Bucking Challenge: Electric v. Gas

I have wanted an electric chainsaw for a few years now, and when I was asked by my wife and son what I wanted for Father’s Day, I went with the Oregon CS1500.  The Oregon electric plugin chainsaw was one of the few chainsaws left out there that doesn’t use batteries.  I did not want a battery-operated chainsaw because who wants to wait an hour to recharge to work 20 minutes then wait another hour to recharge for another 20 minutes of work.  With the plugin, I can plug directly into my solar powered home and begin bucking wood for free, minus the need for bar oil.

In the video, I created a split screen and put myself side by side to make it appear I was racing myself in the challenge.  The Stihl was not warmed up, and had a slow start.  The Oregon electric just started and ran when I pulled the on trigger; however, it did not have the power the Stihl had.

I believe the electric chainsaw is a great option during the summer months when the solar panels create a lot of extra power.  Not having to buy gas or perform engine maintenance also helps with the decision to have one.  When looking at the cost, the MS 311 Stihl is $499.00 while the Oregon CS1500 was advertised at $99.00.  I will keep my Stihl for the deep forest work of collecting of firewood, but I will try and use my lighter Oregon electric whenever I can.

Will I drag the electric chainsaw into the forest connected to my tractor’s PTO generator?  I have thought about giving it a run just to see how it would perform, but the idea of hauling all the video equipment out to film it, doesn’t seem appealing when I want to just get the work done.  “The Bucking Challenge” video I created took an entire Saturday morning and afternoon to film and about another 10 hours of editing.

As I return home, an Appendix prepares to Leave.

At each stage of the journey… I would text the grandparents to update and be encouraged by their prayers for our son.

Off grid or on grid living; it makes no difference when troubles come.  I believe we are judged by those around us, whether we like it or not, on how we handle the obstacles we face in life.  What began as a series of posts to remember and share our vacation to the Medora Musical and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, became a test on how we handle adversity when it comes.  However, little did we know the greatest challenge was not the engine or being stranded, it was caring for our son’s emergency appendectomy less than a week later.

In the video, I wrap up my return from Columbus, MT.  I also share the cascade failure of events that occurred within moments of being home.  However, today, even as I type this post, the inverter has thrown a Low Battery code at the beginning of a beautiful, cloudless, summer morning.  This means our battery bank, is beginning to fade at an exponential rate and will most likely not last until late fall when we really rely on it. (Sigh).

Life is full of struggles and right now many of you who are reading this post or watching this video are facing struggles right now of your own.  You’re ready to throw your hands up in the air, like a bad rap song and stomp away from the mess.  Yet, there is no place you can escape to that doesn’t have troubles of its own.  I remember living a life riddled with student loan debt, a mortgage, we were one incident away from total financial collapse.  During that time, I would sift through realtor.com for hours looking for land I could build my off grid “palace” and be free of all the financial stress my mortgage and student loans brought me.  Now that the off grid dream has come to fruition, I still face troubles, just a different set of troubles.

Wherever you are, life will happen.  And, life is messy.  So, how can I encourage you today in the midst of this mess called life?  I can speak about how my faith in Jesus brings a peace through the midst of the storms of life. I can talk about stepping back from the moment while in it. Thinking through each circumstance, but then surrendering to the outcome, whatever it is.  I can talk about enjoying the part of life that the troubles have not touched directly, which could mean a free for all family water gun fight hours before an appendectomy.

I do know that I am tired, and I mean really tired.  I see so much discord in the world, and I wonder how much of it is people transferring their problems, anxieties, and issues onto others.  The world has enough trouble of its own for me to be adding to the quagmire of issues.  So, my car’s engine blew up. Compared to our son’s appendectomy, the car is meaningless.  I am in a cascade failure of events, and yet, I am strangely at peace with it.

Facing one problem at a time, and what is next will wait in line.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” 2nd Corinthians 1: 3-4

Marooned in Columbus

This is the moment of greatest tension in the story.  I had been marooned in Columbus, Montana for 3 days and this is the moment in which I find out if the car will be ready or if I will continue living in Columbus until another replacement engine could be found.

If the issue turns out to be a fuel injector, I will be sent on my way back to the homestead in a matter of a few hours.  If it turns out to be a bad engine cylinder, it could be a matter of weeks.

Diary of a Union Soldier. I had to wear white gloves to handle it to protect the pages. This diary entry is from over 154 years ago.

During my stay in Columbus, I toured the Museum of the Beartooths.  The museum has a lot to offer about the history of the area. The museum is very charming and inviting.  Since I had nothing to do, I asked the curator if I could volunteer at the museum for the next day.  The museum was kind and gracious and gave me a place to hang my hat for the day.  They also allowed me to white glove a diary of a union soldier from the Civil War, 1864. I can’t explain how thrilling it was to read a journal of a union soldier penned over 150 years ago.

If I had to stay, I would have made arrangements to assist the museum more or even volunteer at a few local churches if I could.  The place was already beginning to feel a lot like the movie Groundhog’s Day starring Bill Murray.  I was beginning to know the locals, their history, and relations in the community better than my own community back home.  One thing the museum taught me is that I need to look into my own community’s museum and begin to possibly volunteer there.  The amount of information available is staggering.

