Friday, February 26, 2010

More panoramas

Since I got NO comments about the panoramas, and since I'm still having fun playing with that feature on the camera, you're gonna get a bunch more of them today! This one is down near Palmer at the level of the Matanuska River. I think this one is my favorite so far just because of the clouds. The sun is in front of the camera from this angle so they were hard to position because I couldn't see well, but they were still fun to try. Besides, it was a beautiful day!

The Matanuska glacier, from which the river flows.
"Our" mountains from the road.
The sunset in the flats between Palmer, Wasilla and Anchorage.
This is like a super-panorama where I used photoshop to stitch together two panoramas that came out of the camera, a total of 6 pictures side by side in order to see what can be seen on the overlook above Palmer. Our truck is the tiny little spot down in the parking lot. How's that for perspective?
The Lowes parking lot - check out the mountain scenery - that's just not right! Walmart is down the hill with a similar view.
One (or two) dog sled teams - possibly warming up for the upcoming Iditarod. They'd just come in from a run and were packing up to leave.

I know everyone wants to see the pictures, so I figured I'd start with those! It has been another busy week, culminating with 18 teens for dessert last night. It was definitely fun, but I'm really tired today. We were the last stop of their progressive supper, a guaranteed hit combining teens and food. ;) They easily polished off an entire large coconut layer cake, a chocolate silk pie AND almost an entire LARGE cheesecake (they left two small pieces). Unbelievable! I guess I should expect it. I know how my three can eat, so multiply that by 6 and you get a LOT of big eaters! That included the entire volleyball team and you've seen the size of those boys, not to mention that they are extra hungry from all that activity! It was a good excuse to clean house too!

The boys had another game this past week against the community players. They got beaten again, but it was close this time! They've made amazing progress in the weeks they've been playing! They have one more game coming up against the boy's team from Palmer, this time here at Glacierview. It ought to be interesting! Their last opportunity for competition for the season will be a weekend tournament against that team plus another team from Anchorage. They are hoping to get some other teams to come but so far there are only three signed up.

Rodney is as busy as a one handed camp maintenance guy these days! Nate is still gone for at least another week and Rod is still out with his heart problem. We got dumped on with at least 6" of snow over the last two nights so Rodney has been VERY busy plowing using the camp's character-building plow truck. It leaks exhaust into the cab making Rodney rather sick to his stomach. It is also rather difficult to see where you're going and in trying to avoid objects (other cars, snow mobiles, etc) it has an interesting habit of crashing into assorted stationary (snow banks, parked vehicles) and not so stationary (moving vehicles) objects. I was "privileged" to ride in the beast yesterday after it got itself rather securely stuck in a snow bank in front of our house, requiring a visit from the bobcat to free it. It is hard enough to see where you are going when it is NOT plowing, but when the plow is down it becomes downright impossible at times. It builds character, right?

This week is also the 13th annual Mountain Man Rendezvous, where he-men go out into the wilderness to camp out, swap stories, eat and ride snow machines. My understanding is that there is also considerable competition to build the most luxurious camp and serve up the best food. Some even bring along generators and have been known to bring TVs to the Rondy as well! This is the first time in all those years that they've had snow during the Rondy! It also means, though, that we've lost Jake and Doug for the weekend (and the camp interns are up at Li-Wa helping with a large retreat up there) as well as Rodney picking up Doug's horse feeding duties. With a group coming in and tons of snow, that means there is a lot of shoveling to do for the few guys left at camp.

Things start picking up at camp this week. From here on out the groups start to get bigger and we have groups in during the week as well. Hope we've got our feet on the ground because we're going to start running pretty soon! :) We thought we were running out of water at one point - the water pressure had dropped dramatically in the house - but it turned out that we just needed a new filter! We're back up to having plenty of water now that we put in a new filter. I picked up a bunch of new filters since we will apparently be clogging them up MUCH faster than anticipated! They are supposed to last 6 months in theory but we're using them for the whole house and we aren't exactly running off of city water! ;)

Monday, February 22, 2010


I was going to buy a small pocket camera to carry at all times so Andrei offered to let me use his since he rarely uses it. I was playing with it today and discovered that it can take panoramic pictures by stitching together up to three pictures that you take in a row! Wow! What fun! So you guys will be guinea pigs. Let me know what you think! Now you can see our mountains as we see them! :) Here are my first attempts to use it. The first and third are of the sunset out front. The middle one is behind the house. If you double click on the picture it will take you to a larger version of it. Then you'll need to use your back button to return to the blog.

