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 :)


Anonymous said...

Cool, it sound like you all are moving right along...

Try coffee grounds for the ants. We use to use them in NM for the fire ants and the little flying black ones. Just put the wet grounds where you dont want them. See if they stay away like the rest did.


Anonymous said...


"Progress" can seem, uh, relative, but you guys are making it. It literally takes years & years-I know... Maybe try oatmeal for the ants. Works for me here in PA. Takes a few days until they pack in and eat the dry flakes, then...well, it works... -Dave in PA

Plickety Cat said...

A line of coffee grounds and tobacco dust along the threshold seems to keeping the ants out of the house for the time being. We have one organic spray that is stinky made from a bunch of essential oils (rosemary, calendula, etc) that appears to fry their brains immediately on contact and confuse the scent trail for a few hours.

So far, we haven't been able to find the nest. Maybe once we finish the additional clearing we'll uncover it and I can blast it with boiling water and tobacco tea.

BSV said...

Fish steamer. I have been thinking about the fish steamer since you posted that message. I can't picture it, try as I might. So please give me a little help in visualizing a fish steamer as a sink and vanity in a tiny WC.

You mentioned a couple of years ago in a private message that the two of you are "pretty resourceful." I would say that is a mild understatement.

What a pair you are! I hope you have achieved the happiness and contentment that you were seeking when you left what passes for civilization and moved off-grid.

You're pretty busy these days, but let me assure you (based on my extensive reading) that the world is still heading toward a crash and burn scenario -- a scenario that should affect the two of you far less than those of us in the Lower 48.

Your blog is very interesting and I'm so glad that you are posting more frequently these days.


Plickety Cat said...

So, we found a fish steamer/poacher that's about 18" long, 6" wide, and 6" deep. Since the return on the bathroom door is only 7", that's perfect. We drilled a hole in the bottom of the pan at one end and threaded a standard sink drain through it and the top of the small "vanity" cabinet we made from some 1x6 lumber. A tiny little wedge on the non-drain end helps guide the water down the drain.

So, its basically a wide and narrow vessel sink with the drain and faucet at one end. It's actually pretty handy because you can fit your whole arm from finger-tips to elbow in the sink for a good scrub and rinse.

We're still fiddling with the idea of cutting the handles off and dropping the pan down into the counter instead of having it as a vessel sink sitting on the counter. Such is the bonus of building and fabricating things for yourself... don't like it or think it needs improvement, you can just fiddle and fix it ;)