Ready for Winter and a string of bad luck

These past few months have been full of various trials with our vehicles. Our cars have reached that age in which we have to choose to repair them or sell them. It seems like nothing is going right, but despite all that has happened, I am grateful for my wife, son, our homestead, and the life we have.

May you find some time today to enjoy the people and home you are thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Snow Throwing the Roof & Wife’s Surprise

Our derelict cabin left by the original owners of our property has been slowly disintegrating with each winter.  One section almost collapsed, and in the past, I did a video in which I hand shoveled the roof to prevent the cabins creaking demise.  It was hard work, and I couldn’t physically do it again without wreaking havoc to my body.  We bought the smallest and cheapest snow thrower to get the job done.

I cannot emphasize the importance on knowing how to create the correct pitch roof for the trusses and the span that the home is designed.  We had our trusses for our home professionally engineered and delivered to our home site.  The company used a crane to place them on top of the walls, and we walked them to the correct location and nailed them in place.  We designed a 6/12 roof pitch to easily shed snow during the winter and give us the most peace of mind.  What I will do for the barn shop this summer is still in the air.  I have not decided as of yet if I will build the trusses myself or if I will hire it out.

When I finished snow throwing the roof of the derelict cabin.  My body was still pretty beat, but to my surprise my wife had been baking a special dish for me.  The  surprise my wife made for us is located at time index 06:22 in the video.

To learn how to start a stalled snow thrower without pulling the starter cord to the point of feeling your arm fall off, See time index: 04:30

Thanks for following our journey as we battle the elements in snow country.  We are still many inches of white slushy snow before we will see dirt again, but from what I hear, spring is just around the corner, somewhere.

Snowplow Success!

This is my final post on the snowplow this year.  It has been a battle with the carburetor, battery and electrical system, as well as a replacement of the entire pump and motor assembly.  I am happy to say the snowplow truck functioned the entire season without a major break down unlike the 1st and 2nd season of ownership.  I was not only able to plow our quarter of a mile easement, but also the lower portion of the private maintained road we live on.  I was able to add a third plow truck to the road and ease the burden on the 2 gentlemen who have maintained it, one for the past 20 years and the other for the past 10.

For the first time, my wife and I did not have to rely on the kindness of our neighbors or Craftsman snow thrower to be able to leave the property after a major snow storm.  It still takes about 3 -4 hours to clean up our property, driveway, easement, and road using the snowplow. On the plus side, I’m able to sit in the warm cab of the truck listening to music as I run the course, which is far better than walking behind a snow blower for a 1/4 of a mile.

In this episode, I hook up the plow to the mount on the truck and also remove the old hydraulic fluid from the power angling cylinders.  I discuss some of the issues we’ve had with the plow truck that I haven’t shared before, and  I celebrate by using it during one of our snow storms.

One thing not mentioned is that our area is having the warmest January on record.  When we first moved here eight years ago, a typical high in January was in the single digits, now we are seeing 40 degrees F easy on most days.  This warm system has caused much havoc on melting snow and slush on the back roads.  If we didn’t have the plow truck running this year, we would be in serious trouble getting in and out of the property.  Our 4×4 Suburban on worst days, gets me out to work, but without the plow truck I could even have issues on high melts days if the road was not at least cleared.  If you are thinking about locating in snow country, you need to consider your snow removal system and cheap these days does not equate effective.  So, if you have a plow truck you know exactly what I am talking about, and if you don’t, you should before you buy one.  And, if you don’t live in snow, count your blessings and enjoy our adventures.

Did I forget to mention the plow truck’s oil leak?

Man vs. Snowplow (Season 3, Episode 2)

For those who have watched the war wage on between me and my used snowplow, this is perhaps the armistice between us.  This year, I did not mess around with the motor and pump assembly.  I purchased a “new” rebuilt Meyer E47 standard assembly.  This has made a world of difference.  The plow system is functioning at the best level I have ever seen it.  The plow truck has already removed quite a bit of snow and has allowed us to be more independent and not rely on our neighbors to be able leave our property.  Even though the truck still has some electrical and mechanical issues, it still runs well enough to remove the snow.

My wife and I for the first time since we bought this snowplow truck feel we may make it through an entire season without it breaking down.  However, there are still several issues that need to be resolved before next year.  The main issue is the dramatic oil leak in which to run the truck means adding almost 2 quarts of oil each time.  The other issue is the mythical gremlin that causes the dashboard, roof, and backup lights to pulse on and off without any warning of why or when they will return.  This has made night driving very difficult and a couple times, I had to just park it and begin again in the morning.  The other issue is the mysterious floating gas tank that likes to shift from side to side.  I may drop the tank and start over with a new tank because the neck of it will not accept a gas nozzle without spilling gas when filling at half speed or above.  The other issue is the hubs on the full wheel drive.  The truck is permanently in 4-wheel drive and this will need to be fixed eventually.  Also the truck’s gas gauge doesn’t work and the engine has died so often, I do not know if it is out of gas or if the gremlin is also wreaking havoc in the coil or distributor system.

That is our plow truck’s dirty laundry list of problems that still need to be worked out and hopefully the truck will not implode before the end of this season.  Creating a priority list, I have decided the engine leak, 4-wheel drive, and electrical systems are top priority.  The gas tank though difficult to work with still functions.  I will probably hire out the oil leak and 4-wheel drive system while I chase down the electrical problems and rewire the entire truck if I must.