The weather continues to be spectacular! It has been so sunny and mild and just delightful! This is definitely my favorite time of year so far! I've been driving Rodney's snow machine a little bit too! What fun!!!! It is a bit big for my taste, but it sure is fun driving all sorts of places! :) You really need to be careful though of where you take it. I've heard plenty of stories of people losing them through the river, on the glacier and in avalanches. This is avalanche season with the warm temperatures and the sun shining on the mountains. The snow becomes unstable and tends to shift if disturbed. Even along the road to Palmer you see a lot of mini-avalanches and rock slides. Maggie says this time of year scares her the most with the rock slides. We may get to really appreciate the lack of guard rails along Long Lake so they can plow off the rocks!

It is nice to be able to see the road signs again! ;) The snow seems to really stick to them and now that it is melting, we can see where we are going again! I'll put the warmth in a perspective that those who know him can appreciate. The other day when we drove to Palmer Andrei was complaining that it was too hot in the car! He wanted me to turn on the AC!!! That sun really does beat down on you up here! I have no idea what causes it, but that sun is STRONG!

We were driving to Palmer for his most recent Volleyball game. The guys played very well, but they lost to the Palmer/Wasilla team in VERY close, very intense games. They'll have another shot at them in about a week when they come out to Glacierview for a game. We'll have the home court advantage then! Surprisingly, despite them having twice as many players as we have, we still had at least 3 times as many supporters as they had at the game on their turf! This is such a tight community it is like everyone is family! There is so much support that it is incredibly touching. The community here isn't big - the community list with phone numbers fits on two sides of an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper - but it is certainly close! They pass out the community phone numbers just as a normal course of business! :)

Not much other news right now. Rod VanDaam is feeling a lot better from the virus, but has to go back to the doctor on Friday to see about the fluid around his heart. Rodney's fingers are still bothering him quite a bit, but they are slowly improving. Earl and Elaine are getting back into the swing of things here. I'd made a chicken pot pie for them to eat the day after they came home and inadvertently found the direct route to Earl's heart. He apparently loves chicken pot pie! Let's not tell him that it's about the only thing I cook well! :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let's put the moose to work!

Spring sure seems to have sprung lately! Yesterday it got up to 37 degrees here at camp (and even higher in the valley) and today is shaping up to be another brilliant, beautiful warm sunny day! It is just amazing! I think this is my favorite time of year so far! These temperatures are heavenly, the days are getting quite a bit longer now (light from about 8 am to 6 pm) and the sunshine on the snow just gives everything such a brilliant sparkle! Oksana is thrilled to be able to walk home in the daylight. She'll feel a LOT better about the walk to school when she can see better in the morning! She noticed this morning already that it is significantly lighter out when they have to leave. Then again, now they need to watch out more carefully for the moose and water over the ice! It has been so warm that the springs are starting to really run on top of the ice. The moose are getting hungry from lack of food to eat so they are getting a big crabby. This is probably one of the most dangerous times of year for run-ins with moose.

We watched the Super Bowl with Dan and Sandy Lee and Lee and Susie Althens (who built the house we live in). Susie had quite the moose story about the crabby moose that chased her into the greenhouse one day so now Oksana doesn't like me going out to the greenhouse unless she watches. I'm not sure what she intends to do, but I suspect that she feels like she can protect me by watching? I keep the compost in the greenhouse so Eider won't get into it so I need to go out there every so often. Then all of a sudden yesterday we saw this:

It doesn't show up in that picture, but the path behind the baby is the path to the greenhouse! Since he was so curious, Rodney put baby to work stacking wood:

They were just passing by:

I also got a picture of the gully not far from our house that is quite spectacular. It doesn't show up well in this picture, but I'll show you anyway:

I'm pretty sure this is the one they call Hick's Creek. I get so turned around it isn't funny. I need to sit down with a layout map at some point and figure out the "lay of the land" and where different trails and parts of camp are situated.

This week I had a bit of spring fever so I asked one of the ladies at camp to go shopping with me (mostly just window shopping, nothing serious). She wasn't able to go this week so I was sort of at a loss as to what to do so (heaven help me!) I did some cleaning and organizing! I even filed that 2' stack of paper that has been building up since we moved here!!! Ack! AND I got my craft spot organized and usable! All because Nicole wouldn't come with me to town! Haha! So now I'm ready to sit down and do my taxes (ick) AND catch up on some of those cards and letters that I've been putting off! It's all Nicole's fault! Here's the mostly-organized craft area. I still haven't finished the window quilts for these windows yet but I need to get to those too. It gets downright HOT up there with the sun being so bright and shining so much lately! We've even been leaving the one window cracked open all the time now otherwise it is too hot to sleep too. I'm definitely going to want those quilts up before long to keep the sun out! I know a lot of people can't fathom it being too hot in Alaska, but it happens! Honest! It can get up to 80 up there VERY quickly! That's about 10 degrees too hot!

