Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Waking up with the fishies

OK I lied, it wasn't fishies, it was a bear.

So to relate the whole event, I was tucked up in bed, when I heard Ripley go completely nuclear. I thought she was going to go shooting through the door.

Anyway up we both pop, awake from slumber, Plick is a little quicker off the mark and goes to check on the dog, then says "BEAR!" so I take a peek out the upstairs window. Yup it's a bear alrighty, quite a largeish Blackie, he's taking a look and probably in the market for munchies.

Well I'm hearing the dog still barking like a thing that barks a lot, so's the bear. He walks forward a ways then back, then makes a stumbling run back, then stops facing east on two front paws, and one hind paw, the other doing some kind of ankle cross. Well during this I'm grabbing for my rifle thinking of a bear filet, and Plicks trying for the camera (note the priorities). Well thats when he moves forwards and is parallel with our 4 wheeler, he was about the same size too, maybe less broad, but same height and length. I cracked the window to take out the screen, and he bolted.

I blame the ant bait we put down, smells great, but obviously that can be a problem out here. Now it's time to go check on the neighbors place and dog, we haven't seen them in a few days, but they could just be away, or we just haven't seen them.

Well it's not everyone who can say they were woken up by a bear this morning, and at the same time feel good they weren't still living in a wall tent. Speaking of which that needs a check too.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Nearly 3 years and we finally have cold-n-cold running water ON TAP in both the kitchen and bathroom SINKS.

We filled up the big tank with 25 gallons (the minimum) and are leaving it to test the PEX lines and junctions for leaks... so far, so good. We barely have 2.5 psi of water pressure with virtually no head (maybe 6' of fall), but once we add the remaining 175 gallons that will add another 3' of head and get us closer to 4 psi.

I don't care that it's room temperature and won't blast out of the faucet... I don't have to wash my hands with a jug and basin or do dishes in a tub anymore, and that's just FREAKIN' AWESOME!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Very Unfortunate Allergy

Well, it appears as if G-man has developed a sensitivity to spruce. His asthma has been a bit rough the past few weeks and he's been sneezing up a storm. Turns out that the spruce is pollinating right now. Then, yesterday, he was working with our firewood and his whole arm swelled up and got super itchy rashy. So, it looks like he has a sensitivity/allergy to the pollen AND the sap... BUMMER since 90% of our 80 acres is covered in either black or white spruce (we are in the Boreal Forest after all).

The pollen respiratory reaction doesn't seem to be particularly severe as far as that sort of rhino-sinus allergy goes, but the sap dermatitis reaction was pretty intense. We're hoping that this reaction was so severe because he was actually scraped fairly deep with bark a couple times, allowing the sap to actually get into the skin, and it wasn't just simply handling the wood. Time will tell, but he's going to have to process firewood with long sleeves and gloves from now on, or else it's going to be another chore that I have to do alone when our Benadryl and Cortisone supply is low :(

Can I say again how thankful I am that I only have a couple mild allergies/sensitivities and they are primarily ingested foods or direct chemical exposures. Those are way easier to avoid and manage than environmental/airborne plant and animal allergies. Poor G :(

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mud, Carpenter Ants and Storage

So far, this spring has been the least muddy since our arrival. Although we had a ton of snow which melted really fast, most areas drained and dried up within the last few weeks with all the sun and wind. Unfortunately, there are still some really nasty boggy spots on the main trail, our driveway, and the clearing where we had the tent. We've left the truck up at the road** and settle for getting pelted with mud and melt hauling back and forth on the ATV. Everything we own is covered in fine mud dust, you just can't stay clean in the bush. With any luck, the rest of the bad spots will dry and firm up enough to start driving the truck back again soon.

**Our neighbors got their truck stuck up to the hubs on the way back out, about 2/3 up the trail. We tried jacking it up with the hi-lift and jamming logs under the wheels, but since there is no bottom to the mud, everything just kept sinking again and again... including us -- YIKES! A friend of theirs drove down (over 3 questionable areas) and attempted to winch them out, and then to jerk them out... no dice, she was stuck good and the tow vehicle was just spinning in the mud. Eventually, they got a dozer from the Village Council to come extract them... no small feat since it's evident from the huge tractor ruts now torn out down the trail that the dozer was at serious risk of sinking as well. In any case, they're out now, but the poor trail is in bad shape.

The mosquitoes took no time reestablishing their bloodsucking horde, so it's been a thrill working outside for any long periods. I think we're anemic LOL. And the carpenter ants are back in full force. I'm loathe to use insecticides, but our house and lumber are at risk... you'd think with 80 acres of forest, the little buggers would have plenty of lovely places to eat and nest besides our house!! So, I've put down some organic mosquito pellets (Bt bacteria that targets the developing nymphs), and some non-organic ant bait and perimeter powder. At least with the bait spikes and powder, I can apply directly to the tops of our piers and right under the lumber stacks and minimize the risk of Ripley getting into any of the poison. Sigh -- I wish the organic ant powders had worked. We'll be doing extensive FireWise clearing around the house soon, so hopefully this will further eliminate any stumps and debris near the house that's keeping them nearby and a nuisance.

