Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome to December!

Greetings from snowy Alaska! Ya'll will LOVE to hear this! We're getting DUMPED on with wet, sticky snow! This rarely happens here according to all reports. They hardly ever close school unless it is too cold and today was no exception. Some kids did not get to school because the road is closed just up the highway from the school with 3' of snow. It is hard to say how much we did get because it is packing down, but I'll guess it was only around 4 inches. It is supposed to snow most of the week though so we'll see how it ends up. We haven't had enough snow for sledding or snow mobiling though so this is really welcome, along with moderated temperatures all this week and last. It even made it up above freezing today. The only problem with moderate temperatures is keeping the house cool enough. If I'm not careful to just barely keep the wood stove going, it will quickly hit 80 degrees in the house.

Rodney got the plow on his ATV yesterday along with tracking down the electrical problems. He still needs to change the oil in it, but it is a lot happier with these temperatures at any rate. He was able to use the plow today to clear a lot of snow in camp and to plow the trail across the lake that the kids take to school. I called down to Oksana's violin teacher in Palmer and she said it is raining there which means everything will turn into a sheet of ice soon. Our ice road is a MESS! It used to be pretty and slick. Now it is slushy and choppy. We won't be going to Oksana's violin lesson today just in case you were wondering. ;)

We DID go into Palmer and towards Wasilla on Saturday which had its ups and downs. We got to go to a great sale that had a TON of artists and artisans from all over Alaska. Dianne VanDaam had told me that if she doesn't shop anywhere else, she tries to make it to that sale every year. It was fun. Overwhelming, but fun. Oksana, Andrei and I lasted for about an hour and called it a day. It is one of those places where you buy an item or so at a time to build a collection or where you buy Christmas presents for people who have everything. Beautiful stuff! We also got a great deal on a TV at Sears which has made certain children VERY happy.

The down side of that trip was that it was snowing like mad in Palmer. The roads were fine up here at camp but they were terrible around Palmer and towards Wasilla. I don't think they had plowed at all so everthing turned into a sheet of ice. We were waiting behind a truck at a stop light and it took him 1/4 mile before he stopped spinning his tires. Not much of a driver for sure, but the roads really were terrible. At any rate, I wasn't inclined to try that trip again any time soon in the snow.

Camp is currently without power again so that means more running around checking heaters, generators and what not. The generator at Miracle Lodge (the main camp lodge) is down so there's no power there either. They sent a part out with Matt early this morning to be fixed so hopefully Matt can get back to camp with it today. If the roads aren't closed. There is currently a travel advisory from Chickaloon (half way from here to Palmer) on out to Sheep Mountain (just the other side of the school, where I got the pictures of sheep this fall). Beyond Sheep Mountain the road is closed. The food in the camp cooler and freezer will have to be moved into the cooler truck if they can't get that part today.

We are actually having power trouble ourselves, but that's not related to this storm (or the new TV). We've been having power problems for a few days now. Rodney hasn't really had enough time to figure out which part it is (probably the inverter, but possibly the alternator) but we DID find an outstanding website and business that deals with exactly the type of situation we are in. http://www.absak.com/ It has tons of ideas for how we might improve our system including a diagram of how they build their pelton wheel system: http://www.absak.com/library/hydro-turbine-system-diagram We're having a blast contemplating the possibilities.

We were already looking at replacing the kitchen and dining room light fixtures with LEDs. They are the large fluorescent fixtures which would seem energy efficient, but when multiplied by 4 huge bulbs in each fixture, they become energy suckers on our system. The fridge of course is also a big power sucker. Again, we have ideas, we just need to decide what will best balance cost, energy use and convenience. We're also considering turning a chest freezer into a fridge or doing something like this: http://www.raycotechnologies.org/build_your_own_battery_powered_r.htm

So basically, there's a lot going on right now! Additionally, Rod has turned in his resignation from camp, effective in May. While that didn't really come as a surprise, it still hit hard. Rod and Dianne haven't decided if they will stay here or move back to Oregon, but if they do move, it will be a huge loss for us as well as for many others here at camp, not just in the maintenance department. They do have a lot of family in Oregon though and the needs of all the kids to consider. While it would be hard to see them go, we do want the best for them and their family.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the boys had a huge volleyball game last week. There was no boy's volleyball league this year through the school but there was a girl's team. The boys felt like they were hot stuff and challenged the girls to play. Nate (an excellent volleyball player) was asked to be their coach and the date was set. They practiced almost every day but it wasn't enough to catch the weeks (and even years) of practice that the girls had already had. The girls beat the tar out of them in the first game. The second game was closer, but Robert VanDaam and Chris (you haven't met him yet) crashed heads, taking Robert out of the game. The boys lost momentum after that. It was unfortunate, because they weren't far behind the girls and the girls were getting pretty tired at that point. If they'd have caught them, they might have stood a chance of winning. They never did catch their stride again though and got creamed in the last game too, ending their dreams of routing the girls. To be honest, the girls played exceptionally well that day. They were determined to kick some male rear-end and they succeeded. Let's hope they can continue to play that well the rest of the season. ;) I had not charged my camera battery before the game so I didn't get many good shots, but here are a few that came out ok:

In order to keep the water in some of the unused cabins from freezing, they run water continuously. That creates ice. Lots of ice. Here is one of Rodney's favorite sculpture creations:And the room on the back of the house - it now actually has a roof, but will probably get an Alaskan special (a tarp) until spring because it is just too icy to finish right now. Jake and Andy are here right now helping Rodney do something under the house (maybe more insulating???) which reminds me that I need to introduce them to you next time. ;)
Required weekly scenic picture:Until next time, Happy December!

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