Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Unpacking again!

Just a quick note. We are mostly moved in now. It is a lot more fun unpacking this time, knowing that it is going to be permanent! Or at least for a number of years. My parents and brother may be into this whole moving thing, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not! I think we'll probably have one more trip with the hillbilly moving apparatus, maybe two depending on when we do that and if we have the freezer and beds by then. Now I just need to get used to sleeping with Rodney's snoring again. ;) It's nice out there. Very nice. Granted, it is going to take some getting used to living off grid. I'm pretty sure I wasn't thinking very clearly when we packed. ELECTRIC blanket? Crock pot? Humidifiers? They all run off ELECTRIC which is in short supply out there! We can run that stuff off the generator, but we hope to run that as little as possible. It is going to take us some time to figure out what we can run when. We can run the fridge off the pelton wheel which is probably the important thing! I think the phone is working out there now, but we haven't tried it yet. I'll give that a shot after lunch when I go back out. Well, I'd better get back and pack up all the stuff that I missed yesterday that we were scrambling to find this morning trying to get kids off to school!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Moving!!

We did the bulk of our moving yesterday! Nate had the great idea (as usual) to take one of the camp's floating docks (normally used in their swimming area) to float our "stuff" over to the cabin. It worked great! They tied the dock to the front of the boat and pushed it across the lake. Very slowly. It would have taken us TONS more time though if we had tried to haul it all over one trip at a time with just the boat! It looked like some sort of bizarre cross between Tom Sawyer and the Beverly Hillbillies! I was sitting in one of the rocking chairs on the way across the lake! I wonder if Nate planned that, just for a good laugh? Hahaha!!! It worked! We joked about it the whole way across and Nate did bring the camera along... Andrei thought he should have brought cards to play while we crossed. It did take a while!

We went to Kingdom Air in the morning to scope out a plumbing job that Rodney is going to do for them. That short job took pretty much all morning with all the chatting that happens on any excursion like that. Then we packed after lunch and were ready to haul a load by the time the kids got home from school JUST in time to help with the heavy loading and unloading! Nate's wife Maggie made a SPECTACULAR dinner for us on a moment's notice (how does she DO that???) and then we went back and took over another load. I rode in the trailer holding onto lamps while we took the camper's load down to the dock. I gained a new appreciation for what our furniture went through on the ride up here! It's amazing everything made it here in one piece!

The last trip across the lake was AWESOME!!!! It was a beautiful clear night and the moon is almost full! GORGEOUS! It was getting dark when we set out but we could still see a moose eating on the edge of the lake. I wonder what it thought about our strange procession! The mountains were just shadows with the moon and a few stars hovering over them when we came back. It was very peaceful and awe-inspiring! I'll try to get the camera out there on a nice clear night over the next few days. I'm not sure if I'll be able to capture it, but I'll give it a shot! That's about it for the moment. We should even be able to sleep out there tonight! Yeah!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Naughty Ellie

This one was just too funny to let it sit another day when I might forget! Ellie is quite possibly one of the naughtiest dogs on earth. Really. Some of you who have met her KNOW that this is true. I got tired of not having any spices, but there's no place to go with them in the apartment kitchen so I just brought the tote in and it is sitting in the kitchen on the floor. It is about 2' high, a standard plastic storage tote. This morning I saw her stand on top of that thing and I chased her off it, but I sort of had one of these "zombie" migraines where I was really out of it so I didn't think things through well. This evening we had a dinner with all the camp families and when we came back, one of the first things I saw was a rawhide chew on the floor. That was odd because I rarely give those to the dogs and only when I'm there to supervise in case they choke on them. I had managed to shake off the "zombie" part of the migraine by then and pretty quickly started connecting the sequence of events. Ellie had climbed up on that tote, then onto the COUNTERS to get the rawhide chews out of the container on the counter! If you don't believe me, it might help if I tell you that she regularly climbs up onto the dining room table any time she finds a chair not pushed in completely. Better than when she was younger and could jump from the floor straight up onto the table, but still an annoying habit. There were quite a few rawhide chews missing from the bin. She must have gotten one at a time, went to bury them one at a time, Eider would go get the ones she had buried and she'd go back for another. She never eats them, she just buries them. She (and probably Eider too) DID eat two partial loaves of bread that I'd left on the counter. Come to think of it, I think there was a stick of margarine up there too. No, I'm certain Eider wasn't the ring leader on this job. He's not that bright. He WILL take advantage of her naughty prizes, but he's not smart enough to do the job himself. I have never seen him even attempt to get up on the counter. Ellie on the other hand counter surfs daily. Oh, and Ellie had knocked over a chair and pulled the cover off the couch - most likely while she was trying to bury her rawhides. She gets rather persistent and naughty in her "burying" phase. Anyone want a Basset? Cute sad eyes, great with kids... Ok, I've about run out of the list of good traits.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Still no word on the appraisal, but I figured a short post was in order at any rate. We didn't move to the cabin today, but might start tomorrow. We'll see how energetic we are after church. I cleaned over there yesterday and today and Rodney has been tearing the roof off that back shed (got through the first roof and found another, so double the work). Sergei was helping yesterday but he was helping Doug Theissen with fencing today so its not quite done yet. Rodney was in town this morning with Nate playing, I mean, working on figuring out the water system for the cabin. I spent the morning working on a letter to send out to peoples. At the rate I'm getting things together, it will still be a while before they're all together and out! Whodda thunk it could take that much work to put something like that together! No wonder I've never been good at Christmas letters! If you think I don't have your address and you'd like a letter, drop me an email!

