Thursday, January 21, 2010

So I was wrong. The little bumblebee inverters who should not be able to fly are still flying! We gave the batteries a deep charge yesterday (and warmed them up good) so the system is happy enough to keep going a bit longer! The problem is that when the batteries are happy, we get about 130 volts of elec coming through the system. When the batteries are drained, we might only get 100 volts coming through - with virtually no load! That's the time when the system will go down if anything turns on. So we're still able to use the system for now, but we just need to keep a closer eye on it. Based on past experience, this deep charge ought to hold us relatively steady until we can get the new inverter. Hopefully. ;)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good news and not so good news

The good news is that with Robert Katsur here, he and Rodney were able to spend some time in the pelton wheel house debugging the generator plant. The bad news is that both of our inverters are shot. That wasn't really unexpected. We thought before that they were acting rather fickle. We could get one tomorrow in Anchorage but it really isn't quite what we want so we're opting to run without an inverter for a little while until they can ship one from Fairbanks. That means we'll basically be running on the diesel generator more and going without power when we aren't running that. Inverters are too expensive to buy one that isn't quite what you want so it is well worth the wait to get the right one.

Robert also gave us some suggestions to improve the operation of the batteries - in a nutshell to keep them warm! We'll probably be installing a small propane heater for this winter and then plan to move them up under the house next summer where we can keep them warm off the hot water loop that we're installing under the house (for the new water system, the laundry room and now the battery "room"). Everything really is a little more difficult in Alaska! That is what Nate, Rodney and others love about it though. There is a new challenge every day. It is well worth the challenges! I'm still convinced that this is the most amazing place on earth to live! That said, my back is to the wood stove as I type. It's hard to be unhappy when your belly is full and your back is warm.

I'm also busy getting ready to visit my parents for a week. I'll leave on Monday and come back the next Monday so if you don't hear from me again until then, you won't need to worry. Pray for Rodney who will be left here with the electrical problems and 3 teenagers! :) Poor guy! I really do feel bad. It isn't the best timing, but realistically there is never good timing when you have kids. Take care and behave and I'll see ya'll when I get back!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A little of this and that

The water system is up and running! We still need to hook in the hot water heater (right now the wood stove is our only source of water heating) and hook in the hot water loop in the floor. At least we have a secondary source of water though! If the spring freezes up we'll be able to draw water out of the lake. Hopefully the spring will keep running, but we're prepared in case it does not.

We're waiting to hear if Gordon will be coming up to do the remaining plumbing. Gordon is a retiree we met this past spring when we were up checking out the camp. He and his wife Stephanie (a nurse) usually come up for a month or so each year to volunteer at camp. Gordon is an excellent welder who also loves to do plumbing jobs. He had told Nate this past spring that if he ever had any big plumbing jobs to do, to give him a call. We did and Nate called so Gordon is checking into flights up here! There are so many amazing people who keep this camp running that there's no way to list them all!

Then there's Robert Katsur, an electrician who works the North Slope. He comes up to camp every so often to work on electrical projects. He can get a lot of work done in a day because he can focus just on the project at hand. He's a joy to have around! He used to stay in the shack in the back when the last couple lived here. Once we get this place settled we hope to get the shack ready so it will be available for him to use again.

Those LED lights we bought for the kitchen turned out to be a bust. They were supposed to be the equivalent of 120 watts of light, but they're more like a nightlight! Grrrrr! I guess LED technology isn't quite up to speed yet! We do have an LED light bulb that screws into a standard socket that is pretty bright so we're debating getting more of those (other people say they aren't bright at all so we're not sure if individual bulbs vary) or using compact fluorescents. I hate to use the fluorescents, but if the LEDs are going to be so fickle...

The kids seem to be struggling still with the light issue. They aren't consistently using the light and melatonin so they seem to have up and down days. Oksana is going to take a break from working at camp for a bit. We suggested it and she jumped at the suggestion so I think it may have been a bit of a relief. School has seemed to be really stressing her lately. It was ok for a while but she seems to have used up her patience reserves. She just has so many things she enjoys doing and never has time to do them. I'm pretty sure that we'll be home schooling her again next year. She had to prove to herself that she could do public school, but she's not interested in continuing any longer than necessary.

I've been mulling over what to get involved with and what not to. Dianne VanDaam said that after such a major move it is best not to get too involved for at least a year. That's probably good advice. Andrei has already commented that he really appreciates the slower pace of things here. I reminded him that it has nothing to do with "here," it is just a function of the lack of responsibilities since we have not committed to things here yet. In NY we had church on Sunday, FlipSide on Monday, Oksana's lesson and worship team practice (when I was playing) on Wednesday, Missions meetings one Thursday a month and Rodney led a young men's Bible study on Thursday (or Wednesdays) and Bible study Friday. Then there were all the appointments for this, that and the other thing. Yeah, a little busy. We could easily be as busy here. The thing is, it is all good stuff. BUT if you're just doing it, it is just STUFF. I'm really wanting to maintain a good balance, where we're doing the right things, not just good things. I'm not sure I explained that well, probably because it is sort of an unorganized thought process in my head right now. ;)

Andrei picked up a book that the teens will be studying in Sunday school called Crazy Love. I guess the men's Sunday school class will also be reading and discussing the book. I spent a bit of time today reading it. Wow! Not a book to pick up unless you want your faith challenged DRAMATICALLY! Awesome book! I think I already read half of it in a few hours. Wow! But don't read it unless you're ready to hear a tough message. It is definitely a tough one!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Piles more pictures!

