Monday, November 30, 2009

Living Small - Observations

Having just completed Month 3 in our 16x20 wall tent, thought I'd share some general observations about living in small spaces.

1. *Everything* you own must have a home. Don't purchase anything new until you know exactly where it will live when you get it home. Measure to make sure!

2. You should plan ahead to make sure it has a home somewhere close to where you'd be needing it, too.

3. Before you even think about decorative stuff, think about STORAGE! Trust me, a 2x4 shelving unit that holds 500 lbs of food is way more important than a beautifully crafted cabinet that only holds 100 (and that potted plant doesn't belong unless it provides you some food!). You can worry about decorating and aesthetic appeal after you get your storage plan taken care of.

4. Shelves are good, but cabinets and drawers are better. Why? Because it reduces the visual clutter if you can close a door or drawer, and it keeps things from falling over & out. Being able to close something also helps keep dirt, dust, soot, and ash from getting into and all over everything you own; otherwise, you end up sealing things like towels and linens in plastic bins/bags on the shelf and having to wipe down cans and jars constantly. (If you're a visual organizer and need to see your stuff... get glass/plexi fronts, it still helps with neatness even if not-so-much with the visual clutter)

5. Get some sort of secure/covered outside storage ASAP. This is for things that you need close by, but don't have to be immediately handy. The less stuff that is in your actual living space, the better! We got an 8x10 steel shed, and it's been a blessing for tools and any extra stuff we don't have to worry about freezing. Since you tend to stock up on bulk items out in the bush, having a place to put it all that's out of your way is very very important. Just don't start pack-ratting in your storage room... you have to be able to get to things in there or you simply defeat the purpose! If it's hard to get things from storage, you'll just start keeping it inside.

6. Never underestimate the need for appropriate clear walk ways. It's easy to fill your space wall-to-wall with stuff, but you'll get really tired of stepping over and around stuff all the time. Good space planning is essential. Vertical storage, also essential. Don't be tempted to make really narrow traffic flows... 18" is the MINIMUM, I'd recommend 24" if you can manage it. Folding furniture really helps in this regard... when you need more space to move, just fold up your chairs, etc.

7. Horizontal work surfaces are essential, but they don't need to be permanent! Tables and such have a huge footprint. Folding tables and nesting tables are a really handy solution. For really large work surfaces, consider a door over two stools (or similar). When you don't need it anymore, put the door outside or in the shed and the stools back in their homes.

8. Under-bed storage is a MUST! Beds have a HUGE footprint and you have to keep the top of it clear (or at least each night enough to sleep on). Raising your bed as high as comfortable/reasonable, and then adding storage underneath it can almost double your available interior storage space for awkward, heavy or larger items (like shotguns, ammo or folding tables). Depending on the height of your space, you may also be able to add bed posts and build over-bed canopy storage (probably nothing too heavy though!).

9. If you take it out, put it away immediately when you're done with it. There's just not enough room to leave anything out. This also means that you shouldn't start a project unless you can finish it (or at least one stage) in a single shot.

10. Multi-function is the key. If you're going to keep something inside your space, make sure it can serve more than one purpose... example: a small bench can be used as a seat, a foot rest/coffee table, a (albeit low) work surface for small projects, a desk or counter, and you can store boots and other stuff underneath it.

11. If you share the space, make sure your ogranizational and space plan works for your partner (or kids) as well... otherwise you'll just be working at cross purposes and end up wanting to kill each other.

12. Remember that pets have space needs, too. Is there room for dog beds, scratching posts, kitty huts, food and water dishes? Can your pet move around freely without knocking stuff over? Do you have room to store their food, grooming supplies, leashes, etc?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mountains of citrus!!

My folks are just awesome! We picked up our mail in Manley this afternoon and there were two boxes full of fresh citrus and other goodies from "down south" waiting for us. Nothing like getting a big ol' box of Texas sunshine when the snow clouds are coming in and it looks like we're in for another week of -40F.

Next year (hopefully) when we get the smokehouse built, I'm sure they'll be happy to send us up some mesquite chips for the red meats in exchange for some homemade alder-smoked salmon and moose steaks. Once we get some feeder hogs, I'm going to have to source some apple wood for the chops and hickory for the bacon. It pays to think ahead and find people who are willing to swap local resources with you when you're homesteading... equitable trading is always better than forking over tons of cash to a big box supplier!

MMMMM... all this talk of food, I must be hungry, better go dig into some of those yummy turkey leftovers :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Weeeee're baaaaaack!

