Saturday, October 24, 2009

Final pour, ATV trail and the freeze

Yesterday we did the final major pouring of concrete. They did a smaller pour this morning but only about 8 bags, pouring the pads for propane tanks. About mid-way through yesterday's pour, the cement mixer died leaving the rest to be mixed by hand. Boy were we glad for all the teens here that day to help out! They had off school for parent-teacher conferences so they were volunteered to help. They certainly did a man's day of work yesterday! Below are Carlen with the hose, Robert and Sergei mixing, with Nate cutting and dumping bags, though if I'd have taken the picture at another time it might have been set up differently. Everyone took turns doing different jobs.

They extended the chute to go the extra length from this distance and dumped the cement from the Bobcat bucket down to the catchers at the bottom who then carried the buckets to where ever they needed to fill. They had built a platform inside the room so that you could work easily up at a level close to the top.

I think my old Olympus is dying. It isn't handling low light conditions well any more. Too bad. This picture of Andrei is priceless! His hair was grey from the concrete dust and so was his face! The other boys had the sense to wear hats in the cool weather. The hats certainly served and alternate purpose for this job!

I took quite a few pictures of the ATV trail, but, well, it's a trail. Sometimes you can see far down the trail like this shot, but most of the time you can't. It winds and turns and goes up and down. Most of the pictures look alike, but they don't really reflect what's there. It is truly a beautiful thing. The part coming down the hill to the house is pretty steep but I haven't been able to capture that yet with the camera. I'll try to get a picture of someone going up or down to see if that will show the incline. We will need to go back through and clean up here and there, but it certainly works well right now! It works so well we have a constant stream of visitors! Ok, maybe not constant, but we do get a lot! A lot of people are curious about what is going on so they walk out to check it out. THEN they come on the ATVs! I ran into someone twice again today!

This shows the corduroy road that Rodney built. Lots of small trees gave their lives for this section ;)

This is the best view on the trail. I HAVE to stop every time I reach this spot just to admire the view. I hope I never lose that sense of awe.

This shows how close we are to freeze up! It is coming closer every day! We've had beautiful blue skies during the day and no wind so the cold nights are working their magic! In some ways I hope this trend continues so we get clear, smooth ice. On the other hand the snow would insulate the earth so the ground doesn't freeze down so far. My heart wants the clear ice so we can skate and see down into the lake once it freezes. My head knows we need the snow to keep things from freezing too much.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Starting to freeze!

This has been one looooooooooooooooong week!!! I've had a cold which felt better yesterday, but I have abused myself too much the last few days and I'm really feeling it again today. I'd say this is the first one in 15 yrs that hasn't turned to a sinus infection or pneumonia, but I'm not sure I can say that yet! No school tomorrow though so we can sleep in a bit! We were up late last night making final barge runs and getting ready for the cement pour today. We had to make our last runs yesterday because the lake is starting to freeze. Rodney has had to break ice to get into the camp-side dock for the last few days and he REALLY had to chop to get out the other day after we left the boat there over night! That's the end of our boating for the year!

Fortunately Rodney was able to purchase an ATV on Tuesday, just in time for freeze up! It is an older 4WD 600cc Yamaha Grizzly. It has a trailer which was really handy hauling back groceries and more of those blocks yesterday. Eider was digging under them and ruined about 5 of those foam blocks at a small furtune. Yes, I noticed that I miss-spelled fortune, but then I decided that it fit. Rodney says he'll get a picture of me coming down the hill with my grocery-getter but if I'm wearing a helmet, I'm not sure how you'll know it is me. Personally, I'd prefer a smaller one or a small motorcycle for every day errands and getting around, but this is handy for hauling stuff. We do have a smaller one coming too if the guy ever gets it finished! Apparently he isn't hungry enough. This is Alaska where a lot of people kind of work on their own schedules, or maybe they won't, you just never know.

I'd like to take some pictures of the ATV trail, but I was just too tired today to make another run! One problem with the ATV trail right now is traffic! Twice I've almost run into someone coming or going the other direction. The trail is narrow enough that in most spots you can't pass each other. Yesterday Rod had to back up for me to get by, today I backed up for Doug. Our back yard looked like an ATV parking lot this afternoon! I wasn't smart enough to grab the camera when the opportunity presented itself, but I'll try to remember to do it on Friday when we do the final pour (I think). The trail is really kind of pretty! It needs some more work to make it more smooth but that will probably have to wait for next year. There's still too much to do before the real snow and freezing. I hear rumors we may get some snow tonight or tomorrow. At this point it will probably stay once it does snow. So many people have commented about the unusually mild and nice fall we've had. It can't last forever, but boy have we appreciated it as we pour concrete!