Nate had a great idea (as usual) about how to move some of the bigger stuff. The boat is really small and we don't really want to wait for ice to move beds across and such, so he thought we ought to take one of the floating docks that the camp uses for the waterfront and put stuff on it and then pull it across with the boat. Smart! It was too windy this morning for that anyway so it was a good day for them to be in town. It did turn into a nice, sunny afternoon, but there wasn't that much time to really get things together by that point. Besides, there was still work and cleaning to do out there.

Ellie did get to go swimming today. Not on purpose. We were getting ready to boat across to the cabin so I had the dogs out on the dock, trying to get them into the boat. Ellie LOVES the boat, but there was a bouy not too far off the end of the dock that caught her attention. She wanted to see what it was and kept leaning farther, and farther, and farther... She wouldn't listen to me and was pulling really hard. I finally gave up and just let her go. She went head first off the dock, under water completely before bobbing up NOT happy with the dunking! I pulled her up on the dock and she went right back after that bouy again! She's not the brightest dog, that's for sure! She HATES the water! I have no idea what she thought was out there off the end of that dock!

Eider on the other hand would deliberatley jump in the water, knowing what would happen. He LOVES the water! He LOVES being out at the cabin because he can pretty much run loose and swim and run to his heart's content. He never goes so far that he doesn't know exactly where you are. We don't always know exactly where he is, but he always knows! He doesn't seem to feel the cold water at all. A little while back when we were measuring the distance across the water (for possible future running of electric) Eider swam all the way over to where Rodney was on the bank opposite me. No problem. He's a swimming machine! Unlike Ellie!

Fortunately for Ellie the cabin was nice and toasty warm when we got there. We'd put some wood in the stove before we left last night at about 6 pm and didn't get back today until about 3 pm. It was still nice and toasty warm! The master bedroom has HUGE windows and catches a lot of light. It was downright hot up there when I was vaccuming today! The apartment we are staying in also has huge windows and Oksana and I sat there for a bit today (her doing homework, me stuffing envelopes) and she complained about how hot it was there! The sun is REALLY strong up here somehow. I haven't figured out what it is but it really cooks you!

I thought I had another thought to post, but it wandered off to greener pastures. This was just supposed to be a short post anyway. It's getting to be bedtime too, so I ought to sign off and go to bed! I did post a few more pictures in the photo site today - link off to the right at the top of the blog. They are the pictures from the day we went down to the river with the Theissens for a cookout. Night all!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Making comments and more great progress!

A number of people have emailed me to say that they don't know how to leave comments on the blog. My friend Cheryl (who gave me the idea to blog) has instructions on her blog that came from her cousin. I'll pass them along once more!

1. Under this post you will see small writing. On the right side you will see "# comments" for example "0 comments." Click on that.

2. A new screen will open with the post and then comments already written underneath. Scroll down.

3. You can type a comment in the white box. Write your name in the white box after your comment.

4. In the small white box under the comment box it will say "comment as." The easiest way to do this is to scroll down and choose "anonymous." If you remember to write your name in the comment box I'll know who you are.

5. Then just click Publish Comment and your comment will be posted.

Lots of news this week! First, I suppose I ought to cheer you all with the news that we have snow! There, bet you feel better about the terrible weather you're having! Hahaha!!! Actually, it is a LOT prettier today than it was earlier in the week when I had no heat in my sleeping quarters (the camper). Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself!

