Friday, December 18, 2020

What is Your Favorite Destination?

Like many, we sit at home dreaming of places we have been and places yet to explore. But with the world seemingly at a standstill, that is all we can do. Dream. So as the temperatures drop and snow covers the landscape we find ourselves thinking of some of our favorite places. The top of that list for us is Alaska. The scenery and sense of adventure is second to none. It has been 4 years since we have been there and as many of you know that was to be our destination last summer but sadly that was not to be.

The start of our Alaskan adventure in 2016

I would classify each of our favorite destinations into three categories; the scenery, the people and the adventure. Alaska checked all three boxes. We were expecting the scenery and the adventure, what we were not expecting is to make friends that we hope will last a lifetime. We knew and were looking forward to seeing Barb’s cousin Lori and her husband Jim in Fairbanks. Barb does not have many blood relations left and Lori is very special to us. Our two unexpected encounters and people we consider special friends include Rich & Susan and Rod & Denise. Both encounters were totally random which made them that much more magical. You can read about both here.

Our favorite scenery is hard to pin down to one location. The numerous glaciers were breathtaking and the drive to Skagway will forever be etched into our memories.

Daisy overlooking one of the many glaciers

A sample of the landscape on our drive to Skagway

As will our glacier cruise in Valdez...

But as I think of these I cannot help but think of our Root Glacier walk in McCarthy and another chance encounter when we crossed paths with one of Barb’s former co-workers Melinda while on a walk way there. What are the odds of that?!?!?!
Barb and I on the Root Glacier
The more I think about it there are too many scenery thoughts flowing back to mention so I will just leave it with these first few that came to me.

The adventure category is easy, it has to be the fishing. Having never been to the area, we had no idea where or what to fish with but we figured it out catching countless salmon, Dolly Varden, halibut, rainbow trout and grayling.  The grayling have almost been a mythical fish to me with their long sweeping dorsal fins and I could not wait to try and catch one. Little did I know that this species would be the easiest and most abundant. 

The grayling were plentiful and fairly easy to catch
Barb releasing one of many Dolly's we caught in Haines

Our favorite has to be the salmon. There is nothing like hooking into one of these silver bullets with a flyrod!

Fishing the Kenai 

But for now, all we can do is think back to the past and look forward to the future. We have dreams of pointing our truck to the northwest again this summer but only time will tell if we will be able to make that journey.

In the meantime we have plenty to do to keep us busy right here in South Dakota. The fireplace is now grouted, cleaned and ready for the hearthstone.

But the big news of the week are the kitchen cabinets. We had them designed and the order placed with Don’s Custom Cabinets in Rapid City back in September. We were nowhere ready for them at the time but we were anticipating that we would be ready sometime in December when the cabinets were scheduled to be done. Then a couple of weeks ago we received word that they would not be done until January. Imagine our surprise when we received a call late last week saying they were ready for pickup!

Kevin and I spent one day on the kitchen and another day on the laundry room. Barb is like a little kid in the kitchen, putting things away, organizing and reorganizing. I suspect that she is nowhere close to done but she is having fun! (Update...I went in there while she was putting her spices away and she was putting them in the spice cabinet in alphabetical order!)

Still waiting on the new appliances

Kitchen Island

The laundry room
Friday the countertop people came out to measure the kitchen for the countertops. That process was pretty interesting. They put labels with different sized dots on the wall throughout the kitchen then put another sheet with dots on the surface of the base cabinets and took about 50 pictures. The guys said he inputs all the pictures into his software and it designs the cabinets to 1/16th of an inch. Beats measuring by hand! It will be a week or two before they are ready.
I spent some time over at Kevin and Cheryl’s working on their fireplace. It too is now all done! They have made some great progress as well which Cheryl has been documenting on their 7 Bulls Facebook page.

Speaking of Kevin, he and I went on of an adventure of our own this week when we went pheasant hunting about 3 hours east of here on the Rosebud. Some friends of his from Wisconsin met us out there. I would love to say that the birds were plentiful and we never missed a shot but both would be lies. We did see some beautiful country and had a good time taking a break from our projects though!

The landscape seemed to go on forever

One of our many pheasant drives

With less than a week until Christmas, our goal is to finish trimming the upper windows and get that scaffolding down in the next few days. Once that is done we can start to take a serious look at flooring!

