Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Sunday, June 28, 2020

I’ve Been Lazy

Posted by: Rick

I've been lazy the past few weeks and have not kept up with our off-the-grid adventures much. We are still spending most of our time at the cabin. We stay for 7-10 days, then go back "down the mountain" to check on our house, mow, and shop. We haul our trash down, too, and time our visits home around trash pick-up days. We have a small veggie garden with tomatoes, herbs and squash that we tend. It does not appear to be doing well this year for some reason. We also have a dead tree in our yard that needs to be replaced. We bought the replacement and are just waiting on a planting schedule.

While there is a lot to catch up on, the biggest story of the past few weeks was the June 8-9 snow storm. It is not unusual to get June snows at the cabin. Last year it snowed on June 11th. In prior years we've had snow as late as the 24th. But, those are always light snows, just enough to cover the ground and motivate us to build a fire in the wood stove.

This year's June snow was a different thing. We got about 12 inches of heavy, wet snow starting late on June 8th and into the day on the 9th. Since the aspen trees are fully leafed-out, this snow was devastating to them. The hummingbirds didn't care for it much either. The dogs loved it. Here are a few photos from the 9th.

Poor hummingbirds. Their feeder is covered with ice and snow.

The view to the NE on the morning of the 9th.

The dogs don't care. In fact, they love the snow!

This is our driveway. It took a while with a chain saw to cut our way out on the 10th. There is a dog in there somewhere.

This is HIdden Meadows Lane and the road to the properties to the east of us. And, this is just a small example of what the road was like.

Of course, this time of year, the sun came out in the afternoon and the big melt started. We spent quite a bit of time cleaning up around the cabin and still have many trees that are alive, but bent over so bad that we may have to cut them down.

So, finally, here is the news from early this month. I'll try not to be so lazy and post more soon. We have some pretty good game camera photos to share.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

May Day(s)

Posted by: Rick

It has been a couple of weeks, so let me catch you up. No news from home. Boring...

But, we are now truly "Off the Grid" at the cabin, and loving it. We came up on Thursday, the last day of April. When we got here, we were astonished at how much snow had melted! With about 10 minutes with the snow blower, we had full access to the cabin with the truck.

Here is a photo of the driveway taken one month earlier, on 30 March. I can't even get the snow blower out of the wood shed.

And, here is a shot of the driveway on 30 April. I took a short break to take the photo. The snow was about 20 inches at the deepest point, but I was able to clear it enough to get the truck to the cabin in about 10 minutes.

We have lots to cover to bring you up-to-date, so here we go.

April always teases us with Spring. Sunny days, snow starts to melt, and we can get reasonable access to the land and cabin. But, of course, also fights back with a few Spring snow storms that can dump feet of snow. May is equally as spiteful, bringing a see-saw of weather, from sunny, warm days to cold and snow. But, it is a sure sign of spring when: 1) you can see the ground (check); 2) the creek is running loudly (check); 3) the early wildflowers start to appear (check)!

Here are photos of the earliest four flowers in Spring:

A field of Buttercups.

Buttercups, up close.

Of course, Pasque Flowers, the crocus of the high country.

Phlox. This will come in many colors.

Bluebells.

Another sure sign of Spring are the baby animals. We haven't seen any yet. In fact, the wildlife and even birds have been sparse, so far. We did get a few hummingbirds on 1 May. I hung out a feeder "just in case", and am glad I did. And, we've seen a moose at one of the salt licks. But, not much else.

I did hike to all the game cameras and retrieved the memory cards that had been in them all winter. After sorting through over 3000 photos, I selected 8 to keep. Here is a sampling:

A very healthy-looking coyote, near the cabin.

A buck deer. This is from near the pond.

And, also from near the pond, the back end of our mountain lion.

It has been in the 80s back home, and we've had a couple of nice days here, too. But, it has also been rainy and cool. It might even snow tonight!

Here is a photo of Destin, sitting on Lynne's lap, as we enjoy a fire.

There is little in life more cozy than an open-hearth fire!

