Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Monday, June 05, 2017

We’re Retired!

Note: I originally wrote this post on the 19th of May. I failed to publish it then. So, here it is better late than never.

It has been just over one year since I retired and we moved back to Colorado to live full-time in our off-the-grid log cabin. You've followed our journey if you've been reading this blog for a year or more. If not, you can catch up using the archives.

Only now, after a year, has it begun to "sink in" what it means to be retired.

Sure, I did not have to follow my typical early morning routine of showering, dressing for work, grabbing a bit of breakfast and driving the 40 minutes to the office; work behind a desk all day dealing with problems, mostly; then repeating the commute to get home to dinner, some TV and off to bed.

We still get up early, the dogs won't allow any sleeping-in. But, after that, the day's agenda is not set. But, on our recent RV trip to NM we learned to apply retirement on a grander scale.

We hooked up to the well-provisioned travel trailer on a Thursday morning and drove it as far as Colorado City, about 20 miles south of Pueblo, Colorado where we spent our first night in the trailer. All went well. The Ford Expedition with its 3.4L EcoBoost engine pulled the 6000 pound trailer just fine, even over passes. We arrived midafternoon and hooked up. I dewinterized the trailer, and we had our typical "first night out" dinner of "trailer spaghetti" (cooked ground beef stirred with jarred spaghetti sauce over some cooked pasta).

The next morning we made our way to Bernalillo, New Mexico where we stayed in a great KOA campground somewhat convenient to my family in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. Our plan was to spend 4 nights and three days there, then reverse our route and come home. We had a great visit with family and got a chance to see the petroglyphs (that used to be way out in the country but are now surrounded by housing developments!). We ate great food at the Kaktus Brewery and The Range, both in Bernalillo. Mom took us out for some great BBQ at Rudy's in Albuquerque.

Balloons launching on a cool Saturday morning as seen from Mom's balcony.

 

A sampling of the petroglyphs you can see at the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque.

As it came closer to time to leave, we had an idea. It started with "we're retired!". So, we don't have to get home on any particular schedule. We could stay in Albuquerque longer. Or.....we could go to Moab and see the parks there! So, that is what we did.

On Tuesday, we drove to the nice little town of Cortez, Colorado, just outside Mesa Verde National Park. We'd visited Mesa Verde before, and visiting national parks with dogs is difficult if you have to leave the vehicle to see the sights. So, we did not spend time there. We did make our way to Moab on Wednesday where we spent two nights, visiting Dead Horse Point State Park and Arches as well as Canyonlands National Parks. The nice thing about these parks (we only visited Island in the Sky in Canyonlands) is that you can see much of what there is to see from the truck or with short stops at scenic pull-outs. 

A view of the Colorado River at Canyonlands.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.

After two nights in Moab, we made our way to Craig, Colorado at perhaps the most beautiful time of the year. Then, on home on Friday, a full three days later than the original plan.

Now, the trip was nice. But, this blog post is really not about the trip as much as it is about our sudden realization that we don't have any schedule or agenda or "place to be" (most of the time) and are free to do what we want on a whim. That is a tremendously liberating feeling and we want to experience it some more!

Back to the trip. We drove about 1800 miles, 1500 with the trailer. We had only one problem with the trailer--a drawer broke. The truck towed fine, even over high mountain passes and handled well in the wind and in traffic. We only got about 10 mpg when pulling the trailer, so that is a bit disappointing. I was hoping for 12 to 14 mpg. The trailer is now tucked back in its storage location, re-winterized, and awaiting our next adventure which will likely come in July.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Before and After (and In-Between)

Picture of the cabin exterior "before". Note the dark stain and how it covers the chinking?

About a month ago we started the process of doing some rennovations on the cabin. A few years ago we hired someone to apply a coat of stain to the exterior of the cabin. We were in New Jersey at the time, so he did the work unsupervised. Our hearts dropped when we first saw it. He had used a very dark non-transparent stain and applied it in a way that it covered the chinking. The beauty of a rustic log cabin was lost to this big brown blob.

The "back" of the cabin. Note the hail damage to some of the lower logs. We were able to get our insurance company to pay for part of the restoration because of the damage.

In addition to rejuvinating the cabin exterior, we also wanted to enlarge the entry deck on the "back" of the cabin and add a fenced-in area for the dogs.

Now when I say "back" of the cabin, that is somewhat ambiguous and others call it the "front". It is the side of the cabin where we have parking and access to the outbuildings, but it is also technically (according to the cabin plans) the back. The front--to me--is the north-facing side with the screened-in porch. Anyway, this ambiguity causes lots of communications problems.

A few years ago, our entry gate blew down. It was two large posts with a cross-piece at the top. The posts rotted at the bottom and the wind blew it over. So, while doing the fencing, we also wanted to create a new and appealing entry.

Here are the "after" photos. Read on for the "in-between" story:

The cabin restored to its original beauty.

Note the new larger deck as well as a fenced-in yard where the dogs can play unsupervised.