Next week I will reveal more of our favorite destinations as we look outside at the snowy landscape at our furry friends and think of adventures past and future. In the meantime, we will carry on here day by day, project to project and dream to dream.

A foggy gray day had the several new bucks exploring our property

This little guy came to the window to see what we were doing

Sunday, December 6, 2020

What a difference a year makes!

 As I was thinking about this Thanksgiving I was wondering where we were last year at this time. Well, I remember where we were, I was wondering where we were in terms of the house.

I don’t think I will get much of an argument that this has been one of the strangest and longest years on record and one no one is going to forget in their lifetime. But here in the rural lands of South Dakota it is not nearly as weird as other places in the country. To be honest you would hardly know anything is different out here. The fact that we never go anywhere plays a big role in this perspective however.

This Thanksgiving found us celebrating with our good friends Kevin, Cheryl, Dan and Bonnie. The exact same group we spent the holiday with last year. Besides the obvious, the other biggest difference is where we are at with the house. No, we are not done, in fact we are far from it but we are sure a heck of a lot further along than we were last year at this time!

This is a picture taken last year at Thanksgiving.

A house of poly and insulation
That same week last year the fireplace and hearth was put in. At that time we thought that was a big accomplishment and it was, but as we look back at these pictures only a year ago, we are amazed at what we have done!  

And here is the same shot of where we are at this year.

For those of you who have been closely following our blog you will notice one big change this week. Yup, it is the stone on the fireplace! Earlier this week Kevin said that if I got the lath and scratch coat up he would come over and put the stone up over the weekend. I could not pass up an opportunity like that and to work I went!

The first step was to staple metal lath on any surface the stone was to go on. A fairly easy process but that metal lath will cut the heck out of your hands! The next step is to put on the scratch coat. This is basically a thin layer of concrete (mortar) over the metal lath. This provides the surface to which the stone and mortar will adhere to in the next step.  

That step took two full days and is one I was glad to have done!

The next day Kevin came over and we started putting stone up! Stone by stone we fitted and put them into place like a huge jig saw puzzle. 8 hours later we were done with our first day and about 1/2 done. We got the entire wood storage area done and about 3' above the fireplace.

The next day we were back at it again and 6 hours later Kevin was putting the last stone in!

Last stone being put into place!

It looks awesome and we are so glad to have that project behind us. Another one that we could not have done without Kevin's help.

The next steps are to grout between each of the stones and clean it up. We also need to get our hearth stone and mantle into place, but we are close! Until then it looks like we are going to have scaffolding in our living room again....

Barb has been staining and varnishing the handrails for our stairs...

...and also paid a visit to the cabinetmaker where she received some good news and some bad news. The good news is that all the doors and some of the cabinets are done. We are going with rustic hickory. 

The rest of our doors
One of our doors

The bad news is that they will not be done until late December or even into next year.

But back to Thanksgiving itself....Like many, we cannot wait for 2020 to fade into the past and are looking forward to 2021. But in the meantime we are fully embracing this holiday season starting with Thanksgiving. Barb cooked a wonderful turkey, stuffing, potatoes. Bonnie and Cheryl brought other sides and desserts. But I think the highlight of the evening were Barb's White Russian and Buttershots &Baileys pudding shots. We lost track of how many we had but by the end of the evening we were full in several ways!

You will notice two people missing from this picture. The picture taker, (me) and Kevin who after supper went to the couch and assumed this position.....

He even has his stabilizers out

Thanksgiving behind us, we are looking forward to Christmas. So much so we got our tree the day after Thanksgiving and have been watching a Christmas movie on the Hallmark channel almost every evening. This is a first for me and I have learned a couple things; The first is that there is only about 6 actors that play the main characters in about every movie on the Hallmark channel. They will mix up who is the boss, mom, dad, sister, brother, whatever but they are the same actors. It can get kind of confusing. The second thing I learned is the plot is the same in every one. Pay close attention and I can save you countless hours of movie watching and tell you the plot so you won't miss anything. 

