Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Birds of Pretty Feathers

Posted by: Lynne

Lately we've been getting some beautiful birds that appear to be just passing through. They are not our regulars and only stay about a day or so after checking out the feeder. Our bird feeding station is right outside the window where I always sit in the mornings to check email and drink my coffee, so it's obvious when different birds show up.

This beautiful Lazuli Bunting showed up the other morning and stayed the better part of the day.

He checked out the seeds along with the pine siskins, juvenile red-winged blackbird and juvenile evening grosbeak. He was not a very big bird in size, but big on color!

Another day visitor was this Bullock's Oriole. I never could get a clear photo of him. He did land on the hummingbird feeder looking for something sweet but he was not interested in the seed at all.

Another bird that has been around a lot lately is the Clark's Nutcracker aka Camp Robber. We haven't seen them all summer but now they seem to be everywhere. They like the sappy green pinecones. They are large birds, the size of a magpie and very beautiful in flight. You know when they're around because they are noisy. Hey, after all they are a jay!

I'm sure we'll be seeing more visitors as they migrate to their winter homes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wood Gathering: 1 of 8

Posted by: Rick

I figure we'll need 7 to 8 cords of wood for winter. And, maybe a bit more "around the edges" at the start and end of colder weather. So, the strategy is to put up a cord of wood each week during August and September, and then opportunistically cut more if we get the chance.

A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet of wood. This is usually figured as three rows of 16" logs stacked 8 feet long and 4 feet high. That's 4x4x8 or 128 cubic feet.

A few days ago, Lynne donned her overalls, I got out the saw and fired up the splitter and we did a cord. Two-thirds of it is stored on the front porch (which my "fire wise" friends will point out is a bad idea, but when it is -20° outside and the wind is howling, it is nice to have a stash on the porch). The other 1/3 is in a temporary stack awaiting the construction of a wood shed.

Here is a photo of our wood cutting, splitting and stacking setup (note the large pile of logs in the center-right of the photo):

Lynne "manning" the log splitter:

Two-thirds on the porch:

The final third stacked. More to join this stack soon!

We love our new log splitter (built right here in Colorado). It works like a charm.

The next step is to sharpen the blade on the chain saw and do another cord this weekend.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Observations from 8 August 2016

Posted by: Rick

We started our retirement adventure at the off-the-grid cabin about 3 months ago. The time has passed quickly. We have been working to convert a weekend/vacation cabin into a full-time home, and that is more work than I anticipated. 

First, let me observe that retirement is a lot of work. I have not suffered from a lack of things to do--many of which are physical. The kind of work has changed, but the amount has not. I stay very busy and do not miss working in the corporate world at all.

I guess winter is the big driver behind much of what we do. Or, preparing for winter. The goal being the ability to live at the cabin without the need to go into town for as many as 5 or 6 weeks. Right now we go into town way too much, as many as 2-3 times per week. But, most of those trips are to get supplies to outfit the cabin for self sufficiency.

The projects range in scope from getting the barn installed to having a way to compost organic waste. I think I've listed the reasons we go into town before, a sampling being:

  • Dump trash
  • Stop at the feed store for dog treats and food
  • Buy groceries & other supplies which can mean stopping at the butcher, a grocery store, hardware store, WalMart, etc.
  • Turn in and check out books at the library
  • Browse the flea market and antique stores for needed furniture
  • Get mail, mail packages & letters

Let's work that list from the bottom up. 

There is not much we can do about mail in the winter. We either drive the 25 minutes to the mailbox (one way) or not. While FedEx delivers to the cabin in the summer, they can't once the roads close. USPS mail and most UPS shipments can be picked up at our mailbox at the Wooden Shoe Ranch. For FedEx, we'll need to go into town. So, we have set up "e-delivery" for important things like bills, banking statements, etc. We try to avoid paper-based mail as much as possible. For other items, we just can't order things to be shipped. We need to stock up now.

If we don't go into town, we can't browse for things to buy. We need to get any essential furnishings and accessories now.

The library has the ability to check out ebooks, so we'll look into taking advantage of that. Plus, they don't charge fees for overdue books unless they are over 120 days past due. So, we can stock up and have more than 4 months to return books!

The key to minimizing trips for groceries, supplies, dog food, etc. is to stock up before winter and have an adequate supply. That means storage space, and that is where we have focused a lot of our effort. The barn is here, and I'm working on insulating it, putting up shelves, and figuring out storage schemes. We are even installing some wardrobes purchased from Home Depot to hold clothing. We also need more refrigerator space and a freezer--projects still in process as of this writing.

