Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Step Out On the Dance Floor

The rain quit for a week and I got the floor joists installed, and today finished nailing down most of the subfloor. I estimate we are half way to having the cabin "dry", that is, able to keep the rain out so we can work under cover. We have come a long way in six weeks.
We finally got the trailer moved to the property so we could unload the building supplies. We lived in the small forward portion for over two months. I'm a bit tired from unloading 4000 lbs of building materials from the 5er by myself, and hoisting 2000 lbs of plywood flooring onto the joists as well.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

Two full days were needed to dismantle forms and get the pieces back to their rightful owners. Then two days ago it started to rain and hasn't stopped since. The temperature is in the low 60s, nice for working. I need to wear rain gear and rubber boots. I can't complain. We have had excellent weather since we got here. And the rain is needed.

People who summer here started migrating in a little over a week ago. The variety is surprising. Folks from Kentucky, Arkansas, Washington, and even Holland. With the influx the wildlife seems to have disappeared. I haven't seen moose or even tracks in a week now. No bear sign either. I suspect when people come with their dogs the wild animals head out of town.

Gustavus tow truck.
Who would have thought we'd see this going down the street in the boondocks of this "off the road grid" Alaska town. It's a forklift moving that vintage VW bus. I inquired about the bus. It was the owners original car when he and his wife first got married and he hopes to restore it some day. It still has the original curtins. In the process we got a dinner invite from the owner for tomorrow night. That's Gustavus.

We saw the temps in the lower 48 states in a newspaper today so are enjoying even the rain.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Whistling in the Dark

A bit more progress. We have the stem walls pretty much formed and hope to pour the second batch of concrete in a few days.

At the risk of making all the offspring paranoid about allowing the grandkids to come up for the summer......

Each morning when I drive onto the property I look for evidence of what has traversed there since I departed. Some mornings I see strange tire tracks; local folks checking out the progress. Moose tracks are common every few days. Yesterday morning I saw some different looking prints and got out to investigate. Dropping to one knee I observed black bear tracks. After a quick look around to make sure ursa major wasn’t still in the vicinity I proceeded back to the truck and got a camera and tape measure. The rear prints measured over nine inches long, claw to heel. A neighbor was intrigued by the size too. He said they were probably made by a very large black bear as the brown/grizzly bears seldom come down toward town. He tells me moose especially like the area where we are building, and they often see the same moose year after year. (I can’t tell the difference.)

Wolves are elusive. Occasionally they are heard, but almost never seen. Three times recently wolves have taken down moose calves on the outskirts of town or within earshot in the National Park. Realize town is not like a typical city block. There can be dense forest for hundreds of yards between dwellings. The local wolf exposure sequence goes like this: Residents hear wolves howl their eerie call from several directions. Then the sound concentrates on a single location and the crashing of a fight, finally ending in silence. A day or two later, when someone ventures out to see what happened, they find a dead prey. This time of year the victim is usually a moose calf. Moose often give birth to twins but it is not unusual for only one to survive because the adult can only protect one calf at a time. Such is the wilderness saga.

When we first arrived Paulette had a cautious fear about remote Alaska. One can easily get the impression there is a bear behind every tree and a moose around every corner. Then one sees kids playing and riding bikes like anywhere else in the lower 49 states. Gradually the coexistence of wild and human is realized. Paulette actually walked several blocks up a forest road to get water the other day while I was away working on the cabin.

Finally, I wear an old set of pants for work, and another newer pair for relaxing. Yesterday I wore a second set of work pants so Paulette decided to wash the first, not realizing my wallet was in the cargo pocket. Nuts. My wallet doubles as a file cabinet for important phone numbers.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bullwinkle and Son

Observation: You know you are reading a small town newspaper when the obituaries are on page 2.

We hadn’t seen any moose in a week and thought they had perhaps headed for the high country for the summer. When I got to the property this morning I found a large moose track only six feet from the foundation forms. I walked to the river talking on my cell phone and saw a brown blob on the other side in the tall grass. It was a reclining moose. I stayed still hoping to observe, but she had already seen me. After a minute she stood up and to my surprise a small calf did too. The calf couldn’t have been more than about a week old. They wandered away in the opposite direction. I was tickled to see them at less than 100 feet.