Every one of them go something like this... The main character is a woman (often the same woman in the last movie you watched) who is in a relationship with a horrible boyfriend. About 15 minutes into each movie she runs into a handsome stranger but they don't get along (for now) but she is in a relationship anyway right? Wait another 15 minutes and she breaks up with her horrible boyfriend and is going to be alone for Christmas. (oh no!) But happenstance brings her back together with the handsome stranger and they slowly become closer and closer. Then you need to throw in a spontaneous snowball fight, an interrupted first kiss, a reappearance of the old boyfriend trying to patch things up and drama with the new boyfriend through a misunderstanding. Fear not, they make up, have their first kiss and live happily ever after! You can thank me later but now you do not need to watch any movie ever put out on the Hallmark channel.

The weather here in South Dakota has been great in the past two week. 40's and 50's everyday which has allowed us to get out and cut some firewood in our spare time. Barb has taken over the tractor is becoming a regular farm girl!

But we know winter is coming and we will be cooped up inside. Warm or cold, we have plenty to do to keep us busy for there is still a lot to be done to finish the inside by spring!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Barbie Bags a Big Buck!

Some people laugh and think it is silly that I call Barb Barbie but I have been doing it for over 30 years and to me it is just natural, you know kinda like how she always calls me dumb@ss, it is just what rolls off the tongue when we address each other. Me calling her that has nothing to do with the doll, everyone knows she is a princess!

If you are looking for a lot of pictures, you will be sorely disappointed. There is a grand total of 2 pictures in this entire post. Proof that what matters is quality, not quantity.  

It is deer season here in South Dakota, archery season actually opens September 1st through the end of the year. With an archery tag you can harvest any deer; whitetail or mule deer, buck or doe. I have trail cameras throughout the property looking for the big one and get out hunting as often as possible. I would venture to guess that I have over 500 hours in the woods looking for "the one".  Conversely I have been buying Barb an archery tag for the past few years. Some years she goes out, some years she just does not feel like it. Over the past three years she has less than 50 hours in the woods combined. This year she decided she wanted to go out. So I got out her bow, dust it off, found a few arrows and we went outside to practice. After a dozen or so shots at 20 yards we were confident that she would do well given the opportunity. In fact she ruined one of her arrows but hitting it with another arrow. 

She did not go out for two days but then on the third morning she decided to go out. She came back 40 minutes later saying she shot one! I was happy for her but also thought "Oh great, she is going to one-up me again!". We waited about 20 minutes and went out to look the deer. We tracked the deer, not a lot of blood but enough to pick our way through the woods. About 100 yards later Barb looks up and screams like a 6 year old getting her favorite present on Christmas morning. It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. There laying in the pine needles is a big mule deer buck! She just put her hands to her mouth stared at the buck and kept repeating, "I got him, I got him!". 

Now, I realize that hunting is not for everyone and I totally get that. But for us, it is how we were raised and a part of our culture. In fact when we lived in Wisconsin our kids' school closed the week of the gun deer season because no one showed up anyway. I could not be happier or prouder for Barb, her biggest fear when using a bow is making a bad shot and this one was absolutely perfect, I am guessing the deer was dead within 5 seconds of her shot. And yes, although I have shot several mule deer in my life, I have never shot one with my bow and I have never gotten one this big so I was "one-upped" once again!

The rest of the week was spent moping around working on projects inside and outs. The weather was great for mid-November with highs up into the 40's and even 50's. One last chance to get some projects done outside.  These included installing the oven cooktop vent outside the house, working on fencing, installing some outside lighting and wiring for a hot tub. Yes, a hot tub!

We have been wanting one for years. We had one in Wisconsin and used it almost daily, summer and winter. So when we got the concrete done around the house we were ready to order one. When we went shopping we were in for a shock in two ways. We had not shopped for one for a while and whoa! they went up over the years and were more than I had thought! The second shocker was availability. We went to and called several stores asking about models we were interested in. We even went as far as calling Casper Wyoming (3 hours away) to see what they had. Most of them said if we ordered now we would get our tub anywhere from 4-6 months. Then we stopped by one in Rapid City and walked through the showroom. When we asked the salesman about a particular one he said he had one coming on the truck "next week" that was not spoken for. After a little negotiating, we bought it on the spot! 

"Next week" turned into 3 weeks but that gave me time to get things ready at home. I had put conduit under the concrete from the house to where we wanted the tub so on one of our warmer days I ran wire through the conduit to the disconnect we had installed when we wired up the house during the summer of '19. The big day finally came when they called to deliver the tub! The delivery guys arrived, put it in place and hooked it all up for us!

