Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Posted by: Rick

We had some pretty high winds on Thursday and Thursday night. Sometime overnight two large (dead) trees fell in the meadow. These are trees that were killed by beetles several years ago. Eventually, all the dead trees will fall.

The bad news is that each time a tree falls, we lose some of the buffer we have against the prevailing west winds. The good news is we get a cord or two of fire wood for the next year.

Here is a closer view:

You can see that the larger tree just fell over with its root ball intact and has two trunks.

The smaller tree got caught in another tree and ended up in a strange position.

A closer view of that.

It had snowed and blown enough that we had to use snowshoes to take the short hike through the meadow. Destin was oblivious to anything other than playing in the snow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Best Laid Plan…

Posted by: Rick

Well, as I had suspected it makes little sense to try to keep Wapiti Way clear with the new plow. The road runs N-S along some open sagebrush prairie and any wind from the southwest or west will fill it with snow. The other day, I plowed it and it looked like this:

This morning, we needed to get into town for a vet appointment, it it looked more like this:

Actually, this photo is taken after attempting to get up the hill with the Expedition. We got stuck right away. The snow on the road was about 12" to 14" deep. It didn't look that deep, but it was. The problem driving through it is not so much the tires not grabbing, but rather the undercarriage of the truck getting "high centered" on the snow. I was able to back us out of the drift. I walked back to the cabin to get the Ranger and try to plow enough snow from the road to get over it. There was too much snow to get in one go with the plow, so I set it midway so I'd cut 5" to 6" off the top. My plan was to make another pass to get it down to the ground. However, I failed to tell Lynne my plan and she decided to drive the truck up after me, following my tracks. The problem is, the Ranger with tracks on it rides pretty much on top of the snow. So, after a few feet of following me, the truck was stuck again. And, this time I could not back it out. 

I got the shovel (we always throw a shovel in the truck when we go out) and began clearing the snow from around the tires while Lynne took off walking to the top of the hill where our neighbors were waiting for us in their truck. We had agreed to follow each other into town knowing the buddy system is safer.

Our neighbor, David, drove his truck over the sagebrush hill to get on the road behind the Expedition. We then used a tow rope to pull the Expedition clear of the snow drift. 

Lesson learned: don't even try to drive on the road. Instead, go cross country on the hill (we own that property). This works for a couple of reasons. First, there is simply less snow there after a big blow. Second, the gravel hill and sagebrush gives us more traction. 

So, rather than try to keep Wapiti Way "open" by plowing it, we'll just drive cross country to the top of the hill. I think I'll ask if we can park the Suburban there because once we are at the top of the hill, we have the same trek as our neighbors and we can work together to get into town and back. We will always try to coordinate trips so neither of us tries to go it alone.

The good news is that our Christmas cards are mailed. Hailey kept her vet appointment and we have meds for everyone for at least 2 months. We bought our Christmas ham and some wine. So, we are ready to sit here through Christmas if necessary. That does mean we may not get our mail.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

All I Want for Christmas is a Snow Plow

Posted by: Rick

Our Christmas gift to each other was a snow plow for the Polaris Ranger. We have a snow blower, and it will come in handy for deep snows and cleaning up after a big snow. But, having a plow makes quick work of the driveway, drifts at the exit of our property, the parking area at the cabin, and maybe even for the main road to the point it meets with our neighbors. It is especially helpful when we have only a few inches of snow--too much to just ignore but too little to warrant the work of the snow blower.

So, we called the Polaris dealer in Laramie and ordered what we needed. There were four items: a mount to go on the Ranger, the plow frame, a track extension to the plow frame, and the blade. We picked these up on Thursday, expecting a big snow on Saturday afternoon. Installation was supposed to take a couple of hours on Friday.

I put a portable propane heater in the shop side of the barn and warmed it up some. The plow frame and extension could be assembled in the warm, dry shop. I then attached these to the blade outdoors, and had the job mostly done. Only the mount for the Ranger was left, and this was advertised as a 45 minute job.

To mount the mount, I had to work outdoors where it was pretty cold. I put a large piece of 2" thick foam board on the ground and laid on that to do the job. My body heat was reflected and it was actually comfortable. As is typical for me, even after reading the instructions multiple times, there are terms I don't fully understand, I don't really have all the right tools, and I get ahead of myself sometimes requiring work that has been done to be undone and redone. But, after about an hour and a half, I had the mount mounted!

Now on to the big moment. I drove the Ranger up to the plow assembly and followed the mounting instructions. It just didn't work. Parts were not lining up where they were supposed to be. Although I saw that there was no way this plow assembly was going to mate to this mount, I kept at it for a while; scratching my head; trying this and trying that. I finally gave up.

Something is not right here.

On Saturday, I brought the assembly instructions inside and started going over them all again. Suddenly, I noticed that the mount was for a Glacier II plow system and I had ordered a Glacier Pro! I called the dealer in Laramie and had to get a bit testy with them to convince them they'd given me the wrong mount. Finally, the owner got on the phone and we figured out there was a printing error in their catalog. The two mounting systems, which are very different, had the same part number. Sure enough, I had laboriously, in freezing conditions, installed a mount that would never work.