We've been having some trouble off and on lately with the alternator which charges the batteries so we have a new one on order. No one knows how old the current one is so I guess that means it should be replaced. Today it seems to be working ok, but yesterday we ran the generator most of the day to charge the batteries after we got to the point where we could only run one light the night before.

One last barging photo for the year! Nate is at the front, Earl close behind and Rodney driving the boat. They are taking the boat and dock out as I type so this should be the last one this year. Hopefully that means we have everything here that we need for the project - the big stuff anyway. We can move stuff in by ATV or with the Bobcat or stuff like that if need be but the barge is the easiest way for the large or heavy items. We brought the king sized mattresses over last night so the "shack in the back" should be ready any time we need it for visitors!

Here is the photo of today's pour. It would have been nice to have one additional body available so that Nate could work with the mini-ex, making the most of the time they have it rented, but unfortunately we needed the body helping with the concrete job. It went smoothly though so they were done fairly early today, allowing Nate time to get back into the excavator to work on a spot for the propane tanks and the ditch running the line for that. You can't see Doug Theissen in this picture - he's the one behind the cloud of cement. Brian and Rodney were hauling buckets and Rod was tamping the cement to make sure it got to the bottom of each hole.

Here you can see more swans (adult with youngsters) in our cove which is just starting to freeze. We don't have as much ice as the other side of the lake. It covers most of that one arm of the lake where we dock on the camp side to about 2" thick right now, maybe more.

This picture isn't the best but it was so funny I had to share it anyway. Naughty Ellie was trying to get comfy in the laundry. I'd have chased her out of there but the kids were supposed to have put away their laundry almost a week ago (after the mass laundry day) and never finished the job. I think the flash didn't go off or something. Oh yeah, we got a new dining room table too! The first thing Ellie did was find a chair that wasn't pushed in and walked across it! Between Naughty Ellie and Digging Eider, we're about fed up with dogs today! The dining room table is second hand, but it is big and solid so it pretty much met our criteria. It is amazing how much second hand stuff goes for here! ANY little piece of junk table at a thrift shop will go for $50! Crazy! We found this on Craigs list for a decent price. The top is SOLID oak. It weighed a TON and we had to take the front door off and do a lot of wiggling to get it in, but it is MUCH better than eating at a card table! And it is now Ellie approved so that MUST count for something!

So that's it for now! I'll try to post this weekend with pictures of the trail and the ATV parking lot!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Laundry and Construction!!

We got a washer! But I can't use it off the pelton wheel power. It sucks too much power, even if I turn off the fridge, freezer, lights, EVERYTHING. We need to run the diesel generator to use the washer. I'd been putting off laundry waiting for the washer so there was a LOT to do and since Rodney had started the diesel, I figured I'd better make good use of it. I pretty much did laundry CONSTANTLY from 7 am until about 1:30 pm (between finding tools for the guys and feeding and watering them)! Unfortunately that meant that I needed to CRANK the wood stove to keep at least a bit of warm water going to it since we have no other hot water other than from the wood stove. It was a warm day yesterday (well, 50-ish, which is warm for Alaska in October) so the house was HOT! I pretty much left the windows and doors open. The heat was helpful for drying laundry though...

The guys kept busy yesterday too. Nate started out by digging out a better spot for the "barge" to land while at the same time creating a better road for the vehicles to drive up in the winter once the lake freezes. It was also handy yesterday for bringing the cement up to the house with the bobcat. I think they hauled about 3 pallets of cement yesterday, one at a time. That poor barge sat lower in the water with one pallet of cement than it ever did with any of the loads we hauled! I think they figure they'll need 8 pallets for the walls! There will be some SORE backs this weekend!!! Each bag needs to be moved from the barge into the bobcat bucket, then moved onto a pallet up at the work site, then into the mixer and finally wheeled to the pour site! Then again, the boat's motor is rebelling from all the hard work so unless we can fix it or get the replacement (just need to connect with someone who has offered one), we might not be moving any more concrete any time soon!