One thing for sure if you are ever on I-90, driving through Columbus, MT, be sure to stop at the free Museum of the Beartooths.  It will be worth the visit to stretch your legs while taking in the rich history of this community.


Junior Ranger Program Available at your National Park

Earning is Learning… Our son and his cousin learn about the Mt. St. Helens volcano.

A few years back, my wife and I were introduced to the Junior Ranger Program at the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  He took a Ranger class about the volcano at the outdoor amphitheater located at the Johnston Ridge Observatory.  The class was between 30 and 40 minutes and we, parents, took a short walk through the observatory and gift shop while our son and his cousin took the class.  The thing he enjoyed most was earning his Junior Forest Ranger Badge.

Our Lewis & Clark pose over looking the Painted Canyons in the Badlands, North Dakota

While at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, I asked the Ranger if they had a Junior Ranger program.  The park has a guide book of activities that the junior ranger must complete to earn their badge.  His age group must complete 8 activities to have a Ranger check their work to earn the Junior Ranger Badge.  It is not a difficult process, but it is one that keeps your child engaged in the National Park as your family tours the sights. Many of the factoids they learn enriches the park experience for everyone involved.

If you and your family visit a National Park this summer be sure to ask the Ranger about the free Junior Ranger program.

The Mysterious Enchanted Highway, North Dakota

On our trip to Medora and the North Dakota Badlands, we came across a strange and peculiar highway, the Enchanted Highway.  It’s one of those out of way places you have to see yourself to believe it.  The 6 metal monuments we saw are included in the video.  We, however, did not see the Geese in Flight maybe because of the recent land dispute, see link below.  The tour ended at a small town of Regent in which the artist had a visitors’ center and the artist has constructed a hotel, restaurant, and tavern out of the town’s old school in Regent, ND. Links included below.

Definitely worth a visit, and if we return, I would consider staying at the Enchanted Castle Hotel.

Learn more about the Enchanted Highway visit https://www.ndtourism.com/regent/attractions/enchanted-highway and http://enchantedcastlend.com/enchanted-highway/



Why we don’t visit campgrounds anymore. And, obstacles we face.

When you live off grid, the idea of heading to an established campground seems more like visiting an outdoor apartment complex in which there are a lot of people, noise, and nature gets in the way to the communal bathrooms.  My wife and I started to leave the campgrounds many years ago because it was no different than living in our apartment complex, minus the thin walls to block the sound of radios, televisions, drunks, and domestic disputes.  We found a book that took us on forest roads so far off the beaten path that it would be days to hike out if the vehicle became stranded.  We set up camp by beautiful flowing tributaries into the main rivers the campgrounds were located on. With plenty of supplies, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of nature all around us.  We waved to the other brave souls who had ventured out as far as we did and noticed they gave great space and distance to our site as we did others as we passed along our route.  On the way up to one of our favorite destinations, we would pass an out of the way private campground and hot spring, Silver Creek Plunge and my wife and I were amazed that anything this remote could sustain itself, but they have done very well due to its remoteness, amenities, and access to the beautiful Boise National Forest.

Doting on our son and enjoying our trip to North Dakota despite the obstacles we face.

On an unrelated side note.  My wife and I are celebrating our 24th anniversary today.  Since the breakdown of our vehicle many challenges and stress has been placed upon our marriage.  In the last two weeks let me list a few of the things we have been dealing with: Our son was admitted into the ER for an emergency appendectomy. He developed appendicitis Friday night and Saturday it was diagnosed and he was operated on later that day with an overnight observation till Sunday afternoon.  He is doing very well today, though mellow, but on the way to recovery. The minor challenges are the other car was acting up while I was waiting in Columbus, MT for the PT to be fixed, the home’s cistern pump gave out prematurely due to some defect and had to be replaced, my lower back gave out and I have been walking hunched and in pain for the past 3 days, my cell phone (208 area code) crashed and I lost all my  contacts (text me and state who you are, so I can re-enter you), our tractor loan office has lost one of our payments even though the check is cashed. We had one chicken die due to an infection after we tried to treat her, and another chicken developed bumble foot.  Also, my wife hasn’t been able to attend a farmer’s market in 4 weeks due to these circumstances.  We also cancelled our anniversary plans today to nurse our boy back to health, but all is not lost, I am making my wife a romantic dinner this evening after we tuck him into bed tonight.  Much thanks to our shop fund, which has got us through all this financially, but once again, our dream shop has been delayed. And, this all went down in one week’s time.  There’s an old saying when it rains, it pours.

I remember in college another week like this developed and another student in a men’s support group we started asked, how I can live in such dire circumstances.  I said, “Just like you, but I trust the grace of God to get me through.”  and that has been the truth of it ever since.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if our son developed appendicitis a week earlier while we were on vacation in the middle of the desolate stretch of Montana and North Dakota at the same time our car’s engine was blown.  I am so grateful that this list of disasters was all spread out, giving my wife and I time to meet each challenge head on.

“God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1st Corinthian 10:13