Friday, March 27, 2020

Life in Custer South Dakota

With a population of just under 2,000 people Custer South Dakota is the perfect place to ride out the craziness that is going on in the world right now. There one grocery store, 2 hardware stores, about 8 or so motels, a dozen restaurants/bars and even more shops that line both sides of Main Street. In the summer, the streets are lined with thousands and thousands of tourists taking in the local attractions but this time of year the streets are barren. Only 2 of those motels are open and ½ of those restaurants and shops are boarded up for the winter waiting for tourists to come back. As isolated and remote as Custer is, it is the perfect place to be right now. 

If something like this was going to happen, I am glad it was in the off season when traffic is at its lowest.  For the most part, it is life as normal out here. We did hear that one of the two open motels closed because too many “outsiders” were coming into town to get away from the pandemic. I have heard of similar things across the country where people are leaving the big cities to escape. Being 20 miles outside of Custer we could not be a better place to ride this out. We have to run into town about once a week for groceries, laundry and maybe a hardware store run but for the most part we are at home working on our projects.  

Our major project continues to be the siding. As of last week I estimated we needed 12 more warm weather days to get the siding finished. This week did not cooperate with us only providing 3 days that I was able to get outside. Two days were spent finishing the east side of the house.
One day working on the lower section of the south side. 
The rain/snow days were spent inside working on various projects; we finished the bug wood on the lower sections of the living room. 
We finished the waterlines in the laundry room for the dog wash and laundry machine.
As well as the controls for the shower in the lower level bath.
Barb is been on the hunt for the perfect washer and dryer. She originally thought she wanted front loaders but has been hearing horror stories about the smell and water retention of the front loaders so now she is looking at top loaders. If any of you have opinions on what you would recommend let us know!

We also took delivery of our ceiling fan. We had ordered it about a month ago and it finally arrived! We went with a 72” windmill fan from The Original Windmill Ceiling Fans Company. We absolutely love it! 
The wildlife continues to visit us each day oblivious to the chaos in the world. The turkeys (up to 27) were joined by a tom who is trying to impress the ladies with his studly physic. So far the hens want nothing to do with him as they do not nest until the ground temperature gets above 50°F. Fun to watch them play their antics though. 

Thursday afternoon, some snow
Friday, no snow...
Thursday morning, snow and fog
And now for the totally bizarre... The two pictures below are the same turkey. Notice the thing on top of his head that looks like a horn. Well, that is actually called a Snood. The whiteish fatty looking thing below his chin is called the Caruncles. 
This is how they change when he puffs up and gets all excited..
Weird huh? 

Speaking of weird wildlife, we had more visitors show up at our window!
Dino and Lisa stopped by on their way to Minnesota! We of course did not let them in so we slipped them a beer through the door and wrote notes to show them through the window. They only stayed one night before heading on but we did have a nice visit and they were able to return out table and chairs that we left them in Quartzsite.
Bye guys, watch out for zombies!
The deer show up rain and shine to see what we are up to, even with snow on their faces!
The rancher next door opened the gate so his cattle could roam our property (and the Jordan's) and eat the grasses down. It is cool seeing all the baby calves lounge around….


The mix of rain, snow and warmer weather sometimes in one day made for some interesting scenery. All of these pictures were taken within hours on the same day. 
See the turkey on the stump?
The weather next week has some 60’s in the forecast next week we hope to get out and really hit the siding hard!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Hunkering Down in South Dakota!

Warm weather this past two weeks gave us a hint of what is to come. All throughout the hills signs of spring are everywhere. Robins, Blue birds, Meadowlarks and other variety of birds have arrived back from their winter ranges. The turkeys are gobbling trying to entice a hen to be their best friend and all but the most shaded areas are free of snow.

You would hardly know the world is melting down around us as we self-quarantine here in our own little slice of paradise. Of course we have to keep one on the surrounding woods for approaching zombies. We keep a hammer close by so we can smash them in the skull and drop them in their tracks. Like much of the country, they have closed the schools, there is panic shopping in the stores and it is all you see on the news. As of today (3/16) South Dakota only has 9 cases.  But 9 cases or not the crazies are out in full force as witnessed by Barb when she went to Walmart in Rapid City. Like many stores across the country, TP was nonexistent, the cold/flu section was wiped out as was all the ready to eat frozen dinners. But the craziest things she saw was a mother who just sat back and watched as her two small children were licking the shelves. Yes, they were licking the shelves and then there were the two women who got into an actual fist fight over....wait for it.....baby wipes! Apprently one woman took offense to another woman who had 7 packages of baby wipes in her cart and told her to put some back for other people. The other woman did not take kindly to being told what to do and punches were thrown in the baby wipe aisle at our local Walmart. Seriously people!