Nate working the mini-ex.

Rodney & Doug Thiessen filling & smoothing the cement in the form. You can see the white loops of pex which will run hot water from the wood stove to help heat that floor. Funny about Doug - he runs the horse camp so he is ALWAYS seen around camp in cowboy boot and hat. The other day I saw him in Walmart in sneakers and a ball cap and it took me a minute to figure out who it was! He looked familiar, but something wasn't quite right!

Nate lives in the mini-ex lately. He is like one with the machine. Rod (not Rodney) is running the hose to the cement mixer. His hair was completely grey by the end of the day yesterday. Andy (shaved head) has plenty of energy and a young back so he got to put the bags of cement into the mixer. I'll bet he's a bit stiff today, but we hope to abuse him enough again tomorrow to limber him up. Brian (black ball cap) looks like he's just watching, but he wheeled all the loads to the pour site. He definitely put in a full day yesterday too! Matt (camo cap) is just watching. Matt helped unload cement and went across with Rodney to barge back more cement.

I didn't get a picture of it, but they also poured a smaller pad up near the generator building. They will use that to set a 500 gallon diesel tank for the generator. We'll haul the diesel across once the lake freezes. We'll have to run off diesel once the spring freezes. It is a pretty efficient generator though so hopefully we won't need THAT much diesel, but we'll see! We hope to start the walls (insulated concrete forms - like this: in another day or so depending on the boat, curing of the pad, gathering of materials...

Meanwhile, I think I said Rodney was looking at a mini-truck. Well, he didn't get it. He and Nate test drove it and it scraped bottom on a fist-sized rock. That's not going to make it out on the ATV trail! So now he's considering an Argo, which is an amphibious vehicle. If you've never heard of one, you can check it out here:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pictures! Moose, excavating, the barge and more!

Moose in the front yard - didn't quite manage to catch it in the moose trap.

Rodney taking stuff back to camp on the barge.

Nate excavating the moose trap, I mean, the new utility room basement. The "shack in the back" is seen in the background. You can see what sort of shape the original utility room is - it has a dirt floor.

Another pretty morning.

Water tastes better when you drink it off the dock.

Just a quick note to say that I'm ONLINE at HOME!!! It was a silly little problem that was quickly solved with a quick call once we figured out the missing information! Wahoo!!! But now I have a ton of stuff to catch up today since I just sorted through the 1' stack of paper that had built up in the last few months of moving, moving, moving. Now I shouldn't have excuses for not posting more pictures though! Today is our day off though so Rodney has already left to make a town run (possibly a mini-truck to run the ATV trail, plus lumber, a washing machine and mattresses for the "shack in the back"). I'll leave later to do some shopping before meeting the kids and most of the camp staff at a bowling alley in Palmer for bowling and then pizza.

One note before I forget. The moon was up late last night so when we went to bed the only things out were the stars. It was truly amazing to stare out the windows with no lights in sight and see all the stars! I even got to see a shooting star! AWESOME! I can't wait for freeze up so I can lay out on the ice and get an unobstructed view of the stars! Then again, I CAN wait for freeze up! We're having a delightful run of mild, sunny weather which is making it much more pleasant to work outside. We also hope to put in about 32,000 lbs of concrete this week so we could REALLY use the continued mild temps! It got up to almost 60 degrees yesterday which with the way this house is situated, makes it downright HOT inside when the sun is out like that! I had as many windows open as I could yesterday to try to cool it off! Ok, so now I'd REALLY better run!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I suppose at this point I'm pretty well overdue for an update. Things are moving along quickly! It is hard to stop to write though because we have so much that needs to be done before winter sets in!

The ATV path is mostly finished at this point. The excavating is completed right out to the house. Nate has a lot of experience on the heavy equipment so it went very quickly. Rodney’s expertise is with the chain saw so he was cutting trees for the road. That was just a little harder physically than the excavating. ;) One day when they had rain Nate turned off the excavator and exclaimed, “You’re actually steaming!” I’m sure he was! Rodney had commented earlier that this job actually felt a bit like work. Nate again came back with a zinger, “Yeah, my wrists are getting tired.” It has been a very physically demanding week for Rodney but he’s loving it! He really does love to run the chain saw. For some odd reason the physical work isn’t as exhausting as his old job was.

