Monday, March 29, 2010

Attack of the killer dishboard

We have one of those nifty little wire racks to dry the dishes on. Unfortunately, we don't have any countertops in the tent, so we have to store it on the floor under the shelves that hold the dish tubs and the galvanized bucket we use as a sink. Ok, this dishboard sticks out maybe 1" from the outside edge of the shelving unit. Normally, I miss it entirely when I'm trying to squeeze between my chair and the sink; but it's been really windy lately and the walls have been flapping, which pushed it out a just little bit farther than normal.

So, this afternoon, as I'm getting out of my chair for a cup of freshly-brewed coffee, the curly cup-holder spindle thingy on the rack grabs my sock and won't let go. Of course, everything is packed in so tightly that the dishboard can't really move and follow me, so it's basically a spring trap! After fighting for my balance, and trying not to knock anything over, I started to take a header right toward the woodstove.  Face + piping hot stove top = BAD. I reached out just in time to save my face... but torched the ever-loving jeepers out of my hand instead.

After G unhooked the deadly dishboard from my sock, he ran outside and filled a mixing bowl with snow. I spent most of the afternoon and evening with my hand in that snow. I have first degree burns on the outside edge of my right palm and all my fingertips, with second degree burns from the pad down to the second digit on my middle and ring finger. My thumb, thankfully, was spared.

Thank goodness I'm ambidextrous, since I'm having to do most everything with my left hand. Typing is fun(and slow) since I can't really use my right hand if I have to bend my fingers and can only use the edges anyway. At least I can fully still use my thumb, or else I'd have a really hard time getting my pants up and down! 

Don't think I can figure out how to use a right-handed chainsaw safely with only my left-hand; so much for clearing trail for awhile :(  I'm not going to be much use to G in any of the firewood fun either, since my left shoulder was the one that was wiggy before and it's still a bit weak. I'm not even much use just standing there with the shot gun on look out for the bears that are starting to wake up... I can shoot left-handed no problem, but I can't control the kick-back from those bear slugs one handed.   #$%&%#$%!  If it's not one thing, it's another!!!  grrrr

At least I can say one thing... life as an uncoordinated spaz is never boring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Taxes -- ooooh the pain!!

Well all I gotta say is that lovely Uncle Sam has one hand in my pocket while the other hand is pilfering my homestead!

That's right boys and girls, the IRS has effectively blocked us from at least one "self-sufficient" goal this year, all because of the sneaky way they handle capital losses. So we have to decide what necessity least critical to get this year: solar panels/wind turbine, water well, soil amendments or winter transportation.  Wonderful options, eh?  Just forget about a tractor :`(

Ain't it just interesting how you must claim all of your Capital Gains as taxable income for a given year, but they only allow you to deduct $3k in Capital Losses a year then force you to carryover the rest? Tricky bastards! They're banking that you won't get as much benefit deducting the losses in the future or get stuck carrying over until you die so they never have to let you deduct them. If that weren't the case, we wouldn't owe anything!  I can understand limiting it so you can't have negative AIG or don't get a refund when you'd otherwise owe (ok, from their perspective, I can understand it), but you should at least be able to use it to reduce the amount you owe to $0 if you end up with an underpayment at the end of the year. Because, seriously, the snafu "income" amount that screwed us and made us go over the taxes withheld would have been completely offset by our "losses" if we'd been able to claim them.  Arrrrgggg

Oh well, just another "little fee" to the powers that be to get us off of the grid and out from under thumbs, I guess.  2010 should be the last year Uncle Sugar's fiddly little fingers will be digging in our pockets... and if we're really luck, we won't even get screwed on the 2010 return, but I'm not holding my breath.  grrrrr

Friday, March 19, 2010

Slip Sliding Away...

So you know it's getting towards Spring in Alaska when you start to slide on the hardpack. Like just now, when I went to relieve myself on a well watered local spruce tree. It was strange to slide for the first time in a long time while not pulling 300 lbs of weight in firewood. You also know it's getting towards Spring, when you have 12+ hours of daylight, and there's still snow on the ground, weird...

Anyway long time no posting for me, PC has been doing the heavy lifting of keeping everyone up to date, and incidentally attracting followers while she dances around forums. Which is interesting, from a synchronicity perspective, as my interest wanes her's grows and seemingly vice versa.

If this seems a little wandery to our readers it most likely is, since I'm writing this in preference right now to getting more firewood, strangely I feel much more able to sit and write this, something I've had to "do" rather than just let it happen, than going and doing the daily chore of getting fuel for cooking and heating.