We finally gave up trying to mud and paint before building the interior storage spaces we desperately need. So, we forged ahead and banged out the pantry shelving and built all the cabinetry and shelving for the "bathroom" - including a new loo cabinet for our poo bucket with a separate urinal. We fabricated the urinal basin from a steel mixing bowl and a sink drain assembly, and it's nice to finally have a proper toilet seat again (if only so the male members of the house can enjoy leaving it up). Since the space is so narrow under the stairs, we couldn't fit in a conventional vanity and sink, so we ended up devising one out of a fish steamer. Once we get the kitchen plumbed, it will be nice to finally fill up the 200 gallon water tank in the loft and have running water again! All the wiring on that circuit is done, with the exception of hanging the light in the staircase, so it won't be long before we can hook up the trunk line to the breaker box and see were I screwed up wiring any of the switches and outlets :D

Next on the list is adjusting the kitchen base cabinets, installing the backsplash, and (finally!) dropping in the double sink and plumbing the faucet. Since we've decided to get a small propane range to supplement the woodstove in the warmer months, we'll be rearranging the cabinets so that the 24" one is on the end and we can tuck the propane bottle in it during the winter when it's too cold to have it outside (yes, it does routinely get too cold for propane to flow in Dec/Jan). The last bit of that wall will have a custom built baker's rack-type thingy since we discovered that storing cast iron skillets and dutch ovens inside a cabinet was sub-optimal. The new rack will have individual cubbies for each piece (no stacking) and be lined with silicone mats so we can put them up hot if necessary. The baker's rack will also give us some additional space to put a very small microwave for quick warm ups, since the electricity (and generator fuel) for that operation is actually cheaper than firing up the propane stove every time we need to reheat our coffee... the insulated steel airpot carafe keeps it warm enough to be passably drinkable for several hours, but not warm enough to melt the creamer -- PITA.

All the finishing touches and prettifying will just have to wait. As will the garden. This summer we really have to focus on getting all the plumbing and electrical hooked up, FireWise clearing around the cabin, getting the porches built so we can finish the roof properly, and getting sheds & exterior storage in place... and, of course, laying in firewood. Safe, secure and operational is more important than aesthetics at this point (although it pains me sometimes). With any luck, all this new storage will allow me to properly unpack and organize all the crap we just dumped inside the cabin when we moved down from the tent... AND I can find the adapter doohickey for the camera so I can get pictures on here for ya'll :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ice jams & local flooding

Last week an ice jam on the Tanana River flooded the nearby village of Manley Hot Springs where we pick up our mail and get fuel. In addition to raising water levels in the local creeks and slough to overflowing, the flood water also threatened the community airstrip (no mail) and the fuel pumps at the Trading Post, and contaminated several people's private wells (the public well appears unaffected though). Since outhouses and pit latrines are fairly common, I'm sure there were quite a few waste-related issues that didn't get mentioned in the news. The floodwaters have receded, but the creeks and slough are still swollen.

The flooding had one positive affect, though, the creation of many small ponds attracting migratory birds and waterfowl coinciding with the season opening in our game management unit. Several residents who rely on subsistence hunting got an easier meal than usual when their front yards became lakes and the ducks and geese flew in.

We've yet to determine what impact the flooding will have on the small commercial and subsistence fishermen, with runs due to start on the river and in local creeks in the next couple of weeks. ADF&G Division of Commercial Fisheries (which also govern subsistence fishing) have issued no advisories specific to the flooding, although the 2012 Outlook Report for the Lower Yukon (including the Tanana) states subsistence fishing on the first pulse of the spring chinook salmon run has been suspended and may be suspended entirely if the run strength is low, leaving many subsistence fishermen relying heavily on the summer chum and fall coho runs. The Chinook bag limit for sport fishing (including personal, non-subsistence, fishing) has also been reduced from 3 to 1 fish daily on the Yukon tributaries (none allowed from the Yukon proper), but this does not include the Tanana or its tributaries yet.

However, on a positive note... extensive sunshine and stronger than normal winds have done wonders for our little neck of the woods and most areas are drying out quite nicely. The majority of our area was unaffected by the ice jam, with only low lying areas filling up when the creeks rose and meltwaters couldn't drain. Unfortunately, areas in deep shade or on muskeg (like our main trail!!) are not drying or draining as well as the surrounding areas and continue to pose problems with access. But at least we aren't swamped everywhere and the wind is keeping the mosquitoes down. We'll see what transpires as we enter fire season.