As you can tell by the plethora of back-dated posts, we're finally back online again!! Now you all won't have to wait so long between installments and then get inundated with a bunch all at once :)

Big, super, mega hugs to our neighbor, Dave, for getting us hooked up with the rest of the world again before he leaves for the season! And even greater hugs to him and his wife, Jordan, for inviting us over tomorrow for a hot shower and Thanksgiving dinner. We are truly blessed to enjoy such luxuries with two really great folks!

Long live the Eurekans!!

(Apparently, we live in Eureka not Manley. Of course, Eureka was just an old mining claim and is now a complete ghost town, and was/is 10 miles north of us... but if the Manleyites won't claim us, I'm more than proud to be a Eurekan!)

11-24-09: Don't bring dead things to bed

The joys of pet parenting are boundless, especially when you live in the bush.

This morning, after letting our darling little Ripley out for a run and a pee, she showed me her love and affection by bursting in the door and dropping some frozen bit of dead animal right in the center of the bed for me and Charlie. Thank goodness it was frozen!! I'm not exactly sure what it was, most likely a hare's leg, but could have been a coyote forepaw. I certainly wasn't going to spend a whole lot of time inspecting it. Of course, you have to praise your animal and thank it for bringing you food… even while you are cringing and trying to find something to get it off the bed with before it starts to thaw. I took it outside on the deck, faked that I had eaten it, and surreptitiously chucked it in the bin when she wasn't looking.

At least we know why Ripley hasn't been chowing down on her kibble with as much abandon as usual lately. Just past 4 months old and already hunting a bit for herself and the family. Aw, isn't that sweet?! It's enough to make a mother proud. Hopefully, she isn't out poaching some trapper's line, but she's pretty good about staying on our property and no one has asked our permission to trap our land this winter. Now if we can just convince her to enjoy her catch outside on the deck and not bring dead things inside (especially not to bed!), things would be so much better. We've got much larger animals in these parts than hares, and she'll soon be big enough to take down most of them… don't want to wake up with a mangled coyote or lynx offering in the middle of the living room one day!

11-21-09: Why Paul is one of my Favorite People

As you all know from G-man's post from John Feeley's earlier, we've been experiencing unseasonably low temps (between -30 and -50F) for almost a week. While he had Internet access, G-man sent a mail to Paul (who works for AK Dept of Transportation) in Manley letting him know that we were still OK, but asking if he had any recommendations for getting Sonja started. We had a full tank of gas in the truck and ATV, but were down to our last 5 gallon tank for the generator and maybe one last fill for the chainsaw from the 5 gallon tank of 2-stroke… not dire straits, but getting a little concerning since we didn't know how long this weather would hold out.

So today, with both of us dreading another 2 mile hike to Feeley's to check our email and the weather liars online, we were pleasantly surprised by a honk in the driveway. And we were surprised since Mark was out in the trees cutting wood, and I was doing some carpentry inside with the generator running… neither of us could hear diddly and Ripley is still too young to properly let us know that someone was coming. Anyway… Paul had sent Pete, one of his co-workers, out to us with a charcoal burner, some charcoal, and a propane weed torch with extension pipe so we could blast the truck out of her frozen cocoon and back to life.

Within 90 minutes we put the battery back in (it's been living inside) and Sonja kicked right over. It took another hour or so for all the ice to melt off enough for us to decide to drive anywhere. Problem was that it was already starting to get dark and it's Saturday. The Trading Post in Manley is normally closed on the weekends and there was no guarantee that they would have gas or that their gas pumps wouldn't be frozen.

Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, we loaded up the truck with extra clothes/food/water/blankets and both fur children, banked the firebox, and then struck off into town. If worse came to worse, we could stay at Gladys's cabin for a few days or attempt to make the drive into Fairbanks. We might lose some jars of food and a few water jugs when they froze, but that's better than the possible alternative, right?!?!?

Big snaps and thanks to Bob and Lisa for opening up the store for us. And also to Chuck, who came out and finally got the frozen pumps to start working again! Big hugs to Paul for being awesome and looking out for us, and also for his wife, Penny, who makes the most awesome chocolate cherries!

Now that we know the best way to get Sonja moving again (and we've got her parked right in the sun on the south side of the tent, not in the shade on the north side) we're planning to drive up the road tomorrow to visit with one of our neighbor's, Dave, who is a HughesNet rep, and hopefully get ourselves hooked up with Satellite Internet. Yeah, it's crazy, but we miss the Internet more than anything and it is the most reliable form of communication in this neck of the woods. As long as the sun can shine right on the generator for an hour or two to get the battery bank recharged, we've got plenty of power until after dinner (when the batteries get too cold and the inverter shuts off) to get online for a little bit and let everyone know how we're doing… and to mail order a crap load of stuff when we need it, since it doesn't look like we'll be going into Fairbanks anymore this season (unless we get a freak warm spell or something).