So interestingly enough, that last post was dated the day I started writing, not the day I actually posted it. It was actually posted today and I'm ahead of myself on pictures. I'm posting tonight, not tomorrow! Here is Rodney working on the plumbing for the new water system. Easier to do it on the table than in the pit. Warmer too. ;)

The entrance to the pit:

Working in the pit:

Eider and Ellie are a constant source of goofy entertainment:


The Matanuska glacier which is growing. People have been known to snowshoe and/or snow machine down to Valdez following that glacier the whole way. Granted, most of them have gotten smart enough to stop after they lose a few snow machines.

Closer view of the glacier. LOVE that blue! The river water is the same color.

I think this is Amulet, the same mountain we see out our front windows, of which I take the most photos. Today Oksana and I at one point exclaimed "Wow!!!" at the same time. Granted it was one of those days that elicited a ton of wows.

Dashboard photography. I couldn't roll down the window. It was iced up.

In Palmer on the way to Oksana's violin lesson:

These flats run along the Matanuska river (comes off the glacier). That area gets very little wind and the frost just accumulates. This is the frost on one twig. No, it didn't feel cold there (o) because there was no wind.

The girl-child:

Those poor trees are bowed down with frost. It sure is pretty though!

Violin lessons - warming up and tuning up:


Potatoes from my cousin Jeff at New Year's. Aren't they festive!?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mr. Sunbeam

It's official! Mr. Sunbeam has officially made his return AND not just upstairs, he is DOWNSTAIRS too! He's been shining right on my wall all week!!! :) Reminds me of one of my favorite songs as a kid. "Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam." Funny how some songs just stick with you. Anyone else remember that one?

We've made some great progress this week. The backup water system is mostly installed now. Rodney is just working on a few finishing touches. The spring is still producing water for which we are VERY thankful since the backup isn't quite ready! I'm still working on quilted curtains and other projects. I made two table cloths and a runner as well as two more dog beds in addition to finishing the biggest window quilt yet this week. I'm not sure what else I made but it seems like that sewing machine is almost constantly running!

All of the camp staff that was gone over the holidays has now returned so things are getting back into a normal routine. Rod will be traveling to Oregon later this month to scope out housing and then Nate and Maggie will be going for a month to visit their home church and family. I believe this is the first extended visit home since 2006. Earl will be back a week after they leave so Rodney will have some help keeping up with everything. He is a bit nervous about being on his own that week though. There is still so much to learn about keeping everything up and running!

We have a love-sick moose in the house. Well, technically it is Andrei learning how to play the saxophone, but so far it just sounds like a love-sick moose ;) He's wanted to try it out for quite a while now and was allowed to borrow one from the school so this is his big chance to try it! No more peace for us! Too bad moose season is over! ;)

We had a couple of weeks of mild weather (20 degrees each day) but now we're back to 0-ish. The last few days have also been incredibly windy (something that almost never happens here) so it has been COLD! Oksana and I went to her violin lesson today and went shopping. We literally almost got blown away in the parking lot of one place! The nice thing was that there weren't many people on the roads! :) Apparently a tractor trailer got blown over yesterday so you KNOW it was bad! We REALLY appreciated the meaning of wind chill today! Yikes! We were glad to be home where it was just breezy compared to the WILD wind near the river and in town! I have a pile of pictures though so I'll try to post them tomorrow!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

We had a fairly busy week with New Year celebrations. We went to someone's house for New Year's Eve. Just when you think you've seen pretty views, you come across even more! They have a picture window facing a gorgeous mountain but then when you looked out other windows, there were even more pretty views in other directions! Quite amazing! They are way up on a hill so they have an AWESOME sledding run! The kids were out there for hours trying out all facets of that hill.

Then on New Year's Day my cousin Jeff and his wife Luci and their daughter Katy came out from Palmer to visit with us for the day. Their other daughter Nichole was out at a friend's cabin 1 1/2 hrs by snow mobile off the main road. The kids and Rodney and I had to work the next day though so we couldn't adjust the date. We ate way too much, talked each other's ears off and had a blast! We made olliebollen, a traditional Dutch New Year's treat. It is essentially fried dough, but when you make them fresh and roll them in powdered sugar... Yummmmmm!

I've been on the sewing brigade the last few days making more quilted curtains, table cloths and runners, making dog beds (yet again) and doing a few odd sewing fix-it jobs. The kids are back to school after a two week break and the homework is piling on right away! What fun! Andrei hopes to start volleyball this week if they can get enough boys to sign up. Rodney plowed the ATV trail today so that when we need it in the spring we'll be able to get through. That's about all the news at this point. I think our LED lights might be here. Nate and Maggie were planning to stop at the post office today to pick up a package that is there. Rodney and Nate think they have all the parts they need to finish up the plumbing for our alternate water supply/utility room so hopefully they'll get that done this week. Our spring acts like it might freeze up soon so we'd like to get that ready and on-line ASAP.

Morning commute

Morning commute