We have taken advantage of this warmer weather to work outside on the siding. Well, I should say “I” as Barb was down and out for 3-4 days with some kind of bug. I kept my hammer close by and kept her locked in the bedroom just in case she turned into a zombie. Don't worry, I would open the door to throw in food and a bottle of water once in a while then slam it shut and put the chain back on the handle just in case. I am happy to report that she is all better and I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing my own wife is not going to try and eat my brains. 

So far the siding is going well. I decided to start in the easier areas with smaller pieces. Since we have a covered porch running the full 88’ of the east side of the house the siding is split with 52”s of siding above the porch and 56”s below the porch. Below that we eventually have 39”s of stone. 
The hardest part was getting the first panel on exactly straight. Trying to get it up on the wall, hold it, use the level and screw it in by myself was virtually impossible. After several attempts I gave up, got my sickly wife out of bed and asked her for some help. (I had my hammer in my hand the whole time) With the extra pair of hands, the first panel was up in less than 5 minutes, she was locked back in the bedroom and I was on my way! 

By my rough estimates it will take me 14 good weather days (now 12) to get everything done. I was two days in when the bottom fell out of the weather. 
8+ inches of snow and plummeting temperatures greeted us Friday morning. The only good thing is that it moved all the zombies south into the “no snow” zone so we can work at a more relaxed pace. Have you ever seen a zombie movie where there was snow? There is a reason, they don’t like snow! So we moved our operation inside and got rocking and rolling on some inside projects. When I say “rocking” I mean that literally. We sheetrocked the kitchen!

What a difference a few sheets make. It totally transformed area. I had to leave the back corner of the kitchen open so we could still install the shower valve in the bathroom right behind that wall in the adjacent bathroom. 

When Kevin was out here for a few days last week we finished the peak of the ceiling. He told us to leave the last couple board before the peak until he gets here as they can be tricky. I am glad we did as it was indeed tricky getting the last piece in place. But thankfully with Kevin’s expertise he got it done! Cheryl could not make it this trip but he did bring his new dog Reba!
The latest addition to the Filip family, Reba
She is just a pup but was very well behaved while visiting. 

We also installed the mantel over the fireplace. It is an old weathered 8x8 timber supported by two weathered 4x6 beams. It was actually one beam that we cut. Barb had to color match some stain to do one end on the face. She experimented with a couple colors and ended up mixing a few of them to get the color right. You cannot even tell one end was cut!


He also helped us get up the 2x10 rough cut board that are going to act as a decorative border around the kitchen, living room and dining room. Barb stained these a dark brown that will match our trim around the windows. We also got some tongue and groove installed below the 2x10.
2x10 timbers separating the room.
While we worked the dogs would just nap, lounge around and watch us. 
Lastly Barb stained the sliding glass door in the dining room, the kitchen window and the window in the upstairs bedroom. This stain (Provincial) is a couple shade lighter than the trim (Jacobean). The combination looks great!
Getting started on the sliding glass door
Kitchen window all stained
Despite all this work we have been able to get out and do some other things. Mainly we have been taking the dogs for a walk so they get a little exercise. 
Daisy running away from the zombie
On two occasions we found treasures. All that was left of our first find was the spine and the skull of a beautiful 3x4. 

At first we thought maybe it was our friend that we have been watching grow up over the past couple of years but after looking at some of our pictures we had never seen this buck before. On another outing we found this whitetail buck skull that had obviously been dead for a couple of years. 

So here we sit, cold and snowy outside, warm and toasty inside, no zombies in sight and more than enough to do while we wait for warmer weather later this week so I can get back outside to work on the siding. I just need 12 more warm weather days!  

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Happy Birthday Barbie!

What you ask? Didn’t Barb just have a birthday in September when we were in Oregon? Well, that celebration was not really her birthday but a belated celebration since our entire family was together when we were in Oregon. This week she had her real birthday!

Some people look at birthdays as bad things, getting a year older, hitting the dreaded milestones of 40, 50, 60...., one year closer to the inevitable. But for years we have always celebrated and looked forward to them. When we were working, we would always toast and say “One year closer to retirement” Then after we retired it was “One year closer to getting our pensions” This year, Barb’s toast was “One more until I get Social Security!”