I'm going to snatch bits and pieces of emails I wrote this week just so you can really get the flavor of the ups and downs we've been through this week. Here's Wednesday's:

The guys were working on our cabin today but couldn't get the well working. They hope to try again tomorrow and have some ideas for getting it to go. It looks like the spring will be a better bet to start but we do need the well too if we're going to have water through the coldest parts of winter. I think they will get the equipment in soon to work on an ATV trail to the house. They also plan to build a better utility room on the back. The current one is just an uninsulated dirt hole with an uninsulated shed over the top built with untreated lumber supports. They want to put in a bigger one with an insulated basement and insulated room above it. That will house all the incoming and outgoing water lines, hot water heaters, 1,000 gal water holding tank (needed because you're running off a generator at times and it is easier to fill the tank occasionally rather than running the generator constantly for water). It's exciting to see things finally moving on the house!

Then Thursday: I suppose I ought to make another blog post but I'm too tired. Not sleeping real well. It has turned rather cold (ice on the puddles) and there was no heat in my camper so I didn't sleep well at first because of that. Rodney filled the propane tank so now I have heat, but either the carbon monoxide detector is too sensitive or the propane heater isn't working quite right because the detector goes off for the first couple seconds every time the heater runs, which is about every half hour, which wakes me up about every half hour. Ugh! I think we may try an elec heater and see how that goes.

They plan to start work on the ATV trail to the cabin soon - maybe next week? They'll also dig out the pit where the water lines are under the cabin and rebuild that as a small basement, putting ALL the utilities in there. That ought to make things easier to access than the crawl space, cleaner, remove another source of mold AND make it easier to keep that space heated so the pipes don't freeze. They'll put the hot water heaters in there which will provide some of the heat needed to keep that warm. They figure it will take about 3 weeks of work to do that.

Meanwhile we need to cut firewood for heat, but Rodney is working until dark most days as it is, including Saturdays (they have Mondays off). That makes it a bit challenging to cut wood without the kids there. The logistics of getting things together in the next month is a bit crazy.

The well out there didn't work either. It ran dry in 5 minutes and didn't recover after an hour. They are probably going to run a line from camp through the lake out to there. That shouldn't take too much time and can be done while they're putting in the ATV trail. They're going to rebuild the camp's water collection system next year anyway, and we can tap into the spring out there during the summer so the water part is relatively easy.

The generator is reasonably efficient so that shouldn't be too bad to use when the spring isn't running (about 3-4 months of the year). So there's progress, but still a lot to do before we can really move out there. Actually, since I'm already camping now, I might end up camping out there for a little while as the work is being done. We'll see!

We ran a couple of pieces of wood through the wood stove earlier this week and it got plenty cozy in there pretty quickly. We do need to re-insulate under the floor, but we'd prefer to do it with foam if possible. We need to look into the logistics of that, which reminds me to email my cousin's wife and get some contacts from her. They're preparing to do that in their house this fall.

Friday: Good news on the house out here! Rodney was able to get the pelton wheel running making elec with 120 lb of pressure so there's plenty of power! The batteries came in last night or this morning - they are here and I even touched them ;) so we ought to have power out there very soon. Rodney plans to work on that today. Everyone is very supportive of getting us out there NOW which helps a TON!!! The kids have been splitting wood and we got the go-ahead from the DEC to take water from the lake during the winter (no restrictions on a single family dwelling) so we don't even need to run the line from the camp! LOTS of progress yesterday! The Lord was running ahead of me yesterday clearing the paths as I was getting frustrated about all that needed to be done! He also provided an electric heater for the camper which I ran last night and slept VERY well! I still need a couple more good nights of sleep to catch up but I feel a lot better already today!

News on the NY house sale - things are progressing well. We've come to an agreement on asbestos removal that I think makes everyone happy. The septic has passed inspection (FINALLY! Thanks, Jake!). Now we're waiting for the buyers to get financing ok-ed. The house is being appraised today and the buyers need it to appraise at a certain value so we're waiting to hear about that. Our realtor is fairly confident that it will work, but that is definitely a prayer request. I'll make a quick post as soon as we find out the answer on that one! I'll also let you know when we start moving in to the cabin!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lots of progress!