Snow Storm Hits and the Solar Panels Quit

During the winter gray skies and snow defeat our solar panels’ power production.  This is the time of year we rely heavily upon our backup generator once the battery bank is spent. Removing snow from the panels, isn’t too bad, but if left undone it can become a real problem if the snow melts into a thick slush and freezes solid on the panels.  I have the panels tilted to the steepest pitch possible for the winter months, which helps remove the snow when it warns up enough for it to begin to melt.  However, because it takes a lot of effort to adjust them each season, I leave them at the winter pitch all year.  My power production is fine enough during the spring, summer, and fall months even at the winter pitch year round.

The snow storm was severe enough to knock several trees over.  Many people were without power for the next 24 plus hours.  Even though we weren’t producing power from our solar panels, we had enough stored power in our battery bank to ride us through.  We did not realize our area had lost power until our son was excused from school the next day because the school was without power.  It is moments like these that being off the grid is really nice. We don’t have to wait until power crews can find the time in the outage to bring our street’s power back on.  We are no longer a number on someone else’s priority list.


Why Live Off the Grid?

The two main reasons we began to consider living off the grid were the constant rise in the cost of electricity and the storms that seemed to knock out our service each year.

Living off grid didn’t start to become an option until we lived on the Oregon Coast and lived through the Great Coastal Gale of 2007.  Our home was fine, but we were left without utility service for about a week.  Our frustration mounted as we saw the rest or our town below us gain power only to be left without power and water for another day and a half because the municipality thought no one lived on our hill, as if we were all vacation homes.  So, why bother checking, just forgo delivering power.  Another full-time local on our hill set the town and utility company straight, but the experience left me a little distrustful of the people running things.  Even if we had a back up generator at the time, we still would not have fresh running water due to the pump station was beyond our legal grasp to supply power.

The real shift to getting us to consider living off the grid was the electric company’s constant rate increases.  It felt like we were being drained of what little money we had left at the end of the month.  With the rising cost of property taxes, water, insurance, gas prices, inflation in the grocery store, my wife and I saw what little savings we had at the end of the month rapidly disappearing.  We were one emergency crisis away from losing it all.  If the car died or a major house repair was needed, we would not be able to make our payments or we would have to ration the food.  This really got me thinking that we needed take back control of our expenditures on utilities.  We needed to find a way in which we could control our bills.  Going off grid seemed like a feasible solution to taking back financial control from these entities that taxed citizens into oblivion to justify their jobs.  Sorry, but it was a bitter pill to swallow to see everything we worked so hard for disappear because of rate increases during a recession.

When we bought our property in Idaho after selling our house on the coast, we knew we would be living off grid.  We had no desire to live on the grid anymore.  When control over our utilities were in our hands and our off grid system was installed, we only had one power outage.  It was quickly remedied in 15 minutes and life went on as usual.  However, we have seen several storms since we moved to North Idaho, and the area at large has lost power several times.  We would never have known it unless our neighbors called to tell us, the lights and stores are dark when we enter town, or when I go to work, the students I teach tell me about it.  I now access the utility company’s website in which I can see the outage map for the local electrical grid. When friends call on their cell phones during their outage, I give them a report of their situation all from the comfort of my well lit home while watching a movie.

What is the worst storm you have been in that knocked your power out?  Describe how you managed.

S’more Indoor

During the summer months, there is nothing like sitting outside surrounded by tiki torches with a fire in the center to roast all beef hot dogs for dinner and marshmallows for dessert.  As the hour gets later and the sun sets, the treetops are softly lit by the glow of the fire.  Our son is quietly put to bed, and my wife and I swing gently on the hammock counting each star or planet as it begins to first appear in the sky.

Enjoying the moment… Relaxing by a campfire by extending our home into our backyard.

It’s a wonderful feeling hearing the transition of the diurnal animal sounds being replaced by the nocturnal.  After a hard day’s work, the reward is to lay in a hammock and allow your muscles to relax.  The fire is blazing from all the scrap wood and branches from the day’s firewood gathering.  My wife and I swing slightly in the hammock with a blanket across our battle scared legs from hiking in the brush.  The temperature is dropping rapidly without the sun overhead.  Dusk is shifting into night.  The sky is so clear at times we can see the occasional shooting star, the big dipper, and even the Milky Way across the roof of our known night sky. The bats begin to dart about us overhead, taking the mosquitoes that attempt to plague us for their dinner.  My wife’s natural bug repellent a mixture of citronella, rosemary, and lavender keep the biting bugs at bay.  This is our outdoor family room in the summer as we expand from the confines of our home to wide-open spaces.

So, as seen in the video below, this discussion did happen. We are depressed that fire restrictions have put a damper on our outdoor family room this entire month of August.  The fire pit remains dark, the tiki torches are no longer flickering, and the glow of the fire has given way to the glow of a night television.  My wife has included into her candle line a candle called “Toasted Marshmallow”, which smells exactly like its namesake.  We realized others during the fire restrictions are probably feeling their summers cut short as well, so we wanted to share our humor and solution to having a s’more safely despite restrictions.  The smell of the candle and the marshmallow actually roasting over it was very appealing.  We used our favorite chocolate for the event, Endangered Species natural dark chocolate with espresso beans ground up and mixed in.  Delicious.

Have you ever? … Roasted a marshmallow over a toasted marshmallow candle?

We hope you enjoy our solution of bringing the outdoors indoors with a roasted s’more for dessert.  By having two candles, there was no waiting for one person or trying to rush for the other.  We decided to place the “Toasted Marshmallow” candle on sale on our online store, Pauper’s Candles Company; 2 candles for $20, so a couple or friends could enjoy the experience at their own pace.

Let us know how it turns out when you try it.