In addition to just sitting around, we have accomplished some chores. The cabin got thoroughly dusted and the floors are clean. The indoor windows are all washed.

We've taken the dogs for long walks each day. Destin found something foul to roll in, so a dog bath may be in our plans when it warms up a bit.

We've been eating well too! We had what we call "Trailer Spaghetti" on the first night--we almost always do because it is so easy. We just brown some hamburger, pour in a bottle marinara sauce, boil some spaghetti and serve it all with Parmesan cheese on top. Easy, but comforting and good. We named it "Trailer Spaghetti" because it is also what we almost always cook for dinner on our first night out with the travel trailer. We had Spicy Sausages with Onions on Friday. It is a Lee Drummond recipe that we like. That gave me a chance to fire up the grill for the sausages and onions. Yesterday, we did a slow-cooker recipe that Lynne got from a friend on Facebook. It was a beef roast slow cooked in some Mexican-style herbs and spices and broth. We shredded it and made a double layer of nachos with tortilla chips, shredded barbacoa beef, refried beans and cheese. I pickled some onions, too. No photos of any of that. I guess we were too hungry to think about taking pictures.

I guess that is it for now. Not sure when we will go home, there is no compelling reason to do so except to mow the lawn (and I could have a neighborhood kid do it!) I guess we'll head back when we run out of food, wine or whiskey.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Nearest Neighbor

Posted by: Rick

This image shows where our nearest neighbor was during our recent 2-day stay at the cabin. Probably enough distance. The photo was take about 1/4 mile from the cabin where we have this great panoramic view of Sand Creek Park all the way to the Snowy Range in Wyoming.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Fire Season

Posted by: Rick

Mid-Summer is wildfire season up here (as it is in most of the West). A small forest fire, called the Keystone Fire, has been burning near Albany, WY--about 30 miles away--for the past month. We occasionally get some smoke from that fire, but it has not spread much and is about 50% contained.

First signs of the "Pole Cat" fire.

It has been hot and dry with no measurable rain for a while, so the conditions for a wildfire are optimal. And, with idiots firing off fireworks for the 4th of July (you know who you are), campers with open fires in the woods, and occasional dry lightning, the opportunity for ignition are high.

Lynne and I had been in town yesterday morning doing some shopping to get us through another week. After we got home, about 1:40 in the afternoon, I got a call from our "neighbor" David. (I put "neighbor" in quotes because we all live on large parcels of land and our nearest neighbor is still quite a long way away). He told me that Bruce from the Chimney Rock Ranch had called to say he saw smoke rising out of a draw in Sand Creek Park somewhere east and to the south of the Running Water Ranch.

David was going to drive toward the Running Water Ranch using Bridge Road. He wondered if we'd jump in our truck and go around another way, up CR80C to FR87C and then back into Sand Creek Park from the east, watching for smoke and thus the location of a possible fire. Lynne, Destin and I jumped in the truck and took off.

When we got to the boundary of Sand Creek Park on Running Water Ranch Road, we could smell, but not see, smoke. When we finally got to the ranch location (it is no longer a working ranch but a seasonal residence of the restored ranch buildings), we turned around and could see smoke coming up from a draw directly to the east of us. Sure enough, there was a small wildfire somewhere over there.

It was now 2:28 and I called 911. I got an operator in Wyoming and once we established that the fire was probably in Colorado, they transferred me to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office where I described the situation and the approximate location of the fire. They said they'd dispatch appropriate resources.

David and Debra had joined us at the Running Water Ranch, and they took off up Laramie Overlook road while Lynne and I backtracked to FR87C, also known as Boulder Ridge Road, where we drove north for a while and then came back into Sand Creek Park on Laramie Overlook road from the opposite direction. And, sure enough, at one point we could see the smoke and even flames at the base of the smoke. I called David to report, but he and a few others were already on the scene. He gave me exact directions to the fire. I called 911 again and was routed to the Sheriff's Office where I described the exact location of the fire--turn off Laramie Overlook onto Pole Cat and climb the hill. Park where there were other vehicles and hike down the hill some. The first photo above is the scene from where our trucks were parked.