Greetings from sunny Alaska! Oh, you didn’t expect Alaska after sunny? Well, it is! I’m pretty certain that we see more sun here than we did in NY! We see blue sky most days, even if there are a few clouds. And this is the “rainy season”! We did have a nice frost overnight last night and Anthracite, one of the peaks visible from camp, has some fresh snow on it now. Rodney says this isn’t the first frost but I’ve walked the dogs every morning and this is the first one I’ve noticed.

It has been another busy week. I spent a big part of the week working on a list of work that needs to be done on the buildings here at camp. There are cabins, lodges and bathrooms for three camps within the larger camp, plus the conference center lodge with housing, staff housing, horse facilities and the various maintenance buildings and facilities to support the camp. It took us a full day to walk the camp taking notes on paper and on voice recorder, it took me another day to type it all up (including listening to the voice recorder) notes, and then Nate and I took another half day cleaning it up. I sat out of the walk-through they did later in the week to discuss it with Rick Cornfield and Brian Headings. My head was spinning with all of it by then! I went down to the lower shop to do some more cleaning and sorting. That was MUCH easier work! Hahaha!!!

Nate and Rodney have been working on the log cabin the last few evenings. They accomplished a lot in a short time. They’ve got the boat running, got water running from the spring for water and they got the generator up and running and charging the batteries for power. There’s still a lot to do yet but it is a very good start. They still need to get the pelton wheel running to provide power. They got 100 psi off the spring water where the pelton wheel should sit so there should be plenty of power to run the house if we can get that going. The generator is a great backup, but the pelton wheel is essentially free if we can get it hooked up. Compared to NY’s electric rates, the generator is still cost effective, but it is more work because you need to haul in the fuel. They also still need to get the well hooked up and drawing water from there. The spring will be a great summer source, but it does freeze up in winter. They just aren’t certain how much water the well will provide and when it was last hooked up, it tripped the breaker. We also still need to treat the mold under the house (just spray with bleach) and I’ve ordered a different, odorless mold killer that I can use to clean inside the house. Lastly, we need to insulate and figure out how to heat it! There’s plenty of dead pine trees around the house that we can cut and burn, but we’ll need to get something more substantial for real cold and overnight. Basically though, there has been a lot of progress in a short time.

Friday Rodney and I went to Wasilla again. It seems like I’m there every week. Ugh! Wasilla is ok if you need to get stuff, but it is a city and frankly, I don’t care for cities. We did stop in for a minute at Kingdom Air Corp on the way in to town and ended up staying for about two hours. We got talking to Dwayne King who is another one of Alaska’s interesting classic characters. Dwayne rebuilds and repairs airplanes and trains missionary bush pilots, including quite a few Russians. Rodney was up here just a little more than a year ago working on one of the cabins that now houses some of the staff. We got to see the completed project along with the new dining hall and a number of planes they were working on in the hangar. He also has many engine parts in various states of repair all over his workshop. Now THAT looked like fun! It is like fitting together a VERY exact puzzle, after ensuring that every single piece is in perfect working order, with no cracks or worn spots. It inspired me to dig out my Russian language tapes to start brushing up on my Russian again!

Speaking of the Russians, ours are doing fairly well. Sergei is doing very well. He’s downright pleasant to be around most of the time! It’s a miracle! He’s still got a bit of the old Sergei in there that shows itself from time to time. That’s to be expected I suppose. Can’t change COMPLETELY overnight! Andrei is Andrei. Not much change at all there. Still having his usual ups and downs. Nothing big fortunately. Oksana is struggling a bit more but we are beginning to think she might also be being affected by the mold in the house. She’s mentioned having difficulty breathing when she tries to run at school. Her mile run times have been getting worse, not better. She’s also been more crabby than usual. I know that school is causing her more stress – with her learning disability she has to work three times as hard as the boys, plus the teachers aren’t taking the extra time to explain things to her that she often needs. We’ll see. We’ll wait it out for a while at this point. So far she seems to still want to be there. If she changes her mind, we’ll evaluate again.

Luci, my cousin Jeff’s wife, had recommended a book titled “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name” by Heather Lende. I ran across it at Target while we were in Wasilla so I picked it up. It is so good I devoured it in two days! If you’re tempted to read it though, I will warn that she writes obituaries and lives in an area where people die a lot. It is a sad book, but not really in a bad way I don’t think. I guess maybe I’ve lost enough people I love to appreciate that loss is a big part of life. Rodney says it is a chick book though, so… Whatever! At the risk of boring ya’ll, I’m going to put in a few quotes that really capture part of what I find so attractive about Alaska as well as her writing. “I have lived in Haines, Alaska, all of my adult life but there are still times, especially winter evenings when the setting sun washes over the white mountaintops, the sky turns a deep blue, and the water is whipped into whitecaps by the north wind, that I can’t believe my good fortune. It’s so wild and beautiful that all I can do is walk outside my house and stare.”