Dealing with trash means minimizing it. We have started composting compostable waste (not very successfully). We will be able to burn most paper and cardboard in winter. We will need to deal with cans and bottles, somehow. Probably just clean them and accumulate them until we can haul them off.

We have made progress, but I'm nervous about a few key projects. We have the storage need solved. We have the Ranger, which we will put tracks on in October, for emergency exit if needed. Otherwise, it will be fun to just putt around when there is snow on the ground. We have Internet and TV. (We are still learning to use the Internet bandwidth we get. Several times we have accidentally burned our entire 10GB allotment for a month in a single day. For example, with our DirecTV setup, if we find an interesting program on air that is almost over and hit the "rewind" button to go backwards in the program, the system assumes we want to see it from the beginning and starts downloading a streamed version over the Internet! While it is cool to be able to control time like that, one show can burn a couple of GB of bandwidth.) Cell phone coverage has been fixed with a booster. We have a washing machine for laundry (and the outdoors as a dryer). And, the investment we made in additional solar panels and new batteries is really paying off.

A second refrigerator (and new stove) have been ordered. I think we are close to deciding on a freezer choice. The issue with these is a propane supply which is dependent upon getting our propane generator installed--a long delayed and still uncertain project.

And, scariest of all, we don't have any wood cut, split and stacked for winter yet. We need wood--probably 7 to 8 cords of it--for heat in the winter. There is no way we can fully heat the cabin off our propane heater. There are lots of excuses for not starting on wood gathering yet: we need a wood shed to store the wood; I can't build a shed until the additional propane tank is delivered (the shed would be in the way); the propane tank won't be delivered until the new generator is installed; the new generator is awaiting the needed effort and attention of the supplier...

Wildlife sightings have slowed down. But, it should pick up again as autumn arrives and animals start planning for winter. We've had huge numbers of hummingbirds this summer, but they are starting to dwindle.

Destin is a handful. He has grown up so fast. He is smart. And, strong willed. We need to work a bit harder on training, especially the recall. He plays a game of "hide and seek" and "come chase me" when it is time to come inside.

We've had quite a few days where we could not be outside much because of smoke from the Beaver Creek fire. Fire is an ever present danger here in the summer. We've taken many steps to mitigate fire danger to the cabin, and I think the risks to us would be small even with a fire in the area. Still, very scary. At least it has been cool the last few days with some rain, low wind, and higher humidity.

I guess that is it for my first "observations" post. I hope to do such a post about once every 3-4 months taking a higher-level and longer-term view of our life "off the grid".

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Fruitful Walk

Posted by: Rick

Fresh wild raspberries we picked while walking the dogs last evening. They are starting to ripen. This handful was great with our chocolate dessert.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Morning Has Broken

Posted by: Lynne

~snip~ This was our morning yesterday.

This morning dawned clear and thankfully smoke-free. Yesterday was not a good day for breathing air as the smoke from the Beaver Creek fire descended on us big time. And, no, we are not in any danger from the huge fire but we do occassionaly get the smoke if the wind blows from the right (or in this case, wrong) direction. You know, "smoke from a distant fire?"

We ate breakfast al fresco on our porch as we we so often do since we bought this wonderful retro table at a local antique store. Its cheery yellow formica and metal trim reminds me of the table we had growing up only that one was green formica and was not a drop-leaf table. There were also green vinyl padded chairs to match. This little table was exactly right for this spot on the porch. Plus, with both leaves up it can six or maybe eight if we squeeze. We bought mis-matched chairs at about $25 each at both the antique store where we bought the table and also at Bart's, a favorite browsing antique/flea market spot. Two of the five chairs actually match and those are the two pictured here. 

After breakfast we took the dogs up to open the gate and for a little exercise before we took off by ourselves to change out the cards in the game cameras up top.

To Destin, walks mean sticks!

The hike up to get change the camera cards gets easier every time we do it. We scared up a cottontail. A BIG cottontail! I think we may have caught the same rabbit on the camera at night. 

By the way, what happens when a bunny sees his own shadow?

We are not getting much from the cameras at their present locations. A few deer, a rabbit, what we think might have been a grouse at night, and even a snake. We positioned one camera next to a big hole in a rock next to the ground and that's where the camera captured the snake. Not exactly what we were hoping for. So, on the way back we scouted out possible new locations to try. One is a well traveled game trail that is near the beaver pond. We'll leave them up where they are for another week or so, then try a new location.

We saw this hornet's nest near the pond. It's very low to the ground and at first I thought it had fallen out of a tree. I reached out my hand to move the branch that it was on because it was literally only a few inches off the ground and then I saw the hornets. No no no, Lynne, don't touch that! Very wierd place for a nest if you ask me.

It was a great morning and just another reason why we love it here so much.


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