Earl and Elaine Anders got back from "outside" last night. We are so excited to have them back! Rodney will breathe easier knowing that he can rely on Earl to help with some of the fickle furnaces not to mention that he's more than a bit handicapped with his broken fingers! The bottom line though is that they're just really fun people to work with and we've missed them! On a more somber note, we'd really appreciate prayers for Rod right now. Dianne ended up taking him to the hospital earlier this week because he had chest pains. He thought he was just having trouble breathing due to a virus, but there's also fluid around his heart and they have no idea why. This virus is really hitting him hard! We're praying that they can figure out what is going on and that the virus doesn't cause any permanent damage. So far all the tests look good, but there are still some alarming problems going on. Similarly, we're still waiting for word on my uncle and the tests he had on Monday. Waiting, waiting, waiting. We do so much of it and still don't get any better at it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The pictures to go with the last post

This is the MANifold (with a GREAT deal of emphasis on the MAN). Not sure why I had to take a picture of it, but there it is. Maybe the guys will appreciate this one more than I do. That hole beside his head is where all the pipes go from the pit into the house.

Once again, the doorway to the pit. At least in this picture you can REALLY see the door that fell on Rodney's hand. That's Matt in the camo pants. Matt did all our gas lines and now he's learning plumbing from Rodney.

The hand. The middle and ring fingers are still pretty swollen. I'm thinking the black and blue will show up better when the swelling goes down.

Sergei on his loaner snow machine.

Rodney on his new toy, I mean tool! The sled for the snow machine is up against the porch. He'll use that for hauling fire wood and stuff like that.

And they're off to start grooming the cross country ski trails for the group that is coming in this weekend. They also groom them for the "Becoming an Outdoor Woman" weekend coming up. That's a pretty big weekend at camp.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Well, maybe not, but it has certainly been warm this week! The temperatures have been up in the 20s and even up to 30 a few times this week! We're enjoying the beautiful weather! The only problem is that between the milder temperatures and the additional sunshine, the house gets downright HOT!!! We need to learn to scale back the fire in the wood stove. I did pretty well one day just tossing in a log and letting it almost burn out, but it takes more thought to operate that way. You need to be sure to get another log in there before it burns out completely.

The dogs are getting a little more rambunctious lately too. They can stay out for quite a while in the milder temperatures so Ellie is more inclined to RUN! Naughty little monkey! We've had to be more careful to tie her out when she goes out. We don't want her running through camp!

I finally feel like I'm caught up from my trip to Florida. It has taken a while and was complicated by a bug and mild cold but today I finally feel like I'm back to my new "normal" energy levels. Now when I get feeling cruddy I get impatient with myself, but I need to remember how blessed I am to have as much energy as I do these days! It wasn't long ago that "normal" was a lot more limited!

The boys had another volley ball game yesterday, this time against the parents. They were able to beat the adult team, but the games were all much closer than the last time. I was working so I was not able to go, but it sounds like they had a great time again. Rodney had hoped to play in that game, but yesterday morning he went down to check on the basement water tanks (we've started filling them from the spring) and the trap door fell right on his hand. Owwww! If you look back at the pictures I posted on January 12 you can see what the frame for the trap door looks like. Add the flooring on top of that and hinges on the short end next to the wall and you'll have a better idea of what it looks like. Now imagine that door opened all the way and dropping on your fingers from the full open position.

Robert Katsur is here again so he's working on all sorts of electrical issues. He re-did the wiring in the pelton wheel shed, adding a light to the interior and cleaning up what was in there, like the outlets and the inverter-to-house wiring. Since the old inverter has been relatively well behaved lately, he didn't install the new one yet. A lot of the work he did do was to ease the installation of the new one, so when they have time they will do that job as well. They tested the pump from the lake and could not get it working initially. Turned out it was no longer hooked up for some reason so they got that hooked up again, it works and the water looked pretty clear. Robert also wired the Taco (tay-co) pump with a timer to circulate the heated liquid which will add heat to the laundry room, pelton wheel house and the water storage room. AND (yeah, he was BUSY!) he also upgraded the ballasts in our kitchen lights so they won't suck so much power. We're still waiting for the replacement LED lights (the first ones were NOT as advertised!) and at this rate, I'm not sure they're even coming. We'll see. I'll give them another week, but the waiting is getting old.

Rodney took me out for a ride on the new snow mobile one day this week. What fun! You can get all sorts of spots that you can't get to on foot and when there's no ice! I should have brought my camera though! There's another GREAT view not far from our house! I'll have to go back with the camera and get a picture for ya'll! Apparently Doug Thiessen is working on a trail from the ranch portion of camp right past that spot that will hook into our ATV trail. That will allow him to take trail rides that are really on trails and can help keep the horses off the roads and away from so many vehicles. It will make for more pleasant rides for the campers. That also reminds me that I ought to devote a blog post to describing the different aspects of camp at some point!