With that back to forums, some of our readers are likely familiar with my explosive exit from one of PC's and my former mutual forum. It's interesting, I've gone and had a look around, and it's only gotten worse in my opinion than when I blew out of there. Totally crazy, but anyway blowing out of it was enlightening. Changed my perspective on a few things, and I suspect helped me grow. Going back though is surely interesting to see how the circus is doing, and making me think I made the right decision.

Now on top of that I'm constantly amazed at people's blinkered outlook on things, from another forum, where there are people who completely agree with the loss of rights of felons. Now we're not talking about the Ted Bundy's and Jeffrey Dahmers, but everyone who's ever committed a felony regardless of it's severity, whether this is a first offense, or required intent, and totally regardless of other punitive actions taken, such as no further sentencing (i.e. you committed a crime now go and be repentant).

A lot of these people seem to have complete faith that the powers that be are benevolent. Yet maintain that certain rights were written into the US Constitution so that a non-benevolent government couldn't legally affect them. They do not see the dichotomy of that argument I suspect that they have minimal gray matter that is thus engaged in other vital activities like deciding whether to watch Dancing with the Stars, or American Idol, and will themselves never fall foul of any crime. Now I'm not a fan of light sentencing in any way, but if someone's been put in prison, when they come out then I don't see any reason to not give them the same rights as everyone else I mean they can drive, get credit, buy booze and everything else. Which led me to this little book, Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent it's an interesting read for sure, and shows just how easily it can be to fall into something that turns out to be a felony and then if caught you're done, no more work as a lawyer, doctor, teacher, or other licensed profession, no voting and of course no right to keep and bear arms. Now this isn't written by some hokie leftist, but a Boston trial lawyer, civil liberties and criminal law columnist. He's seen the effect in the courtroom, which led him to write this book. Sobering reading.

Now back to motivation to get firewood... Weird though it is, we now have our 4 wheeler running again so it's not quite so labor intensive. So I should have motivation, enough, but I'm still here drinking coffee, and thinking about it, while the dog has fallen asleep in boredom, and the cat is hiding in her hut, because the dog is indoors.

In other news, PC's slight off road trip while returning from Fairbanks has led to a slow puncture (the tire will stay inflated for a couple of days before it goes completely flat, and needs the services of a tire shop). We found it and have a repair kit on the way, in the meantime we're inflating it regularly, just to keep it on the rim (big balloon tires, come off the rim when they lose too much pressure). She's out doing laundry right now, which isn't helping the motivation aspect, since I know I need to go and get that firewood before she gets back.

Ah well, that's the last of the coffee, time for my boots and to kick over the 4 wheeler.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Humans are funny

OK - just a little observation on "The Weird" from my travels through cyberspace...

Have you ever noticed the amount of people who are "anti-" that end up joining and posting on "pro-" forums and then just proceed to bitch and gripe and cast aspersions? What is up with that? You have this tiny little haven for "believers" to discuss things and share ideas; and then all the sudden some bully shows up and poisons the place with animosity. Don't these people have anything better to do than seek out people with differing views and attempt to humiliate them?  You'd think they'd find their own forum that shares their view point.....

This is something I absolutely cannot fathom.  If something thinks that "Green" is total bunk, why go to a "Green Living" forum? If something thinks that living in the city is awesome and people who live in the country are ignorant hicks who live in shacks, why go to a "Small Town Living" forum?  The list goes on, my friends, these are just two examples. Are these people just so intolerant of a differing opinion that they must actively seek out avenues to spread their bile and crush the "opposition"?

There are probably millions of forums catering to ideals that I personally don't believe in, or maybe even find distasteful, but I don't waste my time seeking them out and then take every opportunity to rail against them and make derisive comments. What do I care what they think and do? They can have their beliefs and their own little corner of cyberspace, it's no skin off my back. OK, maybe I'm just a little more tolerant, but seriously, I also just plain have better uses for my time.

People are funny.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Random weather and other woes

Freaky spring weather - one day the Low is 20 below and the next it's 20 above, some days there's only a 10 degree difference between High and Low and other days it's almost 40, some days it snows, other days it melts, and it's almost always windy. It's not officially Breakup since we haven't had any sustained melt yet, but I don't think it's too far off.  It's a little tough on the body to handle 40 degree shifts in temps from day to day, you're either freezing or roasting as you try to adjust.