Already on the scene.

When I got to the fire, there were several people already there: Bruce, the rancher who originally spotted the smoke had driven toward it, then hiked in with a shovel. Melissa, who has a cabin nearby and was alerted to the fire by David and Debra. She had some shovels and an axe that she brought to the fire. And, David and Debra were there. All were already working the perimeter of the fire with shovels to keep it contained.

The beginnings of a wildfire.

I was surprised at how hot the fire was. There were large stumps of dead Ponderosa pine that were slowly burning. They gave off tremendous heat. And, the fire was at the core of these large stumps. So, it appears the fire had been burning for quite a while. Lightning had clearly hit the large pine that you can see at the right side of the above photo. You could see the "zipper" line where the lightning had wrapped around the tree and hit the ground. Likely, that started the dry pine needles at the base of the tree on fire and it spread to the dead stumps and surrounding grasses. Luckily, the ground was damp and there was no wind, so the fire stayed contained to a relatively small area (although it kept trying to escape while we were there).

The "girls" keeping the fire contained.

Oscar, another "neighbor" from way over on Bull Mountain drove toward the fire and on the way picked up one of our fire wagons. We have three stationed around Sand Creek Park. They are trailers with several hundred gallons of water onboard as well as a gas powered pump, a couple of strings of hose, some tools like shovels and rakes, as well as a way to pump more water into the tank if needed. Oscar showed up with the fire wagon at 3:26 and we got right to work. 

The fire wagon.

We need to do some maintenance of these wagons, I guess. We could not immediately get the storage compartment that held the hose open. And, a valve to turn on the water was stuck. But, with some brute force we got those fixed. The engine started right up and soon we had water flowing to the fire. One string of hose was enough that along with the water pressure, Debra was able to douse most of the active area of the fire.

David looks on as his wife takes charge of the water.

The scenery is beautiful, but the idea of a wild fire is scary.

I'm not sure how much water the fire wagon holds, maybe a couple of hundred gallons? It did not take long to exhaust the amount of water on board. But, the water did put down the flames and allowed us to work and turn the ground with shovels to further suppress the fire.

No that is not a sea monster, but a burned stump.

By about 3:50, we'd done what we could with water. And, the active fire was suppressed. But, the scene was till smoldering and the stumps were still hot with coals. The fire was not "out" yet by any means, but it was also unlikely to go anywhere as long as we kept working the perimeter with shovels and rakes.

No more flames, and well under control by about 3:45. Good thing, too. We were out of water.

At 3:53, the first responder arrived. A volunteer from the Livermore (Colorado) fire department arrived in a truck. He had come up CR80C to FR87C to Laramie Overlook then into Sand Creek Park where he could see the fire. He whooped his siren to let us know he was close by. He still had to find Pole Cat and get up the hill to us. As he drove in, at each turn that got closer to the fire he'd drop some flags out the window of his truck. These flags would then be indicators to those that followed where to turn to locate the fire.

He called in over an open frequency monitored by all the fire departments in the area as well as the Sheriff's office. He gave the exact location of the fire along with the status. The "locals" had established a perimeter and had the fire in control. This first responder did not carry any water, but was able to get to the scene fast, do an assessment, and rally any additional help needed.

But, before the Livermore FD could get to the site with a water truck, the Tie Siding (Wyoming) volunteer fire department showed up. They had come up Boulder Ridge Road (FR87C) from the Wyoming side and the followed the flags to the site. They had a crew of two. And water!

The Tie Siding Volunteer Fire Crew shows up at 3:53. Just less than 1-1/2 hours after the first 911 call.

Here comes more water. And, foam is mixed with the water to halve its viscosity. That effectively doubles the amount of water while helping to lower evaporation and further suppress the fire.

The crew of two, a man and a woman, began further dousing the fire with water and foam. All the while, the woman was using a shovel to turn the dirt and ash over. They were working the moisure into the ground. 