“Wild places are reminders that the world doesn’t revolve around us. It doesn’t care about our little successes or smashing failures. The tides ebb and flow and the seasons change regardless of how we live or die.” I’d have to go back and read again to see if I’ve written it down before or if I’ve just told other people that, but I have a similar philosophy about NYers vs Alaskans and this quote is the crux of it. I think I may have hesitated to post it for fear of offending anyone. I know that not everyone on the east coast is self centered. Actually, it seems to be more a city dweller phenomena rather than an east vs west phenomena, except that there are more cities on the east coast than the west. At any rate, one of the first thoughts that came to me as we drove across some of those western states, primarily Montana, was that all east coasters ought to drive that drive. When you see the vastness of the country you can’t help but be struck by how small we are by comparison. Too many people seem to act as if they believe they are the center of the universe. Out west people seem much more connected, much friendlier, much less self centered, much more pleasant to be around.

This last one is a quote at the end of a section where she talks about having taken the kids to a Broadway production and how it doesn’t compare to the town having put on their own production of “The Sound of Music.” “I’m still humming “My Favorite Things,” and so are my children. No one remembers the music from "Cats". This summer when we hike up Mount Riley, I’m sure at least one of us will break into “the hills are alive with the sound of music.” It’s our song now; everyone knows all the words. That’s why local shows mean more than big Broadway productions, and local customs, shared with friends and family, take the place of other ones from other places. Happiness can be as simple as a familiar tune and someone to sing it with.”

Basically, we’re still thrilled to be here. It’s not an easy place to live by any stretch of the imagination but it is beautiful and wild and the little things seem to mean more out here somehow. I hope you’ll hang with us to find out if we feel the same way a year from now. If you haven't seen them already, keep looking down the page at pictures posted last week that I forgot to tell people I'd posted.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fall foliage pictures

I couldn't help but get a couple of these up quickly! It's so beautiful! You can click on the pictures to be taken to a full size version of the picture. First, the sheep:


Then a few foliage pictures from our drive out to Sheep Mountain:



Finally the swans:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sorry I haven't posted much this week! It has been a busy week with not much to report. I'm overwhelmed every day with the STUNNING beauty of the mountains, colors and everything. We went out for a drive this afternoon out to Sheep Mountain (I think that is what it is called) and we saw quite a few sheep out there. I was kicking myself for not bringing the long lense for the camera but as Rodney said, we can go back again! We had swans on the camp lakes this week and the fall colors are probably peak right now. It is truly amazing! I try to take pictures but there's no way that a mere camera can capture the awesome beauty. I tried to take some pictures with the sun shining like gold off the leaves but they didn't come out right. I did get some nice pictures, but they just don't have that breath-taking quality to them that the real thing has. And it REALLY does take your breath away. Constantly! Many times I'll just stop and STARE, trying to take it all in. So basically that's been my week. I think it is beautiful and then I see it get even more beautiful the next day. So I've spent a lot of time with my mouth hanging open gaping at it all.

I did take the kids shopping for clothes in Wasilla at Sears yesterday. That wasn't my idea of fun but we hit a great sale and they had a good time. Mattresses were on sale for half price so I ordered some, plus a freezer. They won't be in for a few weeks though so I spent a bunch of $ and have nothing to show for it other than a receipt.

I've also been working in the lower shop and in the paint room trying to get organized. There's a loooooooooong way to go but it is very gratifying to see such instant progress. I'll probably not run out of work down there for at least the rest of winter and then IF I manage to get through the shop, there's still plenty of actual work to do once that is organized! We expect to take a couple of walk-throughs in camp this week making up lists of work to do so that we can try to come up with some sort of priority list for projects. I'll try to give a better update on things by week's end and hopefully also get some more pictures uploaded!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Just a quick post since I've got a migraine brewing again but wanted to update quickly. We thought the home inspection had gone well but have since found out that they want an asbestos inspection. And then what? It is frustrating, but we're trying to just chill out and wait for things to progress, or not.