BTW - the weather liars said that it shoud be "really nice" next week… of course, these are the same weather liars who said it would be really nice this week until it dropped below -20F. The Bastahds!!!

11-17-09: Sounds of happy home

5:30 am -- hubby snoring beside me, puppy snoring at my feet, kitty purring in the crook of my arm, and the fire is crackling away.

Ahhhh… life is GOOD!

11-16-09: You know it's cold when...

• The batteries in your remote digital thermometer freeze (freeze, not just go dead)
• All the fluid in the cheap liquid thermometer is in the bulb (only goes down to -20F)
• The snow stops crunching and starts squeaking
• The dog's water dish freezes and her food frosts up even though it's inside but just too close to the door
• The exhaust on the chainsaw and the generator creates vapor which immediately turns to hoar frost
• The Shindaiwa chainsaw (Japanese) has completely packed it in and only runs inside
• The Husqvarna chainsaw (Swedish) blade frosts over if it isn't in constant motion
• The HotSnapz (sodium acetate chemical warmers) actually begin to freeze despite being activated
• The truck won't start even though you've got her plugged in (block heater, etc) AND are trying to jump her directly from the generator
• The snow you track in from outside lies on the floor for 10 minutes before melting
• The wood you bring in from outside is so cold that it robs all the heat from the stove and won't catch fire without assistance (i.e. copious amounts of junk mail)
• Even the snow-loving dog doesn't want to stay out for more than a few minutes and starts limping because there are ice balls stuck in her paws
• The cat will only come out of her kitty hut if the doors are closed and the fire is roaring
• The leather AND Gore-tex on your boots and gloves freezes even though it isn't wet -- there goes the last vestiges of grip and usefulness
• You look like Jack Frost within 5 minutes of being outside because your breath has frozen on your nose, eyelashes, eyebrows, mustache, beard, etc…
• The hood of your truck freezes over even though it's currently running (and was clear at one point)
• Small trees can be removed from your path simply by punting them… they're frozen and break right off
• You're wearing two LavaWool glove liners, your Gumby Gloves with HotSnapz in them, and your fingers still start to freeze within 20 minutes
• You're wearing LavaWool sock liners, two pairs of wool socks, boots with 600 grams of Thinsulate Ultra in them and your toes still start to freeze within 20 minutes
• Your socket wrench freezes to the battery terminal before you can loosen the connection
• The cat pee freezes before the litter can even clump
• Dog bombs in the yard freeze solid within 5 minutes of being dropped
• You have to use soft artists charcoal to write outside because even graphite pencils won't work (just forget about pens or crayons of any sort)
• It takes you longer to get dressed to take the dog out than she actually spends doing her business
• It's only 65F in the house and you think it's piggin' hot when you come back in
• You have to consume 250-500 calories for every hour you're outside, and you're still exhausted after only 3 hours

11-15-09: Wood Obsession

So… Living in the subarctic leads to some interesting obsessions, for example wood…

You see wood is both a construction and a heating material, which is kind of weird if you think about it, you wouldn't build your home out of gasoline assuming that you could somehow solidify it. However right now the current obsession is about burning wood, and the categorizations that you mentally develop for that wood.

We've categorized our wood into 3-4 general groups
• Morning Wood (Steady!)
• Day wood
• Cooking wood
• Night wood

Each of these is a name for the general use of the wood, for instance take Morning Wood, it has to be easy to get going, provide a quick burst of heat to warm things up (and get the coffee made), and then get the Day Wood going. So what is Morning Wood, it's a collection of stove lengths varying from 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter (mostly "sticks"), dry as a bone, everything that a quick hot burning fire needs to get that coffee percolator perking.

Day Wood and Night Wood are kind of similar with similar intents, provide constant low-level heat for an extended period without worrying too much about the thing going out, which is where the larger chunks of wood are used, generally between 4-7 inches in diameter, a little damp is ok, since this helps to keep the home fires burning longer.

Cooking Wood is similar to Morning Wood, but goes up to 4 inch diameter piece, so you can actually cook for a period with it, not just get the coffee made.