It started to get cloudy, and we could hear the rumble of thunder in the background. What a beautiful view into Wyoming from the fire site.

The fire likely started when lightning hit the tree in the background. Since the tree is alive and "wet" it did not catch. But, the dry pine needles and pine cones at its base did. They must have smoldered overnight. 

The Livermore FD water truck had arrived in the area about the same time that the Tie Siding crew showed up. But, rather than climb the hill on Pole Cat, they stayed on the other side of the canyon. If more water was needed, they could provide it. So, both fire departments played a role. Also, around 4:00 another "neighbor", Ron, showed up with a second fire wagon and some young stong nephews who could help turn the soil and finally suppress the fire.

Strong, young backs, (well maybe not the dude in white), turn the soil and further suppress the fire.

At this point, about 4:15, Lynne and I left. There was nothing more we could do on the site and poor Destin had been sitting in the truck for a couple of hours. He was ready to get home to a big drink of water and his dinner.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

April Fools

Posted by: Rick

It has been a while since I posted, so I just sat down to do a "catching up" post. And, I saw that Lynne is working on a post with most of the same info. So, I'll just bring you up to date quickly and she'll fill in the details.

Camel Rock Lost Its Head in High Winds

I usually do an April Fool's Day post to our blogs. In the past, the post was usually about our dogs and was targeted at the Bernese Mountain Dog community.

For example, I once did a post about how much Margaux, one of our female BMDs who is no longer with us, enjoyed our hot tub as long as it was set to 102.5°. And, that any temperature below or above that was not acceptable to her. You'd be amazed at the hostile replies I got telling me that putting our dog in the hot tub was not good for her (or the tub). We have actually never even owned a hot tub.

Another time I posted about how the rug we had in our living room, which was made from spun hair from our nine Bernese Mountain Dogs, always made the house smell like wet dog when we shampooed it. A few months later a BMD breeder visited us and ask to see the rug!

Anyway, this year I took a photo of a famous landmark at Sand Creek Park. The landmark has two names. When viewing it from the north or south, it is known as Chimney Rock. You've probably seen lots of photos of it on this blog. When viewed from the east or west, it is know as Camel Rock (see photo below). I used Affinity Photo on my Mac to edit the photo, moving the camel head down the hill as if it had been lopped off (see above photo). I then posted this to the Sand Creek Park Landowners Facebook page with a few short words about how the wind had blown the head off the famous landmark and that it would now need a new name. (At least when viewed from the east and west.) 

Some people got the joke right away. But, some were fooled I guess. The post was shared a couple of dozen times and viewed about 2200 times (last I checked). 

What Camel Rock Really Looks Like

The death threats are slowing down now, ten days later.

There is a lot more going on. We've had a couple of heavy, wet spring snows. One of about 8" and another with about 12". They seem to come on Tuesdays. Of course, this time of year the snow only lasts a couple of days due to the warm, sunny days and warm winds. We did have to take the Ranger out after the last storm because we had an appointment to pick up the travel trailer. So, we drove the tracked vehicle to our tow truck's location at Mr. H's house near the CO/WY border. When we got back, a logging company had plowed the county road, so we ended up driving 5 miles on dirt and mud instead of snow.

When it is bad outside, we work on our weaving. Lynne will show photos of the "mug rugs" I'm working on for the trailer.

We are not yet seeing wildlife: deer, elk, moose. However, we have seen the fox around lately and we've seen lots of hawks and eagles now that the prairie dogs are out and about.

That's about it for now. We are in that transistion between Winter and Spring, and can hardly wait for full-on Spring. (It is snowing as I write this.) I'll try to do a better job of keeping things up-to-date!

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  • YIKES! That’s a lotta snow for June. I wonder if the bent trees will right…

    Posted to: ‘I've Been Lazy’ by Steve on 06/29/2020

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    Posted to: ‘Webcam Photos’ by Lynne on 05/28/2020

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    Posted to: ‘Wildflowers Galore’ by Steve on 05/26/2020

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