So at least I have the hot tub do drown my sorrows in, literally and figuratively. My only hope is that my time in the woods pays off and I able to throw my big buck on the kitchen table and once again reclaim my manhood!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

We Got Our Truck Back!!!!

I want to start off by saying a big “Thank You!” to Shawn and Kim and anyone else who took the time to order clothing from the Pasha Lake websiteI know Chad and Michelle really appreciate it! Shawn and Kim have an interesting story, they started out fulltiming in an RV then switched over to a sailboat that they now live in fulltime. You can check out their blog here. We too ordered a couple of shirts and sweatshirts, they are very comfortable!

Now, onto the truck…..Six weeks and three days since we were driving through Rapid City and the engine blew on our 2013 GMC 6.6 liter Turbo Diesel, we finally got it back! They ended up replacing the long block with a brand new one complete with a 3 year, 100,000 mile warranty. As you may recall, we had a couple options when it blew; 1)  Finding a rebuilt engine and someone to installed it. 2) Buy a completely new long block, and 3) Buy a new truck.

We looked into all three options pretty seriously. Finding a rebuilt is not as easy as one would think. Then there is the issue of having it shipped here and also finding a reliable mechanic to install it. We were very tempted to buy a new truck but have you looked at the price of them lately?!?!? To replace the model of truck we have with a new one was upwards of $80,000! We barely have that into our house, (well maybe a little more) it was hard to imagine spending that much on a truck especially when we are trying to finish the house and still have several big expenses left. The salvage value of our truck with a blown engine was about only $5,000-$7,000 meaning we would have had to come up with $70 something thousand. No thanks. So we opted for the new engine through Accelerated Diesel in Rapid City. They had worked on our truck before and we trust them and it was the only option they gave us to fixing it. They said they had too many issues with rebuilts and would only fix it if we went with the new engine route. So that is what we did! In the end it cost us almost $20,000 but it should last us forever now and if we ever do get the itch to buy new again we will get a lot more for our truck than we would have otherwise.

As I have said before, we are just thankful that it happened where it did and not a thousand miles away where we would have been stuck in a town we did not want to be relying on a mechanic we did not know. We know people who have had to deal with that very scenario and it did not sound pleasant!

With our truck back, our life feels like it is returning to some normalcy. A special thank you to Kevin and Cheryl for borrowing us their Jeep for the past few weeks!

Back at home we have been busy as ever. The biggest house project in the past two weeks was pouring 8 yards of concrete in the garage. We poured a 30’x17’ section which is roughly 1/3 of the complete garage. We are planning for a 18’x14’ future enclosed workshop in the area we are pouring. The shop will serve as a deer processing area/workshop. For some reason Barb does not want me dragging the deer in the house and processing them on her kitchen island. Hmm, what’s up with that!?!?. So, my first order of business was to install plumbing for a future sink and a floor drain (pictures in last post). This was easy and hard at the same time. Easy, given the fact that we had a 4” waste pipe in the area for our RV dump. Hard, because the ground was very hard requiring me to chip away at the gravel. I had to completely tear up the 4” to put an elbow into it then create a hole deep enough for the P-trap for the floor drain then trench a path to the 4” for both the floor drain and the sink. It took (2) ½ days but I am glad we did it as now we will have everything we need in that area for both processing and doing whatever else we want!

Next up was installing the form boards and leveling the entire area to a consistent 4” with a slope to the floor drain in the shop area. Once that was done I laid plastic down (this prevents the concrete from sweating on humid days). Then came the rebar in a 2’x2’ grid throughout the entire area. All of this took a day and a half but now we were ready for concrete!

On the big day the cement truck arrived at 7:30am and left at 9:30. The pour itself went very well with a crew of Kevin, Barb and I. Kevin did the majority of the work while Barb and I just pushed the concrete where it was needed getting it all leveled off. 

Sure is nice having large garage doors!

Once the truck was gone Kevin got to work finishing off the entire area. This is really an art and requires a lot of skill.

We had intentionally over ordered concrete and had about 1 yard left over that the truck just dumped on the ground. At $142/yard we did not want that to go to waste so while Kevin was finishing the inside of the garage Barb concreted an area around our outside water hydrant and I scrambled to build a form in front of our wood storage area. 