In church yesterday one of the songs we sang was Indescribable by Chris Tomlin. The CONSTANT overwhelming beauty here in Alaska gives new meaning to the words of the song:

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation's revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

Here's a video that shows it as it seems we've seen it this past month or so:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yTqVNI8Vu0


We went for another cookout last night at the river with a bunch of the Theissen clan, Crystal, Carlen, Austin and Randall. Doug and Jared were up in Fairbanks at camp Li-Wa so we'll have to catch up with them another time. It was great getting to know them a bit! It was a BEAUTIFUL day so we hiked down and then cooked out hot dogs and smores. Carlen and Sergei got into some hot sauce that Rod had given to Rodney and they spent quite a bit of time trying to cool their mouths! I sure wish I'd had a video camera for that one! The boys then camped out with Carlen in the Theissen's back yard. I doubt they slept much, but it sounds like they had a great time! I did get some pictures, but at the rate it takes me to upload them, it will be Christmas before I get it done!

Today we went out to the cabin to see how bad the mold situation was. Rodney and the kids took the insulation out from under the cabin because they had put in plastic under the insulation, defeating the purpose of the vapor barrier on the insulation, trapping the mold. It seems that the mold was primarily in the insulation and once they got that out and aired out the house, I was able to go in and didn't notice any problems at all. We'll spray what mold there is under the house, clean out some of the inside spots around the windows and hopefully that will be it. It really seemed a lot better today. We'll see how it is after it is closed up again for a bit. There's still a lot to do out there to get it ready to live in but it is looking more positive now that we seem to have a better idea of where the mold is.

You wouldn't think that there should be a mold problem in a dry climate like this but most houses here are quite old and have no basements. They're built on crawl spaces. Then they often put down plastic which just traps moisture when it does get under there. Many of these places have had insulation added later and no ventilation added so there is nowhere for the moisture to go once it does get in. Add to that moisture from condensation off the pipes (water in camp is from a spring that comes off a rock glacier so it is about 34 degrees) and basically there are a number of reasons that they have problems with mold.


Well, I've carried on for more than I had planned tonight so I'd better sign off. We appreciate all the emails and prayers! Thanks for all of you who are still reading and trying to follow our ups and downs!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Loon Serenade and the guardrails

Mr. Loon was here yesterday. Well, I assume it was Mr. Loon because Mrs. Loon seemed disinclined to leave her baby the other day. First I heard his haunting song so I went to look for him. He sang for a while, preened for a while and then left again, probably to go back to the family. If you've ever seen a loon take off, you know that it is quite the process. They don't gain altitude quickly. He went about 3 times around the lake before he'd gained enough altitude to get over the hill. I was able to snap a few pictures while he was preening. Here's my favorite:


Today we went to Hatcher's Pass, another beautiful and amazing ride! I'll have a pile more pictures to post once I get those sorted! We picked up my cousin's wife Luci and kids Nicole and Katy. The kids had not seen each other in a couple of years so they really enjoyed the time together. The kids climbed up a rather unstable slope though and scared the stuffing out of us by trying to return down the way they went up. Luci hiked up to intercept them and show them the safe way down. It was a gorgeous day and the fall colors are really starting to change the scenery, making things even more beautiful than before. Every time I say that though, it gets even more beautiful! Hatcher's Pass is only open for a few months in summer because of the snow up there. You can see all of Palmer from the road as it is and the kids said you could see tons more from the top of the mountain they climbed. We'll have to try that another time when we're less worried about them killing themselves.

I keep on promising that I'll tell you about the guard rails and while sorting pictures I realized I had some that would help tell the story pretty well. I know I can get better pictures yet, but it might be quite a while longer as infrequently as we go to town. It seems that every time we do go we are pressed for time coming home so I never get to stop and take the pictures I would like to take. First we need to start with a picture from NY. This shows how obsessive they are in NY about guard rails.

Rodney tells the story of what I was like when we drove back to camp from visiting my cousin in Palmer when we were here in June. I wish you could hear him. It's a pretty good imitation. (Me screaming) "Get your eyes on the road, you're not looking at the road, pay attention to the road, ahhhhhhhh!!!!" His reply, "How can you tell I'm not looking at the road if your eyes are shut?" Me still screaming, "I'm looking at your eyes and I can see that they aren't on the road!!!" When we made it back to camp alive by some miracle we discussed the issue with some of the others on staff and it was a pretty common theme that the men didn't think the roads were too bad and many of the women hated that drive back from Palmer. Many asked me if it was the stretch by Long Lake. I didn't know what Long Lake was but I have since learned that it was indeed the stretch along there. I think further pictures will adequately prove my point.