Despite the threat of heavy snow in the afternoon, we drove into town and picked up the right mount. I picked up the tools I needed to make the job easier. We got home mid-afternoon.

I immediately began the process of uninstalling the wrong mount and reinstalling the right mount. Turns out the right mount was very easy to install. But, the wrong mount was hard to install and deinstall. It even had some electrical splicing that I had diligently done that was not needed. Saturday was warmer than Friday, but very windy. Still, using the wood shed as shelter, I got the swap done.

Now the big moment. I drove the ranger up to the plow. Inched forward. Click! I got out to see that everything lined up and clicked into place. I hooked the plow up to the winch on the Ranger and was able to raise and lower it easily. I even plowed the 2" of snow we had!

Everything is working now.

Good thing this got done, too. Overnight Saturday we got 5" of snow, maybe more in a few places. I had a great time plowing the driveway and parking area, and Hidden Meadows Ln down to Wapiti Way.

One has to be careful when plowing as opposed to blowing snow. Plowing creates piles of snow that can easily become snow fences and actually make future snow management more difficult or impossible. I work hard to keep the piles on the north and east sides of the road and driveway. We can get wind from those directions, but the dominant direction is from the south, southwest and west.

Sunday afternoon was pretty and sunny, although windy. At least the winds were from the "right" direction. I think Monday and Tuesday are going to be nice, too. But, then we are predicted to get snow again for the rest of the week. Our Christmas Gift Plow is likely to get a workout!

Here are a few shots of my work early on Monday morning:

Our driveway.

Hidden Meadows Lane from the top of our driveway.

Forest Service Circle / Wapiti Way -- the way out toward town.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Looking Back over November 2016

Posted by: Rick

As I write this it is 10° outside and the wind is blowing snow sideways. Winter weather has arrived.

October spoiled us with unusually warm and dry weather. Early November was nice too, but mid-month Mother Nature did a 180 and brought frigid weather and frequent snow. So far, the snow fall has been light. Just a few inches each time. But, it has given us a chance to actually benefit from the summer's hard work. I've even cleared the driveway with the snow blower a couple of times, but think a blade on the Ranger would work better for small snow amounts.

The completed and somewhat filled wood shed.

We finished a few of our projects. I built a rack to hold the canoes and keep them from blowing into the valley. The storage shed got fully insulated (and is heated by the propane fridge keeping it relatively toasty). And, we got the wood shed painted (and filled with wood). We also now have an electric circuit running to the barn. Now, I don't have to start up a generator every time I need electricity  for a few minutes.

We did our provisioning shopping. There is a whole blog post on that topic. Other than meat, which we'll get sometime soon, we have plenty of supplies to rely upon if/when we get snowed in.

Ready for winter!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fire Wood Management (After it is Gathered)

Posted by: Rick

As you know, Lynne and I worked pretty hard over the summer to stockpile sufficient fire wood for the winter.

We have a wood dolly that we use to haul wood to the front porch where we stockpile about 1/2 cord.

We heat the cabin throughout the day and evening with wood in the wood stove. And, it is nice to have a fire in the open hearth fireplace occasionally. The cabin looses about 1° per hour overnight, so if we can start with a temperature of 70° or so when we go to bed (usuallly around 9:00), then it is around 60° when we get up. The thermostat on the propane forced-air heater is set to keep the cabin at 60° from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., then to raise the temperature to 65°, where we keep it all day. If it is windy, we lose heat a bit faster because we are still tracking down all the little leaks we have around windows and doors.

So far this year, we have been using wood stored on the front porch that is probably 10 to 12 years old! But, this week we used the last of that and had to start using the wood we cut this summer. We had planned to cut, buck, split and stack 7-8 cords, but only got a bit more than 6 cords done. We are not sure if that will get us through the winter. We'll see.

So, on a nice day, we got out our wood dolly that handily hauls many armloads of wood in a single trip, and restocked the front porch. The dolly is built to carry split wood and can carry quite a bit. The large wheels make it easy to pull it up over the two steps at the door and we just pull it through the cabin to the front where we have some wood racks. It save many trips through the cabin with armloads of wood.

The dolly loaded with wood. 

Wood storage on the front porch.

We are experimenting with one other fire wood management subject: how to deal with the large amounts of sawdust created while bucking the wood. We probably created enough sawdust to fill a 55 gallon drum. We can't just leave it laying around because it does not go anywhere (unless the wind blows it). The dogs like to roll in it, we track it into the cabin, etc. So, I've collected most of it and put it in a large black trash bag. I then poured about a quart of lamp oil over it and stirred it around. (Diesel fuel may be a better option.) I allow it to "cure" in the plastic bag, and take out some into an empty coffee can to sprinkle in the fireplace to help start a fire. We've only started using it, and we still use some paper and pinecones, so am not 100% sure if it helps. But, it is a way to get rid of the sawdust. It is called "firedust".

A black plastic bag filled with firedust.


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