The last 6 years we have celebrated Barb’s birthday in Elkhart Indiana, Lake Mead Nevada, Tucson Arizona, Klamath Falls Oregon and last year we were in Amarillo Texas thinking about heading north with dreams of building our house.

We celebrated this year with our friends Dan and Bonnie by going to…. Menards! Our favorite home improvement store! What more could a gal ask for on her birthday!?!?
But luckily that was not the only fun we had. Our next stop was Dakota Brewing Company where we crossed off yet another location on our Black Hills Brewery Tour!


 Our next stop was Fuji Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
Although Dan and Bonnie have had sushi in the past I don't think they were totally on board with the whole sushi thing. They were troopers though and each got a roll. The experience was much less traumatic than the one we had with Dino and Lisa (see Sushi with Dino) months earlier. It was immediately apparent that neither Dan or Bonnie had grossly disfigured and arthritic hands as they quickly took to the chopsticks as anyone over the age of 2 with a minimal amount of dexterity should be able to. We did have one minor mishap when Bonnie mistook the wasabi for guacamole and popped the whole scoop in her mouth lighting her world on fire!

So what did I get Barb for her birthday? Well, lets just say it is still a work in progress. For the past few weeks I have been asking Barb what she wanted for her birthday and all she would tell me is what she did not want. “I don’t want a new archery target”, "I don’t want those size 10 hunting boots you have been looking at". On and on she listed things she did not want and my idea list got smaller and smaller until every idea I had was crossed off!

But what a difference a year makes! Last year at this time when we started Kevin's house the lows were -14F! This year we are going to see 60 degrees during the same exact week. An over 70 degree temperature swing! Last year at this time we had a slab of concrete waiting for us and less than a year later we have a someplace we can call home. It is far from done but we are living comfortably. 

This week we continued to work on the ceiling. 
Umm, don't they tell you not to use the top of the ladder as a step?!?!
Three weeks into the ceiling project we finally finished this past Monday! 
Slow and tedious, but we are thrilled with the final results. We are so glad to be off that scaffolding and back on solid ground thanking God that we survived the ceiling with no mishaps. 

We still have to do a couple boards at the peak but Kevin said that the peak can be tricky so we are waiting until he arrives for his next visit. Rumor has it he might be out this weekend for a day or two!

The other project we have been working on is the framing of the shelving/wood storage unit next to the fireplace. Earlier this week it looked like this:
The red tape is due to me having to cut the vapor barrier to move the outlet 3 times. I originally put it where I thought it would be out of the way. Then moved it to where I thought the DVR and DVD player would be. Then moved it again once we decided on the final design.

I used the cardboard template from the fireplace as I wanted to mirror the same design for the wood storage then set about building the frame.
Once the frame was up I used a piece of 7/16" OSB to make the face of the unit. This will be eventually covered with the same stone as the fireplace.  
I just need to add shelves and put T&G on each of the inside walls and it will be done. 

I also built in a 2” tube from that area to the area behind the TV to run the coax and HDMI cables through so they are not exposed. 
Last Wednesday/Thursday we took advantage of a 4-5” snowfall and burned two slash piles on our property and 4 slash piles on the Jordan’s property. 
The wind was blowing pretty good at times!
We have to have a minimum of 2” of snow before we can get a burning permit. 
I lit them in stages so they would not all be at full blaze at the same time. We have been waiting a couple years to be here when we had enough snow to burn and were happy to finally get this done!
Another cool thing that happened this week was our rancher neighbor brought all his cattle back from their winter range. He does this when they are due to calf so he can watch them. One day when no one was going to be around his place he asked us to drive through to make sure everything was okay. The first calves were not due to a couple days so he was not expecting anything but when we drove through we found this.....
One of the cows had twins and we were just in time to see one of them getting up for the first time! We got a hold of him and let him know and he was thrilled to hear that they were up and doing well. 

So what's next on our project? Well the steel siding was delivered yesterday so that is a high priority as we would like to have it all up before leaving for Alaska. And of course I need to get back to the drawing board on Barb's birthday gift. Hmmm, I wonder what she would think of a new sight for my  …. I mean her bow?!?!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Project That Would Not End!

What a great week! Do you know what it is like to start your day with a smile in your heart each and every day of the week? That is what my week was like as I woke up each morning, turned on the computer and opened our blog just to read those three special words “I was right” That is why I waited two weeks before writing this next post. As it will replace the previous one like it never happened. Oh well, it had to happen sometime and I prolonged it as long as I could…..