This pictures shows one of the drops along the road from Palmer to camp:

In this one in the distance you can see the road snaking up the mountain above Long Lake:


This one shows the lack of guard rail along that stretch of Long Lake that you see snaking up the mountain:
The next photo shows the deterioration of the ground around what few guard rails there are along that section of road. Not much there to instill confidence.

The sad thing for Rodney is that since we drove through the Rockies, I'm less inclined to get concerned about those roads. I still get concerned, but no where near as bad as when we first drove them. Of course it doesn't help that Rodney hears the James Bond theme in his head every time he drives those roads. When I can see that happening, I still yell at him to slow down or to watch the road. They are working on the roads though and the new sections are delightful. They have completed the section from the east up to camp as shown below:


Unfortunately Palmer, Wasilla and Anchorage are all to the west. Hopefully those sections will be done soon, but it will make travel into those cities take longer while the work is in progress. There's another bit of Alaska for you. When they stop traffic for construction, most people either talk to the flag lady or they get out of their vehicles and talk to each other. It's the neighborly way. I like it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I finally figured out that I can type things up in notepad and post them later when I can access the internet! Duh! I'm sorting pictures as well and was reminded of the Buffalo/motorcycle story so I decided it is time to tell it!

I can't even remember exactly where we were now, somewhere in the Yukon, but we were driving along through Buffalo territory when we came across this one great big Buffalo with an ATTITUDE! You can see his change in stance from the first picture to the second . Well, maybe you can see it in the pictures. If not, I'll also upload them to the photo website so if you can't see the pics well enough here, look for them there.



You can also see the motorcycles in the pictures. Rodney was driving behind me at that point. The best way to put it was that the Buff wanted to KILL something that day! I was pretty sure I didn't want it to be me! Those motorcyclists were pretty sure they didn't want it to be them either!!! They had slowed down and were watching him closely, scooting off as far to the opposite shoulder as possible. Rodney came along behind me and put the truck and trailer between the Buff and the motorcyles. They went ZIPPING along out of there as soon as they realized what he was doing!!

So on to what's happening now! The house and septic passed inspection, so now we need the survey and abstract updated, buyers need to get financing (sounds like that wasn't going to be much of an issue) and other assorted little details need to be worked through. I think we've passed the hard stuff though! That's quite a load off my mind!

Rodney has started working on projects around camp, plumbing, putting in a door, etc. Mostly winter preparations. Winter really does dominate life at camp. Right now there are preparations for winter. During the winter it is keeping up with winter's damages. In the spring it is dealing with winter's ravages during breakup (spring thaw, where the freeze is actually worse because the ice gets down deeper as the snow thaws), then opening up things again once the thaw is through. Then there is summer, where the camp is full of people pretty much non-stop and the pace of things is pretty much the same.

I've started working on cleaning up and organizing the lower shop as they call it, because it is down the hill from camp. That is the welding, plumbing, gas, electric and "assorted other" shop. It took me pretty much a full day just to get through the plastic plumbing fitting section. That part of the shop is upstairs which is only about 5' tall. Even for a shorty like me it is a challenge to work up there. It will be a long process trying to organize that shop. There's also a small wood shop up in the camp itself, but it is small and in worse shape then the lower shop. There's plenty of work to do just to get things in working condition but meanwhile, there's work that still needs to be done! I can't say it is bad though. It's fun seeing the instant progress and learning about all sorts of new materials that I've never seen in action!

Last night we were invited to share a campfire with Nate and Maggie and their good friends from Kansas, Arvin and Kathy and daughter Becky. We were also joined by Earl the electrician and his wife Elaine who works in the office here at camp. It was an awesome evening of fun, laughter, great food and great company all in the middle of more breath taking scenery! We shared so many jokes and stories that I laughed so much my sides hurt! Oksana has been really homesick but that really helped a lot. She is beginning to see that there will be friends and good times here as there were in NY. They don't take the place of those we love at home, but we expand our list of those we love.