We (three volunteers and myself) did the first pour of concrete this morning and Paulette came by in the afternoon with Liz. I took them to the river and was talking about the cow and calf moose when Liz said, “There’s another one!” Sure enough, a young bull walked into the river. He knew we were there but came towards us walking in the river anyway. Then Mr Moose did an about-face and trotted away. I saw him later in the neighbors yard. Then in the evening we saw the cow and calf again in the same place, only this time Hawkeye saw them first.

When we first started this project I had a question-slogan: How do you eat an elephant? Ans. One bite at a time. That is what I attempt to do. I try to do something, make some progress, every day. Sometimes it is small progress. Other days I feel a lot of accomplishment. A kidney stone slowed me down for three days last weekend. I haven’t passed it but am back to only twinges. I am grateful for mostly good health and the neighborly advise, and counsel on how to build here.

Gustavus Hood Ornament

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Helter Skelter in Gustavus

I cut some of the big logs into rollers and we sometimes sit and relax by the river in the evening.

Getting the foundation square and level.

Our next door neighbor Ernie milling some 2x4 on his saw mill for me.

Animal story: A neighbor had guests sleeping in two-man tents on her deck. In the morning a moose decided to investigate. The college age guys got a surprise when they poked their heads out the tent door. There stood the inquisitive moose. Fortunately they were elevated enough so the moose just looked at them and did not attempt to climb up on the deck. They slept in the house after that. And we hear reports of a mother black bear and two small cubs in the area where we are building. But so far no personal sighting. I saw my first fisherman on the river. I walked to the bank and talked briefly to him. He had a few fish, the biggest an eighteen inch cutthroat trout. And informed me his son caught a steelhead the previous day.
The first portion of lumber came so I started building the foundation forms. I procured rebar locally. It was left over from the power plant construction and I got a great deal. Plus no freight to get the rebar here. I am adjusting to the freight costs mentally. I chaffed at them at first looking for alternatives. But have come to see the transportation fees are part of living here. On the other hand I am trying to persuade Paulette of the necessity of eventually getting a boat so we can get ourselves to Juneau and shop. ;-)

Gustavus Fund-Rasier: I stopped at a lemonade stand run by three kids, ages about seven. I asked how much for lemonade. They said five cents. I bought a glass but realized I didn’t have any cash. To that the kids responded that the lemonade was free. I smiled inside that these kids had a giving attitude, and dug into the ashtray until I found some change. I asked what they were going to do with the money. One said, “We are going to donate it to Gospel for Asia.” I bought a second glass and took Paulette back too.
Gustavus Traffic: There are more cars than I remember from previous visits. Also a good number of bicycles and quads. Tomorrow is Paulette’s birthday and I decided to get her a bicycle. She is elated about the idea as many of her aquaintances ride around on bikes to visit each other.
Gustavus Weed Control: On the way to the post office I saw a guy riding his personal residential mower to cut weeds alongside the road. He could only do about a 30 inch swath. But he seemed to be riding in style doing his part for the upkeep of the community. That’s the way things seem to go here. Taxes are low because they don’t have public workers and many do upkeep themselves.

Gustavus Stop Sign: Most of the stop signs are regulation red and white octagons. A few are small old hand made wood signs.

Gustavus reminds me of what small town America 60 years ago must have been like. Many have a cart before the horse attitude. Yesterday we got power to the lot. The project was a big deal with a trencher and a lot of underground cable. The next day one of the installers asked if I could go into the office and do the protocol for service. I enjoyed that. They already gave me power and then asked me to come and give them billing info, deposit, etc. Plus the well driller augered and installed the well casing without any deposit or contract from me. After two weeks I still don’t have a bill from him. He is waiting on a simple switch to finish the installation.
One evening Paulette was using free internet while parked outside the closed library with no one else around. I decided to walk up to the post office and check the mail. When I was about 200 yards away I heard another car pull in the gravel and park beside her. That time of day in California I would have been concerned about not being with her and her safety, but not in Gustavus. I proceeded to the Post Office.

We are not quite locals. This is a copy of the Gustavus phone book (one page). They only publish once a year so it will be a whole year until we are included in the listings.