Barb working on the hydrant area

Kevin even took a break to watch me dig out the area for the forms and practice being a trophy friend and making me look good. I hope he does not get used to it!

Once the forms were set we scooped up the remaining concrete with the skidsteer and shoveled it into the form at the wood storage area. When it was filled in and done we had two unexpected bonus projects completed!

Now Barb can get wood without getting her feet dirty!
It was a long tiring day. Whew, I got tired again just writing about it!

Although getting our truck back was very exciting, our most exciting news of the week was some visitors that stopped by for a couple of days. Farmer Bob and DeAnne came down from North Dakota to spend two days with us! Well, it was not entirely to see us as they were in the area to buy a collector tractor that Bob wanted. Apparently, 4 collector tractors is not enough so Bob picked up this Farmall B tractor up in Belle Fourche. Update..... I got a message from Bob today, he is going to look a Farmall Super MTA tractor today. I guess even 5 is not enough!

Bob's latest addition
No, that is not a picture of Bob dead on our living room floor. He recently had knee surgery so he had to do some exercises a couple times a day.
We had a great visit working on fence, installing a cattle guard and just plain visiting. It went way too quick and before we knew it was time for them to leave.

Other projects this week included Barb varnishing a couple of doors and windows and me installing snow stops on the roof. I installed 88’ of snow stop on the east side and 20’ on the west side so no more snow sliding off the roof in those area threatening to kill us or the dogs!

Hard to see the snow stop on the roof but it is up there!

We also had to renew our health insurance this week. We are very fortunate to still get health insurance through Barb’s former employer. Each November we have to renew our coverage by reviewing the options and picking the one that suits us the best. Luckily Barb’s former employer covers about 2/3 of the cost but even with that we have to pay anywhere from $700-$400 a month depending on which option you choose. One nice thing they do is provide scenarios on how much something would cost with each option such as breaking a leg or having a baby. After reviewing each of the options Barb and I have decided that we are not going to have a baby this year. We just cannot afford it!

I have continued to get out deer hunting as often as possible and still have not seen the “Big Guy”. I don’t even know if he exists as I don’t even have pictures of him on camera yet but I am still hopeful and enjoying my time out in the woods watching the other deer, squirrels and birds in the area.  I did not take my camera to the blind this week but here are a few pictures of our non-huntable deer.

This picture has whitetail, mule deer and a couple of turkeys in it!

Our resident mule deer buck

But I was not the only one to have some fun this week. Barb and Cheryl took advantage of a really nice day to go horseback riding!

Our big purchase this week was one to go along with the tractor we bought last week (see last post). We got a wagon to haul our firewood from the woods back up to the house!

Last but not least I would like to thank all the veterans out there for their service. Where would our country be without them?
What will next week bring? It is anybody's guess at this point! 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Big Purchase at the J-B!

It’s been two weeks since my last update on our lives. It seems like we have been busy all day every day but I cannot think of one big accomplishment with the house. Well, that is not entirely true. Now that I write this I can think of a couple.

The first of was the completion of the loft floor. This has been a long time coming months at a minimum. You see the house was originally designed like this…

Then one day Kevin said “Why don’t you square it off so you have more space up there?” So then the conversation began on how to exactly do that. Seems simple but one thing is tied to another and you cannot finish the loft floor until 3 or 4 other things get done. We cannot do the loft floor until the stairs are reset, the diagonal set for the railing and then the post at the bottom of the stair is set and anchored. Speaking of the post at the bottom of the stairs, one of the bonuses of extending the loft floor was the fact that we could extend that post all the way up so it is secured at the bottom and the top. Anyone who has installed a post on the bottom of a stairway can appreciate how much difficult it is to secure that post. All of that got done in the last few weeks so now I was ready to tackle the loft floor.  It took about (3) half days to get it done. Why half days? More on that later.

Loft floor all done!
But at least it is done so now we can move on to other projects that we could not do until the loft floor was done. Like putting the T&G on the hall wall and ceiling. We were just getting ready to do that when Kevin said “Let’s pour concrete in the garage next week.” Well, when he makes an offer like that everything else stops. But it is not like we can just pour the next day. We have a couple years of construction material and junk to move out of the way in the pour area let alone have room for the cement truck backing into the other bay so we can pour.
This mess is a little overwhelming!