To top it all off, today was a gorgeous sunny day that got up close to 70 degrees and tonight there was a full moon with hardly a cloud in the sky! What a day! The lichens and leaves are changing colors a bit so it was exceptionally pretty. How many times I think it couldn't get more beautiful, and then it does! With the full moon over the lake tonight, it was breath taking! I'm pretty sure you can't get much closer to heaven here on earth!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Picture link

I'm going to try something new with pictures. I'm putting them all in an album and just providing a link to that album. We'll see how this goes. I'm sure it will take me some time to upload all of them, but it is a start! I'll link this over on the right too so it can be found easily at any time.

http://s693.photobucket.com/albums/vv293/randdmays/

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Plugging along

I've been so remiss in updating this blog! It has been hard to find time to get on the computer and when I do, it is usually just a quick check of my email. We have had two more offers on the house and we accepted one of them (more than asking price because they wanted to be sure to beat out the other offer, AND they had no contingency). They will be having a home inspector AND the septic inspection tomorrow so we would really appreciate prayer for those.

The kids are doing fairly well adjusting. There are bumps here and there but for the most part things are going well. Andrei is doing his normal ups and downs. Sergei made a comment last night about Andrei reading well into the night so that might explain a bit of the crabbiness. We've removed the lamp from that room and he was a bit better today. He really can't seem to figure out that his own actions bring about many of his problems. Or maybe he figures it out, but just won't admit it out loud.

Oksana is feeling a lot more positive about things this week but we're really running into some problems with either a learning disability or possibly ADD or ADHD that are really frustrating her. There's a definite language problem - she has a real problem grasping information coming in through written or spoken language. Once she understands the information, she's a whirlwind of solution, but to get across the information into her brain is quite a challenge. We started testing in NY to try to figure it out, but didn't come to any clear conclusions. We really need to get settled and get a phone so I can make some appointments to work through this further.

Sergei is Sergei. He never has homework for some reason. Hmmmm... The good news is that I have been in pretty close communication with the principal, so I'm SURE I'll hear quickly if problems do arise! The great news is that the school is small and most of the kids also go to the same church that we do. I've already met many of the kids and their parents and have seen/heard of the community child rearing in action! Andrei came home from a friend's house saying, "Boy, his mom is tough just like you! She got on his case about something even though we were right there!" Just like my kids, they try to get away with stuff when others are over thinking mom will let them get away with more in front of friends. NOT!!! I also gave that mom permission to get on my kids' cases if they aren't behaving as she expected hers to behave! It's a beautiful thing!

As to the settling, we're still not there. This house has mold too and I'm still sleeping in the camper. The mold is a lot better than the last house but I'm so sensitive that any little bit will set off breathing problems. I'm basically staying out of the house as much as possible. We're not exactly certain where things will go at this point. We need to sit down and have a discussion with a number of people to see what the options are. Most of the houses in camp are older and are either built on crawl spaces or don't have adequate ventilation. There are no easy answers on this one. Even the house on the other side of the lake has problems. Not as bad as some others, but there is still mold out there too. It sits on a crawl space and has not been occupied for a number of years now.

Despite some of the problems, this is an amazing place to live! We went out on the lake in a canoe today to measure across where they are considering running electric and we came within about 20' of a loon mom and her youngster. BEAUTIFUL and haunting! I LOVE the call they make! She wasn't too concerned about us being right there. I've never been so close to one! Awesome!!! I was sooooooooooo disappointed that I didn't have my camera with me, but I was also so in awe that I'd probably have forgotten to take a picture if I did have it! We also saw a moose mom and baby right at the end of that lake today too. We saw sheep on the mountains at church this week, a porcupine hit in the road, tiny ducks spinning for joy on the little ponds and also out on the lakes at camp (we haven't figured out what kind they are yet). People seem to think that Alaska is a frozen wasteland but the vegetation here is amazing too! There are little flowers and fruits all over the place if you pay attention. You do have to look closely as everything seems to be a little smaller. I'll have to work on some pictures of some of that stuff as we get settled and better organized!

I've hardly touched on anything on my list of things to write about and I've already written a small book. One more short story before I go! On our way back from Wasilla the other day we passed a HUGE rock in the road! You see lots of signs warning that it is a slide area and you frequently see small rocks in the roads. The road crews actually go through and plow dirt and rocks off sections of the road on a regular basis! That said, it really hit home what those warnings are about the other day. This rock was at least as high as the front of the truck. If anyone had hit that thing, they'd have lost that fight! It was HUGE! Fortunately it was light out and people were flashing their lights at oncoming traffic in warning. These can be some dangerous roads. You can't get careless about the driving and frankly, driving after dark is probably not something to be taken lightly. Or quickly for that matter.

Morning commute

Morning commute

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