That was the easy part, now where it gets more extreme is when you add in the type of wood, we currently have these categories:

• Deadite (40 year old dead standing left from a wild fire in 1969)
• Green Spruce
• Green Poplar/Aspen
• Green Birch
• Year old Spruce
• Year old Poplar/Aspen
• Year old Birch
• Seasoned Spruce
• Seasoned Poplar/Aspen
• Seasoned Birch

This forms a 2 dimensional matrix of wood types, some are not effective at certain things for instance green aspen or poplar is not cooking, morning or night wood, it just can't do the job; whereas seasoned Birch is way too good for wasting on morning wood, or cooking. The reason for this is quite simple, depending on the wood type the length of burn and the heat produced by that wood varies, the more dense the wood the longer that wood burns and the more heat it generates during its burning time. Surprisingly 1 lb of balsa and 1 lb of oak actually contain roughly the same energy content, however 1lb of oak is significantly smaller than 1lb of balsa, so it burns longer without interference or refilling the finite capacity wood stove that you have.

Since we live in a sub-arctic region seasoning takes nearly 2 years, even for softwoods like spruce so hence the three time scales for the types, also Birch is not very common up here, the majority of large tree stands that you see are either white spruce or quaking aspens (we also have some tamarack, black spruce, balsam poplars, etc. etc.) with a few rare stands of paper birch this makes Birch a premium wood up here as you can likely tell.

Now on top of this there's also the obsession with wood collection, and how much we need for how many days. Fortunately a couple of good big trees can see you for a couple of days and can cover all of your major woods (unless it's green).

Anyway, maybe it's just my mind over analyzing something that others have been doing for centuries without the benefit of my categorization matrix… Or maybe I'm just obsessed with keeping warm, who knows.

[Plickety sez: I think G-man is more obsessed with getting his dinner cooked and coffee brewed than staying warm - ROFL)

11-15-09: Better than the Gym

I've had a bout of the Fairbanks Funk for the past couple of days, so haven't been able to keep much down or in. While I feel somewhat weak and awful, it has given me the opportunity to really notice and admire how totally buff I'm becoming out here in the woods. Seriously folks, I've always been fairly strong for a girl (heck, even compared to most guys for that matter). I remember back in the pre-move days when I was so proud of the fact that I shifted a ton of food in 50 lb feed sacks all by myself… sheesh, that's nothing compared to what I can do now!

Back in the day, those 50 lb food buckets seemed really heavy and I could barely lift the 60 lb water containers. Now I can heft those buckets without much incident, even carry two at a time. The water still gives me a bit of a problem, but only because it's all concentrated into a sloshing sq ft cube… as long as I don't have to lift it above my waist though, we're golden. I can carry four 2x4x8 studs on each shoulder without blinking an eye. I can haul 20 ft trees (albeit "skinny ones") out of the forest and tote armloads of firewood for hours.

I've got biceps and triceps… real ones, way big enough to see without flexing and really toned for the first time in my life. My lats, traps, delts and rhomboids are pretty huge; and my abs are FLAT and even developing a bit of a 4-pack (another first in my life). My legs, which have always been really muscular, are even more muscular and have real definition… total Mean Joe Green legs!

All this work... real physical labor… has gotten me in better shape than any $1k membership or "targeted workout" at any of the gyms I've belonged to in the past. Weight and body fat are still a bit of a problem… but this time it's keeping them UP enough, not trying to keep them off. I'm eating lots of protein and fat (cheese, butter and bacon… yum, lard!) and still having a hard time keeping my weight up. I have stabilized my weight, but I'm packing on muscle so fast that my body fat percentage is getting a little low instead (muscle weighs more than fat). So, the net result is while my weight is stable, I'm still getting a bit smaller… my size 6 jeans are loose at the waist, but if I get 4s then they don't fit my thighs; and my medium shirts are baggy at the bottom, but if I get smalls then they don't fit my shoulders/arms.

I still have to watch the carbs, mostly because I'm hypoglycemic and they jack my blood sugar up something chronic, but I'm even eating more of those than I used to as long as they are low gluten (coupled with some more yummy protein and fat to slow down the glycemic load of course). Yup, I unapologetically chow down a cheese and sausage omelet with a side of bacon, maybe even a muffin slathered with butter… and my body seems to like it just fine and all my blood work is A-OK (another first). **Yes, Doc Julie, I am still watching everything closely **

Trust me, out in the bush, if you aren't feeding your body what IT wants (as opposed to what the "experts" say you should eat) then it won't give you faithful or fully-optimized service. You learn real quick what's a real body craving and what's just "head hunger", and you learn that there really isn't a way to cheat or fake out your body… no swapping in tofu or TVP when your body wants meat (moral conscience and best intentions be damned!).

Back online...