It took Barb and I 3 more half days to get that all cleaned out and organized. Part of which was digging up the RV waste sewer like so I could put a T in it for a sink drain. A sink drain you ask? Well, now that we no longer have the big rig we are putting a woodworking/hobby shop in the garage on the side behind the camper. It will be something like 18’x14’. We are not quite sure yet. That is a project for much later.

Garage cleaned out and plumbing pipes in!

Being later October/early November we really had to watch the weather. As you know we got snow a couple of weeks ago and it had not warmed up enough to melt it for most of the past two weeks, In fact there were a couple of days that the highs were in the teens and the low was…….

Yup, that says -13F totally ridiculous for October. Since Daisy and Dakota cannot go outside and play in the cold, they opt to play tug of war inside...

But the forecast for the following week looked like this….We are scheduled to pour on Tuesday, I will let you know how it goes!

We had a surprise visitor of sorts last week. We knew he might stop by but when we received this photo we knew he did! Chad, the owner of Pasha Lake Cabins stopped by for the night on his way home from hunting in Wyoming. We were not home but when we received this text with him and his son Cavin…… and Daisy? Chad arrived and made himself right at home!

Due to “The Sickness” (that is what our granddaughter calls it), we had not seen Chad in over a year. In fact he was only able to get up to his own resort once this year as the border was closed. As you can imagine it has been a tough  year for Chad and his family as their sole source of income is the resort providing the income not only for them to live on but to pay the mortgage on their house as well as the resort. Both he and Michelle took jobs in Wisconsin and are getting by but they are sitting on a huge inventory of Pasha Lake clothing so if you are in the mind to help someone out and get some great clothing just in time for Christmas and help someone out at the same time click on this link to get to their website. If you do buy something, tell them Jim sent you!

You know you live in the right place when you run into a buffalo jam on the way to the grocery store. How many people can say that!?!?! We were headed to Hot Springs to do some shopping and went through Wind Cave NP when we ran into this....

Which turned into a new sport. Buffalo Weaving! We weaved our way through the buffalo and were quickly on our way. About 1/4 mile down the road we saw two hikers standing a few hundred yards off the road just standing there. We could not figure out why they were just standing there in the middle of the field and not walking until we saw why.  They were headed back to their vehicle which was parked properly in a parking area for the trail they were on. The problem was was that their vehicle was surrounded by buffalo who were licking the salt off their car! I don't know how long they had to stand there waiting for the beasts to move along but my guess is it was quite a while!

Now, several times during this post I have mentioned working “half” days, that is because it is prime time for archery deer hunting and I have been getting out as much as possible in the afternoons. The last two weeks I have been able to get out 10 of the past 14 days. I am seeing lots of deer, a few bucks but not “The” buck. 

Lots of does and fawns out there

Cute, but not Mr. Big!

This guy is very tempting but I think there is a bigger one out there!

The peak of their mating season hits in the next couple of weeks so hopefully the big one will make an appearance!

Our big purchase of the week?

A 1954 Ford NAA tractor! What am I going to do with a tractor? Well, I don’t know, I just wanted it! Actually, once I get the right implements I will use it to level the driveway, clear snow, haul logs, drag the fields…..the list goes on and on. I have been looking for one for quite a while and was lucky enough to find this one less than 2 hours away in Chadron Nebraska.

Our big news for the week is that we sold and closed on our 30 acres in Wisconsin! I had not been writing about it as I did not want to curse it but we received and accepted an offer a couple of months ago with a closing date of October 29th at 2:00pm CST. Since we did not attend the closing in person we watched our bank account to see if it went through and all of a sudden there were the funds! We have been trying to sell this property on and off for the past 3 years so we are very excited that we were able to sell it. We now have the funds to finish the house the way we want it! (and pay for our truck).

Speaking of our truck, we stopped by there this past week. They have all the parts and it being worked on as I write this. Depending on how it goes it will take 3-4 day so with luck we will have our truck back next week! We are so thankful to Kevin and Cheryl for borrowing us their truck or Jeep whenever we need it!

Last but not least we wanted to include this picture to taunt Farmer Bob.....

Barb made an apple crisp this week with the last of the apples from the farm. case you were wondering, it was delicious!