed to get and install a new mailbox. Lynne suggested we get a larger box so it can hold small parcels. That made sense to me, so we bought a larger (but not the largest available) mail box at the ACE hardware in Laramie the other day.

The duct-taped mail box

Yesterday, I decided to install the new box. It is about a 25 minute drive from the cabin to the row of rural mailboxes. So, I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. I charged the battery powered drill. I had studied the old mailbox enough to know how to remove it. I needed a hex driver for the drill. Then, I knew I needed to remove the old mounting board, and not knowing exactly how it was attached, I took an assortment of tools. I took several kinds and lengths of wood screws. And, since the new box is longer than the old box, I figured I might need to move the post, so I took my trusty post hole digger. Hammers, saws, drills, bits, screws...I was ready.

Lynne went with me. I got the old box off easily. The mounting plank also came off using a phillips head bit on the drill. I screwed some long wood-to-wood screws into the post here and there to tighten it up some. Then, I installed the new mounting board. 

It was clear that I would need to move the post back about 8". I don't want my box sticking out in front of everyone else's. It makes it harder on the mail delivery person, and increases the risk of it getting hit again. So, I took the post hole digger and began to chop away at the ground. It was as hard as a rock. Maybe it was a rock. I gave up quickly and decided to go ahead and mount the mailbox, even though it would stick out too far, and then come back with additional tools to dig a new hole.

I asked Lynne to hand me the new mailbox from the back of the truck. "What mailbox?" she says. Oh crap. All that preparation and I'd forgotten the damned mailbox.

So, I mounted the old one back on the new mounting board with a couple of screws hoping it would last another day.

Then, today, I borrowed a gasoline powered post hole digger from a neighbor. Equipped with that, I got a new hole started easily and then was able to finish digging the 2 foot deep hole with the manual post hole digger.

Various hole-digging tools

Luckily, I was able to simply pull the post from the old hole and drop it back into the new one. I filled and packed dirt around it, and am pretty happy with my job. I even "future proofed" the new post location, placing it further back than absolutely necessary so if we move to an even bigger mailbox in the future, I won't need to dig another hole.

So, it does definitely take a PhD (post hole digger) to move a mailbox.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Weather Station is Commissioned

Posted by: Rick

Today, among other projects, I set up the weather station. You can always access the current weather (and some historical info) by clicking on the Weather link at the top of the OtG site page. It will take you to this page, on WeatherUnderground.

Monday, May 16, 2016

And So it Begins

Posted by: Lynne

The furnace rumbles to life and the new day begins. Awake and out of bed by 5:30 a.m. Our internal clocks have not adjusted yet. Hailey and Bella were ready to get up too. Above is the view out our dining room window. (Note those slight blue blurs that you can see are Stellar Jays.) More rain is expected today. I don't mind really, although it feels kind of like New Jersey-colored sky, but if it helps the fire danger I am all for it. It's very wet!

Our first rule of order was to get the snow removed so we could drive the trucks down to the cabin and get them unloaded. My poor plants! Oscar came with his wonderful machine and got the job done in no time.

Without the kindness and helpfulness of neighbors, life up here would not be as pleasant. It's nice that we can all count on each other to lend a hand when needed.

Now the trucks are unloaded and "stuff" is piled everywhere. We need to figure out a place for it before tomorrow because our goods arrive at the storage facility at 9:00 a.m. sharp! We'll have to decide what to bring home first. Somehow it seems like we just did this, only in reverse!

Looks like rain is moving in.

We need to do one more really vital chore today and that is clean up the packrat nest on the screened-in porch. Not a pleasant job, very stinky.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 Christmas Greetings

Posted by: Rick

Cabin Christmas 2004

Things are pretty hectic for us right now. At least that is the excuse we will use for not doing personalized Christmas cards this year. 

So, this is our Christmas greeting to you! And, we do sincerely wish you the very Merriest of Christmases and a Great New Year

We hope you'll take the time to read this post on our "Off the Grid" blog site and catch up on all our news. And, maybe come back once-in-a-while to catch up on our adventures. Please leave a comment to let us know you visited.

2015 started off on a high note. We decided we had the desire and resources to retire from full-time work and move to the cabin in the summer. I announced my intentions at work and planned to do a formal retirement announcement once we had a contract on our house in NJ. We hired a realtor and put the house up for sale.

This kicked off a flurry of activity, both at the cabin and in NJ.

We visited the cabin in May/June. And, saw it through a different lens. We knew we'd need additional storage, new batteries for the "battery powered" cabin, additional solar panels to give us enough charge for full-time residency, etc. Follow the links for details.

The barn design we picked for additional storage.

The need to establish mail service was critical, and we began the steps necessary to set that up--an endeavor that is ongoing.

As summer approached, we were highly motivated to go through the house room-by-room. We sorted our stuff into piles: a trash pile, a donation pile, a keep pile, a sell pile and an undecided pile.

As summer passed by without any bites on the house, our motivation waned and now there are just piles. Still, we got a lot done and can probably finish up quickly when motivation returns.

I sold Mia. (Change is hard.)

Mia is gone to a new home

It was a good thing I did not give formal notice at work. Turns out, I'm going to get a full additional year in before we move!

The good news is that we do now have a contract on the house. And, the buyers are not in a hurry to close, which is a great thing since we'd never be able to move into the cabin in the winter. We are going through all the steps needed to finalize the sale, though. Contract negotiations, inspections, etc.

The year was not all about preparing to retire and move. We also had a couple of nice camping trips with Lady Bug. And, I got to knock-off a bucket list item--fly fishing on the Beaverkill river in New York.

Camping with our "Lady Bug" in the Catskills

Fishing the Beaverkill

Our current plans are to retire officially on 13 May (although, I've still not given formal notice at work). The house closing is set of 12 May, but that could change, of course. We'll use the two weeks prior that to move out of the house, have an estate sale, clean up the place, etc. We already have reserved a storage unit in Laramie for the items we won't be able to cram into the cabin.

No snow for us this Christmas, it is record warmth in the North East. Can't wait till next year when we will be cozy in the cabin with a fire in the fireplace, a modest tree with rustic decoration, maybe some friends over for egg nog or a new favorite "salted caramel with mezcal"! We wish everyone a very happy Christmas and an adventurous New Year!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Progress on PV System

Posted by: Rick

I posted a lengthy article about our off-the-grid utilities earlier. In that article I said we'd need to add some additional PV charging capacity in order to be able to live at the cabin full-time. 

It has been quite a journey and taken all summer long, but last week we made significant progress. (I say "we", but all the work is being done by Burnham & Sun, a PV specialist from Fort Collins.)

First, earlier this summer the new batteries did get installed. We now have 12 batteries instead of 8, and since they are new we should have significantly more storage capacity.

Our new solar panels are finally installed!

And, at the end of last week, the new PV panels were finally installed. It has been a nightmare trying to locate contractors to do the excavation work, trenching and concrete work needed. The front range of Colorado is undergoing a huge growth spurt and contractors are simply not interested in small jobs that are two hours away. Sam at Burham & Sun finally got some people to do the work and  the panels are mounted. This week, she will lay the conduit and cables, wire the panels into a charge controller and hook them up to the batteries.

The next step in our need for additional power is to re-install the wind turbine. I bet that will be an interesting adventure, too.


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