We got a HughesNet installation today, so we have internet connectivity. Totally Ironic if you think about it, living in a tent with power and internet, maybe something is wrong with our priorities...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just a quick post

It's been -40F here for a few days and the truck has waved the white flag until it warms up. So this is a quick post saying that we're ok, and that we have plenty of food and water, and we're collecting firewood daily to cook and keep warm.

Anyway Short post just to say we're ok.

We'll post when we get the truck running or we walk back to our nearest neighbor with an internet connection.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

11-12-09: Updates

Howdy faithful readers! Sorry for the delay, but's it's been SNOWING like crazy so we've been sticking close to home. We've managed to get most of the insulation up in the tent and it's making a serious difference! We've about roasted ourselves out of the tent on a couple of occassions. Of course, Charlie loves it when it's 90F inside... sure beats 50F! Of course, the snow lightened up enough today for me to venture into Manley for mail and laundry, but now it's coming down hard again. Oh well, I can just drive even slower on the way back LOL!

As you see by Charlie's post (poor baby hasn't figured out that we aren't connected to the internet and I have to post her missives for her) we have a new puppy. Her name is Ripley and she's a little over 3 months old. She's an Akita-Malamute mix, which makes her an excellent choice for the winters up here. She absolutely loves running in the snow, loves digging in the snow, loves rolling in the snow, and especially loves eating the snow. She's also going to get to be about 120-150 lbs, which will make her a formidible guard dog out here in bear and wolf country. She loves people and is a good house dog, even though (being a puppy) she eats everything.

11-06-09: Kitteh needz ur help

This tym they goz too far. Long kar ryd, I deelz. Iz kold, I deelz. Iz much wind, I deelz. But now they bringz an Evil One to mah hows. They kalz it Ripley; but I noez it to be Evil. I steelz kamra so u can seez evil!

It eetz ma fuud. It eetz mah poop. It sleepz in mah bed wit mah peeplz. It tryz to lik me, but I slapz it wit mah klawz. I growlz when it lookz at me. Iz stoopid and klumbzee.

Pleez, send help for the kitteh. I iz guud kitteh, duz not dezerv this torchur. Iz ownlee puppee, will ownlee getz more big and evil. Big big, lyk Mommee. Evil evil, lyk Daddee.

Pleez, I praez to Ceiling Cat, this may bez last tym I kan steelz puter.

-- Charlie

11-05-09: Help me, Ralphie!

Just a few ruminations this morning while I wait for the tent to heat up enough to leave Charlie alone while I'm out foraging more firewood.

Don't, I repeat, don't ever put anything metal that has been outside for more than 15 minutes in your mouth when it's below freezing. Yes, this seems like common sense... We've all heard the horror stories about licking the flagpole. But when you're outside working, especially alone when it's getting dark, you sometimes forget that your lumber marking pen has a metal clip on it; or that the snaps on your coat are metal. It's just second nature to pull the pen cap off with your teeth or to nudge your jacket out of the way with your face. So, now I have two frost burns on my lip and a raw spot on my tongue where I had to yank the frozen pen cap from it.

The same goes for picking up anything metal that's been outside with your bare hands. I had taken a bunch of shelf brackets out of the shed and set them inside the front door. A couple minutes later, having taken off my gloves, I tried to grab them off the floor and they bit me! Luckily, no permanent damage was done to me or the brackets while I frantically waved my hand around to get them to let go. I remembered my lesson when I brought the chainsaws inside!

Yes, you heard right… I brought the chainsaws inside. You might be an Alaskan if you have a chainsaw in your living room and you have to start it inside before you go out (it's not that cold yet, but not far from it). I also brought the chain oil inside since it was about as viscous as blackstrap molasses which couldn't possibly be lubricating the chain all that effectively. Pretty soon we're going to have to start bringing the generator inside when it's not running.

I was supposed to do Deadite Patrol yesterday, but it was 6F with 20 mph winds and the tent would barely stay above 50F… so I made the executive decision that it might possibly be more beneficial to dip into our "insurance firewood" and continue putting up the insulation to keep in some of the heat we're making rather than near freeze to death to make more heat that the wind will just suck away.

