Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 2016 Retrospective

Posted by: Rick

Looking back, August was a month of progress with a hint of change. We made progress toward our winter preparations and full-time living. 

The propane generator was delivered (although it still needs to be connected to a yet-to-be-delivered propane tank, and wired into the house).

I've been working on insulating the shed, and I put up shelves so it can be a place to store supplies such as canned food, dog and cat food, extra dry ingredients like flour, rice, beans, etc. I got some UHT milk and cream out there already. And, we bought a Sam's Club membership (the closest is in Cheyenne, Wyoming) and we'll stock up before winter.

We will have a propane fridge out there along with the freezer. We bought the freezer a week or so ago.

You may question the wisdom of an electric freezer in an off-the-grid cabin. But, my logic goes something like this: once the freezer is cold and filled with frozen goods, it probably won't run much. The hotter the ambient temperature, the more it will run. But, the hottest ambient temperatures are in the summer when we also have the most sun to provide power. In winter, the shed will likely be quite cool (even after insulating it), and the freezer won't run as much. We'll see. Turns out, propane appliances are very expensive while the electric versions are much more affordable. Experimenting with an electric alternative may save us a lot of money.

Storage in the barn is in good shape too. I've installed some shelves (with more hand-built shelves to come) along with some clothes wardrobes. We now have a place to put seasonal clothing.

I've decided I have way too many clothes. So, some additional organizing and pruning needs to be done. I wear jeans, a t-shirt, and a long-sleeved shirt pretty much every day. I try to wear old worn out and stained jeans when doing "dirty" chores, then change into a nice pair for just hanging out around the cabin. A t-shirt is sufficient when it is sunny and especially if I'm doing any work. A long-sleeved shirt may be needed if the sun gets to be to much on my delicate skin, or if it gets a bit chilly. I'm sure I look like a hillbilly when I go into town because I don't dress "special" for that trip.

Turns out, now that we have a washing machine, I could probably live with 4 pair of jeans, 4 to 6 t-shirts, and similar number of long-sleeved shirts and a week's worth of underwear. I also need one or two pair of nice slacks, a couple of dressy shirts and a sports jacket--not sure why, but I think I need these things. What I don't need is the two or three wardrobe boxes of Hawaiian shirts, dress pants, short-sleeved shirts, and other sundry clothing that I will likely never wear.

We will need to switch out summer shirts for flannel in winter. And, find a place to put sweaters and coats.

The wildlife is both leaving and coming. The hummingbirds are about gone. They come around Mother's Day and are gone around Labor Day. Where we used to have maybe 50, we now have 3 or 4. It is sad to see them go. (See the hummingbird video below!) But, the shorter days and cooler weather mean other animals are on the move. Wildlife that seems to go away for summer is back. We are seeing more moose and deer, even a few elk already. Coyotes howl and bark at night. The Great Horned Owls make their variety of calls almost every evening. We are seeing lots of hawks and eagles on our drive into town and back (along with many antelope). Hunting seasons start soon and somehow the animals know the schedule, so they will disappear again soon for a while. Did you see the game camera shot of the mountain lion from a few weeks ago? 


Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Do We Like Living Here So Far?

Posted by: Lynne

The Meadow at sunset, Bull Mountain in the background.

Gee, that's a hard question! Let me see ...

Yesterday morning on our way into town (our activities yesterday require another whole blog post) we saw in this order, a herd of antelope that have been hanging out in the area around Bucky Beavers', cows, a coyote, a bald eagle, about four unidentified hawks, more cows. When we arrived home (the first time —see I told you yesterday was crazy) as I drove down the driveway I spooked our Great-Horned owl who was apparently sitting on our barn and all I saw was a huge wingspan sweeping away from me.

On our walk to the bottom with the dogs last night after dinner I looked up to see four big bucks (deer) with large racks running across the ridgeline on the top of the hill. Gorgeous!

Just as it was beginning to get dark I looked out to see our resident mamma moose and baby at the mineral lick right outside our diningroom window. 

And that was just yesterday! We are also fond of sitting out on the front porch and listening to the pair of owls perform a duet of squawks and calls after dinner.

Geez, right now I am sitting here at the table typing this post and who shows up but mamma moose and baby, right now! And here they are.