But first a picture of Daisy staring down at me from the loft....
What's going on down there?
These past two weeks has been like a movie. Remember the movie Ground Hogs day with Bill Murray where he wakes up every day to the same thing day after day after day. Or how about the saying; “the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result”.

Those two things come to mind when I think over our progress on the house the past two weeks. Monday, February 10th, the day after Kevin and Cheryl left Barb and I got busy with the tongue and groove on the ceiling. The first three days we got up a total of 3 rows. Three rows, 5 inches wide and 38 feet long. To be honest we had more up but we kept ripping it down. We spent almost two frustrating days trying to get the first row straight. The last thing Kevin said before he left was “Make sure the first two rows are dead straight”. So we ran a string line from one end to the other and started putting up the first row. Do you know how hard it is to keep a line of tongue and groove dead straight over 38 feet? Finally on the 3rd frustrating day I called Kevin and said I am ¼” off over the 38 feet. “Perfect”, he said, “With the variation of the wall, the variation of the tongue and groove, ¼” over 38‘ is pretty darn good, you will never notice it”. So away we went….

Once we got going we were averaging a whopping 1 row per hour. Our patience level was about 4-5 hours and given there are a total of 66 rows total, this is going to take us…. FOREVER! Or at least that is what it seems like.

But before we start to hang it Barb has to varnish and sand each board twice to get the proper sheen on it. But the varnishing is not included in the 1 row per hour scenario. That is done all before we start to hang it.

Why is it taking so long you ask? Well when you are married to a self-admitted over thinker things are bound to take a lot longer than they should. One would think that you put up a board, grab the next one in the stack, and put it up and so on…. No…. Once we put up a board, we have to step back and look at it, admire it and then go through each board in the stack to determine which board would look best next to the one we just put up. Not only the characteristics of the board, but also the color and knot orientation. 


We used a 16ga finish nailer to secure them to the trusses
Once the board was selected Barb had to determine the perfect length of each board and where the seam will be in the entire scheme of things. Painful! Then there is Kevin….. We just can’t put a board up and butt the ends of the boards together. No, we have to make each one pretty by taking a block planer and beveling each of the butt ends so they are nice and pretty. A block planer? Really? Who uses those anymore? Apparently I do, on each and every board. 
I thought I would go my entire life without using a block planer


The perfect bevel
Okay,  maybe it looks better then two straight edges....
I will have to admit, the end result of both the over thinker and the perfectionist is incredible but it will take like… FOREVER!

On day 13 we finally made it to the bathroom wall. A momentous moment as this shortened our ceiling runs but just over 9’ which really sped things up. Once we get to the guest bedroom wall it will shorten it but another 3’ or so!
Almost to the peak!
We did take a couple days off. One day to run to Rapid City and another day because we had some very special visitors. Farmer Bob and DeAnne were in Utah last week on vacation and stopped by on their way back home! This was a very special event as we had not seen them in quite a long time since we did not make it up there at all for our regular spring or fall trips in 2019.
Thanks for stopping guys!
We did not do a whole lot except visit but it was really great to see them.

When we were in Rapid we were able to find a new to us couch and love seat for the living room. We have been looking for a couple of weeks but everything we were finding was either too much, too worn or already sold. But on this day we were in the right place at the right time and drove away with a nice set of furniture. We were really tired of sitting on our camping chairs!
So much more comfortable than our camping chairs!

The weather has been in the 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s in the past two weeks. This fair weather has really brought out the wildlife. Kevin had brought us out a large grass/alfalfa hay bale that the deer absolutely love! 
I put a trail camera up to see who was visiting


Nice little buck showed up the other day
Action shot!
We have a variety of birds visiting our feeders every day; woodpeckers, nuthatches, juncos and chickadees are our most frequent visitors providing for some entertainment and great photo ops. 

Nuthatch
And the turkeys have left their winter range and returned to our area two days ago and now hang out under the bird feeder a couple times a day to pick up the seeds cast aside by some of the messier birds. They are so aggressive they will try and run the deer off. Sometimes it works, sometimes the deer chase them off. 

And sometimes they all get along just fine. 
They certainly are ugly birds!
So if you are wondering what we are up to this week we will be watching the der and turkeys and  plugging away on the other side of the ceiling. One board at a time. After time, after time, after time....