Can I just say how incredibly difficult it is to manhandle 4x8 sheets of 3-inch thick foam board by yourself when it's seriously windy outside? This stuff only weighs about 2 lbs; but when the wind is pushing against it, you need the strength of Samson to keep it from flying away or pushing you over. And then there is the fun part of trying to maneuver the sheets around inside the tent with one person and a low ceiling. I made all sorts of creative use of spare lumber and household goods to make a deadman to hold sheets in place while I zip-tied them to the tent frame. Which, by the way, also sucked because the wind was blowing so hard that the tent kept jiggling and knocking things over and out of square… not so bad when I was working on a wall, but really not cool when I was doing the ceiling panels. I, unfortunately, did not get as much done while G-man was in Fairbanks as I'd hoped… but at least the bathroom is entirely done and I've gotten the western corners started. Hopefully, things will go a bit faster when he gets back and there's two people on the job.

OK - the tent is finally above 60F, time to bank the fire and go scavenge wood! At least the sun is out and the wind is only gusting around 12 mph (seriously, those NREL guys who said there wasn't enough wind here for turbine generators were smoking something!).


The Husqvarna wouldn't start (it's Gungnir's and doesn't like me) and the Shindaiwa doesn't work as well on big or frozen stuff… but I managed. I sawed and I hauled, and sawed and hauled until my arms were sore, and sawed and hauled some more… at least until I came upon fresh bear scat and then I decided that I had enough wood for today (and if not, I'd just have to make it last). It's hard to know how much firewood you really have when it's still in tree form in all different diameters and lengths. So much easier to tell once you've bucked it all and stacked it; but by then it's a bit late to tell whether you need more since it starts getting dark around 5 these days.

I accidentally left the pee-tainers on the deck (meant to empty them before I started), but they're frozen solid now… oops! And I was going to have a PB&J for lunch before I start bucking the firewood… but the jam is frozen too. Looks like we're going to have to start bringing in the "fridge" cooler now as well. I think I might be able to rustle up some Spam if I contort myself around the foam panels that still need to be installed in the pantry. Hmmmmm… it would sure be nice if G-man got home from Fairbanks soon.

10-31-09: Happy Halloween

Three guesses who carved which pumpkin :)

We tried to build snowmen bodies for our jack-o-lanterns, but the snow (while ample) is too dry and powdery here to stick together. In any case, we couldn't leave them outside unattended since they are, after all, edible and we don't want to invite critters. Just wanted to let you all know that we still take time out to do fun and silly things.

(Forgive the photo quality, my camera does not like to take pics in low light conditions)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pics coming soon (promise)

No, I haven't forgotten that I promised you all photos of the wall tent and such. Guess I'm a little house-proud on that front… really want to get all the "improvements" done so that everything is neat, tidy and put away before I show anyone (*blushing*). But have no fear, the insulation is the last major project precluding me from takings pics, and we'll be working on that next week ( although we might need a few more things from Fairbanks… grrrrrrr, you're always one short on something, aren't you?).

It would be nice if the tool shed was done, but I can cram most of that stuff in the food cache (the first steel shed) or under the deck until we get it put together (tiny metal nuts and freezing temps, not fun). Still don't have back stairs or our second wood crib built, but other things took priority (and all those trips to Fairbanks eat up your time!). Didn't get a chance to erect our pole woodshed because the ground froze on us and I'm not even going to try digging post holes in that… a tarp is good enough for next year's wood and this winter's wood can get stacked under the deck.

All-in-all, while things are going a bit slower than I'd hoped, everything is coming together nicely and soon we'll be able to dedicate most of our time to scoping out our home site and finding/collecting timber for the house framing. I'll make sure to bring the camera on our forays. I can't guarantee that the batteries will last long in the cold… but I'll try to take more photos of the property for ya'll :)

G-Man sez...
Here's a pic I took the other day just to keep you all happy for a moment, I call it Moonrise at 20 degrees

Sub-freezing Carpentry

So, I'm outside trying to cut down some lumber to make a few needed storage units and some framing to install the insulation. Normally, even when it's cold, working outside is not a major problem; but today it's hovering around 20F and it's windy as all hell (gusts up to 30 mph). There's also snow on the ground and all over my lumber because the wind blew the tarp half-way across the yard. Here are just a few of the problems I ran into:

• Being pelted in the eyes with wind-blown snow and saw dust that got trapped behind my safety glasses (G-man had the same problem when he was bucking firewood)
• Some of the lumber was actually frozen together
• Some of the lumber was actually frozen solid and refused to be cut
• Battery life on the cordless tools was about an hour (switched to corded tools on the generator and recharged the batteries)
• Cords on corded tools will NOT bend out of the way and the sockets are frozen
• Had to let everything warm up before I could drill or screw… which meant I had to assemble all these units INSIDE our space-limited tent (which also meant I had to move everything we owned a few times and be really mindful of where I was in relation the stove!)
• It was so windy that my tools kept blowing across the ice on the deck
• I went snow-sailing across the yard when the wind caught the sheet of plywood I was carrying
• Not being able to work the safety AND the trigger on the power tools with my stupid Gumby gloves on

Ahhhh JOY! Life is good.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bush Injuries...