Any more silly questions you'd like to ask?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Another One Bites the Dust and the Firewood Process

Posted by: Lynne

As you already know, we have a huge amount of beetle-kill on our land. It's sad when another once-beautiful stately pine gives up and succumbs to gravity. Last week we came home from being in town and I looked out the window and the view just didn't look right. I said to Rick, that tree wasn't down before was it? No, it wasn't and it's a biggun. But at least the trees that are dead and eventually fall will go on to keep us warm and cozy in the winter. Gathering wood is essential to our lifestyle, and it also keeps the ground clear of fallen trees.

Here Hailey demonstrates where the tree is in regards to the cabin. I think we are leaving the tree right where it is for now and we have plans for how to use it —maybe a sign for our new (yet to be done) gate post? Maybe some furniture? Two people close by have a sawmill that would make quick work of it. And, the wood is so lovely.

We still have a huge stack of logs from the cutting of the trees in the meadow that are close to the cabin. We decided that instead of taking the easy way out and using that stack we would go further into the meadow and harvest from there for now since in winter it will be covered in snow and unreachable. Better to save the close-in wood for a winter emergency stash. We also need to get the darned wood shed built, and now that our propane generator is delivered and in place we'll soon be able to start on it once the propane tank is delivered, which we are hoping won't be too long from now.

We posted a week or so ago about putting up wood and here is how it looked then. I thought you might be interested in seeing the steps that go into that nice neat stack of wood. Well, okay, I admit it's not as neat as I would like it. It kind of leans and takes a turn in the middle. But, hey.

This is a load of logs that we cut down in the bottom of our property from a large tree that had fallen over years ago and also what was left of two trees that were leaning over the road that our neighbor Mark (who owns land above us) cut down. We told him he could have the wood if he wanted it, and then he left us a couple of logs.

Here is Rick sectioning out a large tree (already fallen) into logs out in the meadow.

Our bounty from the meadow loaded up into MM (Mountain Mia, as we call our Ranger). Again, some pretty hefty logs!

Next comes the smaller sectioning of logs in prepartion for the splitter. We cut the log lengths into smaller segments that will fit into our wood stove. Longer pieces can be burned in the fireplace. It's a messy process and the reason why we wear overalls when doing this part—sawdust everywhere! Rick runs the saw and I push the log into place for him with each cut.

Next comes the fun part — the splitting! Having the splitter makes it so easy. Some of the bigger logs need to be cut into six or eight pieces, depending on the size of the tree. Make a split, put it back on, split it again! This one I think we ended up splitting six ways. I love running the splitter, but sometimes I load the logs onto the splitter and Rick splits. Either way, with two people working the time passes quickly and pretty soon you have a wonderful piney-smelling big stack of lovely split wood! (see next photo).

Here is all the wood after it's been split.

It's not only fun (well, I think so) but a good workout for the abs and everything else. Plus, you get to see and feel the wood up close. All this wood is beetle kill which gives it layers of blue-ish-gray rings. When it's cut into lumber it makes cool stripes. We found all kinds of funny things inside the trees marking-wise. Some had a yellow laquer and funny holes. Some bark had what I like to call "ancient tree writing" on it, which I think are just simply bug tracks. It looks like tree hieroglyphics to me. And some pieces just had ants. Tons of red ants, some of which ran down into my overalls biting at my tender flesh. Damn things.

Sometimes I see wood that I want to keep which drives Rick crazy. I have a pair of "boots" that I use as bookends. I also kept this slab of wood because this tree had two hearts and a beautiful beetle pattern. Rick is going to sand it down for me and then I think I will shellac it and display it.

Another find of mine from this batch of wood, is this single boot. I liked it because it does look like a cowboy boot and the heart of the tree is so lovely and round on the front of the boot.

After all the gathering, sectioning and splitting comes the stacking. Of course. Here is our finished stack of wood which is about a cord and half, with another 2/3 cord on the front porch.

Yes, it does seem like ALOT of work, doesn't it? But there is something very satisfying about working with wood and knowing that all your hard work now will pay off in the winter when you are sitting around a toasty wood fire nodding off for a nap with your book in your lap. That, and that you can stand back and look at what you've accomplished —just you and no middle man. Making use of what nature left behind. I am thinking it's a good thing and well worth the effort.

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.


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