We're both still battling the crud. Don't know whether this is the same cold that won't go away, several colds back to back, or if I picked up something entirely different in Fairbanks. I think this latest iteration is probably something new from Fairbanks since it's messing up my guts something horrible and making me really really tired all the time. The weather isn't helping either, I'm sure. Needless to say, G's been doing most of the firewood scavenging because everytime I go out to help I wind up in bed again. Frustrating!!! Doubt we'll get the rest of the trail cleared by next Sunday like we were hoping. Ultra-frustrating!!!

Also, it appears that Sonja didn't make it out of that run off the road entirely unscathed... we seem to have a slow leak in rear tire, which is now almost flat. Can't tell if it's a puncture of some sort, or if I just lost the seal when I plowed into the snow bank. Oh well, we'll have to run the compressor to fill it up and pray it doesn't need to be replaced immediately... which would mean another trip into Fairbanks if the tire holds out that long, because the tire and rim weight too much to take it on the mail plane into the city (ooops!). We do have replacement tires, but I don't think anyone in Manley has a way to get it on the rim... and I really don't want to mess with unmounting and mounting tires without the proper equipment since that can be really dangerous. We'll just have to do what we have to do. Luckily we're not in any desperate need for transportation at the moment.

I got 90% finished with the building plans and then realized I forgot something that is going to change the whole model. ARG!!!!  But at least I'm getting lots of practice using SketchUp, so redrafts aren't taking as long as they were before. And can I just say that building stairs is a major PITA!! Not just modeling stairs, but actually figuring out how to get a usable staircase to fit in your tiny house, within the major framing, and still be marginally close to code-compliant. We don't actually need to be code compliant, but I don't want to be falling down my stairs and breaking my a$$ all the time either... that's one of the reasons I'm trying to put stairs in instead of the typical loft ladder. I'm such an uncoordinated spaz that stairs and ladders can be very dangerous creations.  Ahhhh, the joys of doing everything yourself!  But at least I got all my engineering math done, so all I have to do is move the pieces around until every fits and is stable.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Awwww Sheeeeeeeyit!

That's what goes through your mind as you're flying off the road into a snow bank. It happens to everyone at least once at some point or another... some people are lucky enough not to have it happen often or in any dangerous spots.

Me? Well, I'm lucky -- both in a bad way and a good way.

On my way into Fairbanks at dawn yesterday, the roads were a bit slick because it has been a little warm and we had thaw/freeze ice in some parts. I was already driving slowly when I came around a blind curve and almost ran smack into a grizzly bear in the middle of the road. Luckily for both of us, there was a patch of ice right there and I skidded off into a ditch on the shoulder instead of plowing into Mr. Bear.  He took off into the woods and I managed to muscle my way out of the ditch with judicious use of 4WD and forward-reverse rocking.

The Weather Liars, well LIED, again, as usual. Those light intermittent snow flurries were neither light or intermittent; but I was already half-way to Fairbanks and we really needed to pick up G's asthma meds (I am really getting PO'd at the pharmacy right now!) so I continued onward. Ok, so the snow lightened up closer to town and it was pretty warm when I got there... so maybe there was hope.

Haha - NOPE. About an hour through my combat shopping it started to snow in Fairbanks... hard. So I powered through the rest of the mandatory shopping and beat it out of town. The plows were running on the main part of Elliott Hwy, so that looked promising. Unfortunately, the truckers going to and from the oil fields don't care about the plows, and one nearly creamed me since he'd swung out into the oncoming lane to plass the plow at a not-so-ideal stretch of the road. OK - no worries, crisis averted there.

But, the plows hadn't made it to the unpaved portion of the Elliott and it had evidentally been snowing all day... and it was starting to snow even harder. Great... this was going to be a long, slow trip. So, I'm tooling along at maybe 30 (tops), taking it nice and easy on the curves and hills, when all sudden, for no obvious reason whatsoever, Sonja decides that she just really wants to go left right now. So, wham, there we go right off the road, into the ditch with snow up past the runner boards. To make matters worse, there was a ledge about 3 feet away with a medium drop-off. I probably wouldn't die if I went off that ledge, but I definitely would roll the truck and then slide down the rest of the hill. So, I tried a little 4WD rocking... no dice, she was totally dug in and my efforts were making her creep slowly toward the ledge. All the trees that were strong enough for me to winch myself out with were down hill. Great, time to start shoveling and hope someone came by soon.