Ok. So here's something that everyone experiences sooner or later in the Alaskan bush, or elsewhere. Working injuries…

So here's mine

This is two days after I did it (please note the healthy disrespect for shaving of the legs, and the huge missed spot on day two.

Here's 3 days

You'll see the legs better shaved.

So you're wondering how did I do this… Was it a bear… nope, was it a tree falling after felling… nope, was it a meteor that struck me from the heavens that would have struck down a lesser human… nope. I tripped over an old tree stump while carrying a smallish 50lb deadite, joy! This was my second tree of the day too, and while it hurt like hell, I just plodded along until later that evening when I was finished up and resting, then wondered what the hell I was doing. Ah well live and learn.

So you're now wondering how you can trip over a tree stump, well it's not too difficult when it's about 18-24" high, and you're plodding through smallish new growth spruce with a 8-10" dusting of snow. I kind of think that I might have made it worse for myself if I'd fallen over I'd likely be fine, but nope I had to be like a "weeble" and wobbled but didn't fall down. Thus leading me to scraping my shin down the sharp point of the stump from the broken tree. This happened on Tuesday 27th the bitter irony is that I should have been doing this on Monday, Tuesday I had planned to go up to Fairbanks for some stuff and to get the truck re-aligned after my little departure from normal control; but it snowed on Monday, Monday night and Tuesday morning and discretion is the better part of valor. Wednesday I did some more work around the place, like bucking the stuff we didn't get to on Tuesday, but I avoided going back into anything uncleared. Wednesday and Thursday were the same. Friday I ventured forth into the bush again and wouldn't you know it, a freakin' willow about 1/4" diameter and about 20" long jabbed me right in the middle of that gouge, but anyway we got enough firewood for the next couple of days; which was good since when I checked out my leg I had a swelling just below the tape on my dressing, so Saturday (Halloween) I rested up [Plickety says "And I rested up as well, other than bucking the last bit of yesterday's collection, because I managed to drop a log on my foot during the middle of the night fire-feeding and busted the knuckle of my big toe again."]. I think the bruising is the worst part now, which is taking a little while to come down.

To my credit barring aches, pains, muscle strains, and some bashed fingers and toes this is the first major injury I've had here. Anyway must get on.

Franken Feet & Gumby Hands

Just a little rant about boots and gloves. Really people, who in the hell's hands actually fit in gloves anyway?! Seriously, I think the model for the manufacturer's blanks must be a mutant with abnormally long fingers, or maybe they have blind seamstresses or something. I am so friggin' tired of not being able to do simple stuff, like work a zipper, because the tips of the glove fingers are, like, a half-inch too long. What the hell is that all about? Don't even try to do anything detailed, like tighten 3/8" nuts or anything. Heck, I can barely even get my finger into the chainsaw trigger guard with those stupid Gumby hands. Can't even manage to pull the other glove on sometimes or tuck in my cuffs. Why do we have to chose between warm, protected hands and actually being able to use them?!

Same goes for boots. Why on earth can't they make insulated boots with steel toes and shin guards that aren't bulbous and clunky? There's room for 14 pairs of socks at the toes, but anything more than a thin nylon liner and you can't get your foot through the ankle?! Not to mention that they force you walk like Frankenstein or an absolute spastic 'tard. Geez, these are winter work and hiking boots, you'd think that someone would have figured out that the people wearing them might actually be walking over uneven ground in the snow and might need some dexterity to handle hidden ditches and stumps.

And don't get me started on how you can't really find any good, solid work gloves for women. Sure, you can find all sorts of dainty, flimsy gardening gloves that almost fit a woman's hands; but real heavy duty gloves… forget it! Yeah, and a men's small is NOT a lady's medium, no matter what Captain Incompetent says at Home Labyrinth! What? I know there have to be some women out there somewhere who actually need proper work gloves… do they all have to have them custom-made, have them altered, or just suffer with ill-fit?

Arg!! Maybe it's me that's the mutant! I mean, I know that I'm a klutz with horrible balance, and I'm all bendy-freaky-double-jointed. Yep, and I'm doing MEN'S work out here in the bush… good little women won't be lumberjacking and doing construction, they'll be in the kitchen with oven mitts or tending their flowers where cutesy garden gloves are sufficient (ok, that's sarcasm folks).

Ahhh… rant over, I feel better now.