The cabin restoration was about a three week process. The crew arrived on May 12th and worked through the 17th. During that time they were able to sand-blast the exterior of the cabin, getting rid of the old stain and then sand the logs down in preparation for three new coats of stain.

You can see the contrast between the old and the new in this photo.

However, the weather forecast was for a huge snowstorm. And, while the crew is accustomed to working in harsh conditions, there would be no way for them to shuttle to town and back each day. And, we could not host a crew of five workers for several days. So, on Wednesday the 17th, they took off for their own homes (most live in the mountains of central Colorado). 

And, sure enough we got snow.

In total, we got about 3 feet of snow over two days.

The crew returned on Tuesday the 23rd and started back to work. There was still some snow on the ground, but they were able to work around that.

Ready for new stain and chinking.

On the same day the crew came back to work on the cabin, another crew showed up to build the deck, put up the fencing and gates, and also build a new entry feature for the driveway. While the snow had melted rapidly over the weekend, there was still some snow that had to be moved in order to do the entry and fencing. Luckily, the crew had a skid steer with a bucket as well as augers to make easy work of that.

A 24" auger was used to drill a huge hole for the two vertical posts at the entry.

Up go the entry gate posts.

An early morning shot of the fenced in yard. It is kind of hard to see in this light, but we'll post additional photos soon.

Since we had a crew of pro stainers on site, we had them stain the barn, too. Now we just need to paint the trim. It will be the same dark green color as trim elsewhere around the cabin.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Game Camera Catches Elusive Ewok (and Other Critters)

I moved one of our game cameras to look out over the pond a few weeks ago. It successfully got a shot of an illusive Ewok sitting on a log:

Ewok sitting on a log. Photo is cropped and enlarged.

He is a bit harder to see in the original photo. Can you find him?

Okay, okay. It is probably not an Ewok. But, can you identify it? 

That same camera was used as a scratching post by an elk. Poor thing must have a mosquito bite on her butt. The images from the camera, just before this one, were all askew and blurry.

Can't quite reach the itch.

And, here is a very early morning shot of either a coyote or the fox. It is difficult to tell in this light.

Eerie glowing eyes.

I have another camera in the same area focused on a spot where we saw bear scat last year. So far, all it has caught are the typical deer, elk and moose. But, look what it caught over the past several weeks!

A black bear.

A cub, looking for its mommy.

And, finally, the back end of a huge cinnamon colored bear. Wish it had been coming toward me instead of going away.

By the way, the "Ewok" is actually a Great Horned Owl. We struggled with the ID for a while given his ears aren't sticking up as much as we usually see. But, after looking at many online pictures, the owl can have the ears tucked down. And, the markings match perfectly.

A Walkabout

I have fallen woefully behind in the blogging department. Back in the day I had my blog a "new" Jersey Girl, which I started mostly for family and friends to read and catch up on our lives there. Turned out that hardly any family members read it, but I had quite a few loyal followers who also were bloggers at the time. Now most of those bloggers have stopped blogging, though a few still carry on. And a "new" Jersey Girl is now defunct, although all the entries remain up and intact if you ever get the notion to read them.

I used to write and write and sometimes quite wittily. Nowadays, hardly ever. What happened to that person that words used to just flow out of? Is she just lying dormant? Will she, can she, make a return?

But, my life is different now. I am not in a new enviornment, but one that is as familiar as the back of my hand. I know when which wildflower should be blooming, and where. I know how steep each and every slope is. How this makes a difference I am not sure, I just know that it is.

Yesterday afternoon I decided to walk up the driveway to check on the cloud situation and see if any of them looked like they might be producing rain for us, which we badly are in need of. Not a chance. They were all beautifully white and puffy and quite happy just to scud around individually instead of ganging up into one big blue-black thunderhead. I stood there for a moment looking up on the hillside for any telltale signs of tall white stalks of flowers which might indicate that the Miner's Candles were blooming.

Before I knew what was happening my legs started to move and I began the steep uphill climb to the top of the hill. The dry grass made crunching noises beneath my feet as I wove my way around sage bushes, avoiding the blooming lupine, loco, and hundreds of Western Paintbrush (the yellow one) now blooming. When I got to the top, unwinded I might add and very proud of myself, I turned around to appreciate the vista in front of me—Bull Mountain still blanketed with green, the Snowy Range peeking over the top of other mountains, the rolling undulations of the high prairie. 

I did spot two Miner's Candles blooming quite a distance from each other, but only those two. 

I had no camera with me and it felt very freeing not to have to worry about capturing those moments with a lens. I have a very firm photo right in my head of what it looked like.

After my languid descent from the top, I came to the head of the driveway and the gate once again. Imagine my surprise when I looked over to my left and saw a Miner's Candle blooming right there, partially hidden from view by tall grasses and sheltered by a large pine. Cheeky little flower! But, if I had seen it before my little walk I probably would not have gone to the top of hill, and that my friends would have been a shame.

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