And, of course, guess what I'd taken out of the truck and forgotten to put back in... you guessed it, the shovel. Not to be paralyzed by such a monumental screw up, I started digging by hand with a tupperware bowl. About 30 minutes later some folks from Minto came past and we started digging her out properly with their shovels. About 10 minutes later, my neighbor's uncle and cousin came past and they decided to try and tug me out with our tug straps. So, we tried tugging me backward downhill. Ewwww... no dice! That just put me even closer to the ledge since the tires were dug in so deep I couldn't turn the wheel, and there was enough resistance that he was starting to skid all over the road behind me. So, back to digging.

And they wouldn't let me help :(  I don't know if it was because I was a girl, or that I appear so small and frail, or because I'm a Cheechako, or just because I was the one in trouble. Watching other people work on my behalf while refusing to let me help really makes me feel bad. But we did eventually get her dug out and back on the road. Since I'd just come from shopping, I offered them whatever groceries they might want from the bounty in thanks for their help... but only a couple accepted a drink. Gosh, now I really felt bad.

I made it home, driving even slower since it was snowing even harder. And that's when I fell apart for a few seconds... because even where I was, I could really have died going off the road like that. If I'd gone off just another half-mile up the road, I would have been where there was almost no shoulder and gone off down a very steep drop-off that would really have punched my ticket. Sometimes being able to remain totally calm and methodically detached during an emergency situation has it's drawbacks... total emotional and adrenal meltdown once you're safe and the crisis is over.

Needless to say, I'm not driving into Fairbanks again until after Breakup. I'll break the law and illegally mail order G's meds if I have to... I'm NOT going through that drive again!  And, next year, I'm just going to seriously stock up on everything, get his meds sorted out, and plan not to go into town at all between October and April (which was the original plan before getting the dog and having issues with the pharmacy).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oh My Aching Head

It's definitely spring... Alaska spring.  That Chinook which brought us a week of warm weather blew itself out and the temps dropped, but now it's warming up again slightly and we got some more snow. Rapidly shifting weather is a sure sign of spring. Figure we'll start seeing some real melt in a few more weeks. We'll need to make a trip in Fairbanks to stock up for Mud Season before Breakup makes the roads horrible... lucky for me that it's Gungnir's turn to go mwuahahahaha.  Of course, I shouldn't gloat since I'm going to have to go in to get our taxes done before deadline... man, will I be glad when all that nonsense is settled and there isn't anything seriously complicated with our tax situation anymore so I can easily do them myself again without assistance! With any luck, 2009 & 2010 will be the last complicated returns we have to file and after that Uncle Sugar won't be reaching quite as deeply in our pockets anymore.

Of course, the wonky weather is playing hell with our sinuses and we got the obligatory spring head cold. True to form, G-man got it hard and early since he's more prone to sinus issues; and I've got it milder and longer since my problem area is my gut (I normally get knocked down in the fall with tummy bugs instead). We're not laid up, just seriously dragging and lacking motivation.  I kinda wish that I could just get it bad so it would go away, cuz this lingering nonsense just makes me feel craptastic but not really bad enough to justify not working and huddling up in bed instead. Nothing like cutting trail and hauling firewood in the cold and wind when it feels like someone is kicking you repeatedly in the face with golf cleats! Blech! I forgot about this part of Alaska spring ;)

Brings to mind an episode of "Northern Exposure" when everyone is telling Doc Joel that he's going to get Glacier Fever and he says it's utter nonsense because there is no such ailment. And then he gets laid up sick and has to take their advice. I seriously think there is something to that. I've moved around so many times I've almost lost count, and getting used to Alaska comes with way more "acclimation illness" than any other place I've been. I think there is something else to contend with here besides getting used to different bugs and beasties in a new location and climate... like the land itself is testing your mettle and constitution. If you can survive and thrive your first year, then you're pretty much set LOL.

A friend in the village reminded us again that the true definition of a "Sourdough" is someone who's sour on Alaska but doesn't have enough dough to leave.  Well, I guess that means that we're not sourdoughs, even if we did make it through our first winter in a wall tent, cuz we still aren't sour on Alaska and have no plans to leave. Gladys, the village matron, says we must have been born Alaskans at heart since we aren't crippled by the cold and didn't come running for the warmth and convenience of the rental cabin even when it got down to -47F.  And I gotta admit, it feels good to get a vote of confidence from an old-timer. Seems we surprised everyone by lasting out here like we did and not coming into the village or running off to Fairbanks... hope no one lost any significant money on the betting pool, and that at least one person bet we'd make it :)