Nate and Katie Regier left to go "outside" on Monday. They got into Pittsburgh shortly before it was shut down due to the big snow storm. Maggie had already gone "outside" a week or so earlier (while I was in Florida) to be with her dad who recently had a stroke possibly due to a heart problem. It is more than a little strange to have them gone! Rodney is a bit nervous about dealing with all the things that can go wrong at camp with both Nate AND Earl gone! Earl and Elaine will be back in about a week though, so we're looking forward to that! Hopefully the furnaces will all behave until then! Today the Alpine guy's septic has frozen so Rodney and Sergei will be working to thaw that out. Sergei is hungry for some gas for the borrowed snow machine so he jumped at the chance to help. ;) That's all for today! I'll try to get some pictures up again soon!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back from "outside"

Any time you leave Alaska, it is known as going "outside" so everyone asks me how my trip "outside" was. ;) The trip was good but it is sooooo good to be home! I had a great time hanging out with my mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law and nephew. I have been to Florida enough times to have seen most of the sights and it was more important to me to just spend time with people so that's pretty much what we did. I did speak to my parent's Bible study group Tuesday night about Victory and what we are doing. That was actually fun. Bill and Vivian Gaff and Dave and Betty LaBarge are part of that group and they were some of my Young Life leaders a bazillion years ago when I was in high school. Their ministry years ago greatly impacted where we are today.

We went to visit my brother Wil and his wife Kristen and got to visit their farm. We were supposed to go back to the farm for the day on Saturday but it rained so we ended up going to Daytona to a flea market. It was great to get to make that drive with Aaron my nephew and catch up with what he's up to these days. It's great to see him taking off now that he's found what really excites him (robotics)! He's a super young man! It was a bummer not to get to see more of the farm and pony and horses and all, but I was glad to get that extra time talking to Aaron. The last day I was there we got a call from my uncle in Ohio and things were not good with him. He was in the process of moving to an apartment (easier for them to manage then their house) when he passed out. Tests revealed a spot on his lungs and pancreas. None of us slept too well that night.

Florida has way too much mold for my health though so it was quite a relief to get back to the clean Alaska air! I started the migraines again down there and they've just started clearing up again. Now I'm coming down with the cold that Oksana gladly shared when I got back. :( Ugh! Travel doesn't agree with me.

Other than Oksana's cold, things here were in reasonably decent shape. The house was still standing. ;) I AM still catching up on the laundry backlog though! Yikes! I've still got just about every indoor space filled with drying laundry and I've been at it all week! It makes for some tough negotiating through the house! I also noticed that Andrei was a bit argumentative. He finally admitted last night that he's in a bad low. Hopefully he'll be able to snap out of this. It's awfully early for him to be going into his really bad spring low. He had another volleyball game early this week against some of the community adults. They got their rear-ends wooped, but they had a good time and have come a LONG way since their last game! It was great to see how much progress they've made so quickly!

Rodney bought a snow machine (snow mobile for those outside) while I was gone. It is a 2002 Ski-Doo Skandic wide track with less than 700 miles on it. Apparently the prior owner had hip replacement surgery not long after he got it and then never got back on it. I'll have to get a picture of it one of these days.

This is most of the community team. Nate is in the white shirt. One of their teachers (Miss Berkley) is putting up her hair and Norm in the middle is the coach's husband. We went to Norm and Lou Anna's house a few weeks ago for dinner - another interesting couple and a great cook!

Lou Anna talking to the guys. Lou Anna is NOT short! Can you tell which of these boys is in 8th grade? Neither could the other team they played a few weeks ago.

This isn't the clearest picture, but I love how everyone is smiling. They really do have a great time together. By the way, the kid to the far right, Carlen Thiessen, is the one in 8th grade. They look more like basketball players! From left to right the ones I haven't mentioned yet are Trayton Cohen, Andrei, Ben Gerwig (you've heard Gerwig family stories before), Chris Martin and Robert VanDaam (you've heard a lot of VanDaam stories).

Our new inverter that doesn't work yet. Rodney installed it but a GFCI outlet kept tripping it offline. He's put the old one back in for now and will have to wait until Robert Katsur is out again to see if they can get it up and running.

Rodney and Nate installing a second propane tank. The propane truck won't come across the lake so we have to get the tanks filled in camp and then brought out and put into place by the big telescoping fork lift. You can just see the blue cap on the first tank. Matt finished all our propane and the propane guy inspected it this week so it's all officially up and running now.

Another gorgeous sunset. It's rough to have to see that kind of view every day. ;)

This is a picture of my mom and I in Florida. My other brother's wife (the Kevin and Sherrod kind) had sent the shirts to my mom and dad but my dad doesn't wear t-shirts so my mom and I wore them! Kevin is an ER doctor at STRONG Memorial Hospital. :) I do love my favorite STRONG doctor! :)

Morning commute

Morning commute