[G-Man says "No, you're not a mutant, I have the same problem. I can wear a medium, but can't wear any liners to keep in the heat. I can wear a large, and I have 1/2" too long fingers in the gloves. Even when a glove "fits" it doesn't really fit in all the right places, fingers are too long, short, tight or loose, same goes for the palm. And what's with the wrist cuffs? They're either super-short so they just get to your wrist, or like some old motorcycle gauntlet that comes half way up your arm."]

Charge of the light Brigade pt. 2

In preparation for his trip into Fairbanks, G-Man headed off into Manley to gas up Sonja. Just a short little trip because we had to do a massive deadite patrol so I'd have plenty of firewood while he was gone. Maybe an hour… 90 minutes, tops, since the weather was getting bad.

Well, I puttered about the 'Stead moving lumber, clearing out stumps that keep trying to kill us, and basically tidying up the bucking area so it would be safer for me to buck a wahootey-load of deadites while he was away. It's a bit brisk outside and it's snowing a little. An hour goes by and I'm not too concerned. Two hours go by and I'm starting to get a little worried (and running out of piddly chores to do). Three hours go by and I go inside to check on Charlie, feed the fire, and get some hot coffee to warm up before striking off into the woods to get trees by myself.

I no sooner throw some logs on the fire and pour my coffee and WHAM! I get a horrible sense of foreboding. It's snowing pretty hard by now and visibility is low. Gungnir has already wiped out on that road once and, with the weather being bad, not too many people are out driving. If he'd ditched it somewhere, it could be hours before anyone found him.

So I filled the stove to brimming and banked the fire down, then threw on a few extra layers of clothes and started Willow up. Now, keep in mind that I have not ever actually driven Willow before… hand-operated vehicles and I do not get along. Frankly, driving a 4-wheeler down a country road when it's 20-odd degrees out and blustery is not my idea of safe entertainment. I did have the presence of mind to wear my bright green coat and my flaming red head sock to hopefully improve anyone's ability to see me on the road. I also grabbed the goggles because, unlike Gungnir, I don't like the feel of my eyeballs freezing.

I trundle my way towards town, freezing my freakin' butt off (well, my hands more than my butt), scanning the road for any signs of an accident or someone wiping out into the trees. Nothing. Just tooling along at 20 mph was causing me mortal terror (really, I am petrified driving motorcycles and ATVs). Every mile I contemplated just turning around and going home. Maybe he was just visiting someone in town. But, no, he knew we had stuff to do before he left town... so I soldiered on. Maybe he was wrecked just around the next bend or just another mile away.

I make it into Manley without seeing him on the road or in anyone's driveway. I stop in at the Trading Post (cum Post Office, cum Gas Station) to regain some feeling in my hands and to check if anyone had even seen him come in earlier. Yes, he'd been there, a couple of hours ago. I couldn't think of who he'd be visiting that I hadn't passed on the way in; so once my hands thawed out, I struck off back home. Good news, the snow was letting up… bad news, it was letting up because it was getting too cold to snow anymore.

On the way back, risk of frostbite and hypothermia overruled any of my normal vehicular concerns. I was cranking along at 40mph (about the speed when I start to lift off the seat) and kept praying that I'd either see G-man just ahead or he'd catch up with me… anything, just let me get inside somewhere warm! But no dice… I made it all the way home, expecting him to be waiting for me, but the driveway was empty. My hands were so cold that I could barely get the keys out of the ignition or get the tent open. I fumbled with the damper and opened the firebox to let the fire blaze full blast… which only served to make my hands go from numb to screaming in agony. I swear to God, it felt like someone had smashed my hands with a sledgehammer. I knew I had to get my gloves off so my hands would warm up, but I couldn't make my fingers work and I was afraid to bite the fingertips of the gloves to yank them off since I couldn't tell if I had frost bite or not. I just curled them up to my chest and started crying.

And that's when G-man pulls up outside. Seems that he'd stopped in to ask Jimmy a quick question and got trapped in a long-winded conversation. He was surprised to find that I'd driven into town on Willow looking for him because I was worried… he just figured that I'd started cutting down trees and was crying because I'd mangled myself on something. I guess my concern touched him because he helped me get my gloves and cold clothes off and put on warm ones, then made me some coffee while I shivered for about an hour… yes, I was mildly hypothermic; but, no, I didn't have frostbite.

So, let it be known to all who might doubt it, that I do love my husband enough to risk life, limb and freezing temperatures just because I'm worried about his safety.

Note to self: wear the arctic mittens next time, or get some heated riding gloves! Definitely bring more HotSnapz.