Now they are digging out the foundation at the back of the house, the hole for the water system and trenches to bury lines. We tore the existing shed off the back of the house, exposing the original “pit” where the water came into the house. Scary! Earl has been out here working on the electrical system and he thought the pit looked “mean.” He wondered if it was like the pit the Biblical Joseph’s brothers tossed him into! Earl hardly ever comments negatively about anything so it MUST have been bad! It was very moldy too. I tried to help Rodney clear out some of the last of it but it was too moldy for me to do much. I carried away some of the timbers and even that was probably too much. I’m feeling a bit cruddy today and just now as I type this realize that it is possibly from moving that moldy wood.

I have, up until now, felt absolutely fantastic! There were parts that I had never even realized were not working right that suddenly feel better. So this is “normal!!!” It feels GREAT! As Rodney has noted though, I tend to overdo it when I feel good resulting in aches and pains the next few days. That isn’t all bad though. I can catch up on this blog and work on letters when I’m not trying to do too much! I still don’t have those letters in the mail yet! I needed to get stamps for them and then once I got the stamps we were in the middle of moving and settling in! I should be starting to get them in the mail this coming week though so if I have your address, you’ll likely get one. Eventually! Don’t hold your breath! I’m not that quick!

We’re really enjoying living here! It is so beautiful I feel like I need to pinch myself and make sure it is real that we can live in a dream home in a dream location! I have so many pictures that I can’t wait to share! Many of them are of the same view, just at different times, different days… I’ve not been interested in morning in recent years but with feeling better, plus the sunrises coming a bit later, I’m REALLY enjoying seeing the sun come up here! I also got a SPECTACULAR picture of the full moon as the sun was coming up over the mountains with the mountains somewhat shadowed over the horizon. Awesome!!!

The wildlife is so amazing too! We had a pair of trumpeter swans on the lake about a week ago. I got a few pictures of them but further away than the swans I got a few weeks ago on the other lake. They were so beautiful, but much more reclusive than the other swans. I’m pretty sure our Loon baby was finally able to fly away. I haven’t seen him in about a week. I was so sad when mom and dad left and he was still here but he seems to have made it out! The coyotes were yipping and howling nearby the other day but we didn’t see them. They scared the pants off Oksana when Sergei called them in on their walk in to school one day! She HATES that walk! We’ll see if we can’t get them some sort of vehicle to drive in.

Rodney and Nate plan to go check out some sort of mini truck to drive that trail. I think they use them a lot in Japan as a truck, but they are too small for us to use on the road here. Nate picked up an ATV for Sergei to use this summer when he’s working maintenance. Sergei is in heaven!!! Nate already gave him a Leatherman and promised him a radio too! Sergei practically worships the ground Nate walks on at this point! It is more than a little challenging to drive the boat at night with no light so it will be nice to have another option.

We were able to talk to the guy that built this place and he says they would drive the boat right through the ice in winter until it got too thick to smash through. By then you could walk or skate over it, or drive a snow machine quickly! He says they never hiked in. The cabin has been here a lot longer than we realized. He built “the shack in the back” in a couple of months after his first cabin burned down. Then they spent 5 years living in that while they built this cabin. This cabin was finished 25 years ago! Amazing! We’re looking forward to having them out for dinner sometime to see pictures of the building process. He and his wife are very nice people and fascinating! He’s offered to teach Rodney how to weld aluminum so that Rodney can make his own aluminum boat! His wife is a rather talented painter. I can easily see how she got much of her inspiration!

I hung the bird feeder on the front porch and we’ve had chickadees out there almost constantly. They are such cheerful little busy birds! We also saw a grey jay yesterday which was kind of fun to see. It is so much fun to see the different variety of birds here as opposed to those we saw in NY!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just a quick post to let ya'll know that we're still here! I've been slowly trying to get organized, picking up bits and pieces to fit what we need (lots of low wattage lights - LED and flourescents) and just trying to find things. It is coming together bit by bit. We still don't have internet functioning at the house though we are supposed to be able to have it now. Rodney spent an hour or so on the phone last night with customer support. We'll try again tonight. At this point I'm back up camp on the internet to just get it DONE! I'll try to get a more detailed post up soon!

Morning commute

Morning commute