Friday, May 31, 2013

Vermont Castings Resolute

Back in 1980, I was a young guy with a young family living in a raised ranch house in Saratoga Springs, New York.  It was a time of spiraling energy prices and shortages.  Remember the so called gasoline shortages and odd-even days to buy gas?

I decided that since our home had expensive electric heat, and if we had an extended power failure we'd freeze to death, that I'd install a wood stove.  I did a lot of research, which was difficult because the only computers around were Vic 20s, Sinclairs, and Tandy 1000s.  Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet.  I had to resort to magazines and brochures.  Remember those?  Those paper things you had to manually scroll though.

I finally decided on a Vermont Castings wood stove for a number of reasons.  Vermont Castings used recycled engine blocks for their iron because the alloys were designed to endure extreme heat without cracking.  It made sense to me.  Their designs were also innovative, using a side draft burn to consume wood instead of updraft, which means that a stove load of wood could last all night.  You could front load or top load it, a nice thing when filling it for the night.  The only problem was that Vermont Castings had no dealers then, and so I had to drive to Randolph, Vermont to pick up the stove.  It wasn't a big problem because I was working for a car dealer at the time and had access to a truck to transport it.

We had that stove for many years and loved the heat it produced.  Now that we're building a place in the woods, a wood stove makes perfect sense as our primary heat source.  Not wanting to reinvent the wheel and knowing that nothing could really improve on that old Vermont Castings design, I started scanning Craig's List for Vermont Castings wood stoves.  I found plenty of old rusty Defiants, Vermont Castings biggest model, but that would be too big for us.  It's important to get the right size so you can run the stove hot to reduce creosote.  I'd want a Vigilant, the mid-size stove and the one I had in Saratoga, or a Resolute, their smallest stove.   I found a Resolute.

The stove has some of the options that my Vigilant had,  such as a warming rack on each side and a glass door.  The asking price was a more than reasonable $375.  The seller asked that interested parties call on the telephone since Craig's List is peppered with scammers, but I emailed, explaining that we have no telephone yet in Bleecker.  I included a link to our blog so that he could see that we're legit.  It worked, and he sold me the stove.  I didn't even dicker and paid the full asking price.

Pam and I borrowed Earl's trailer and picked up the stove yesterday.  The couple that were selling it have much in common with us.  First, they had the good sense to buy a Vermont Castings wood stove.  But in addition, they too are now retired.  They're boaters, but rather than cruising in a trawler, they cruise in a motor home, spending winters in Arizona.

While chatting outside I noticed a lot of traffic passing by their Gick Road house, and remarked that when we both moved to Saratoga in the 1970s how it was a quiet country road.   Lee agreed and lamented that there are now thousands of new homes up Gick Road, and it's a main thoroughfare to get to the Northway to commute to work.  He has a hard time getting out of his driveway sometimes, and said he and his wife have been thinking of selling and moving to someplace quieter.

I suggested Bleecker.  We're famous for our Black Fly Festival.  No one wants to move here, and we like it that way.

We loaded the Resolute on the trailer, stopping at a wood stove dealer along the way to buy new gaskets for it.  It is now safely sitting in Earl's garage next to the diesel generator.  I know how attached Vermont Castings owners get to their stoves.  We'll take good care of it, Lee and Jan.  Feel free to come visit it once it's installed in our Unabomber cabin next year.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

So The Fun Starts. Moving the Tractor

I bought a 1954 Ferguson TO-30 tractor.  With its three point hitch and PTO (Power Take Off) I can attach a myriad of implements to it to perform various tasks around the farmstead.  Plus my grandpa had a tractor on his farm, and so it's in my genes to drive a tractor.  I needed to have one.

It had to be transported 22 miles.   I could just call a towing company to haul it here, or I could do it the Bleecker way.  I chose the Bleecker way.

Earl, my father-in-law, has been living in Bleecker for decades.  Most of his language is peppered with phrases like "don't need that shit", as he puffs on his pipe.  For example, if I said that I could pay someone to transport the tractor to our property, his response would be "You don't need that shit.  We'll do it."  Knowing that, I asked Earl if he'd help get the tractor.  He has a flat bed trailer and a Honda truck, and so off we went with it yesterday.

When we arrived, it was obvious that the tractor, weighing in at 3500 pounds or so, was larger and more than his 2200 GVW trailer could handle.  Measuring the rear wheels, it wouldn't fit on the trailer. It was too wide.

Earl looked over the situation while Daryl, the guy I bought the tractor from, and I looked at each other shaking our heads.  "Smitty's in Johnstown has a flatbed.  They can do it." said Daryl.

Earl said "Do you have a couple of boards?"

"Sure" said Daryl.

"Go get 'em."

Earl put the boards where the rear wheels of the tractor would go.

"Go ahead, drive it on." said Earl.

"I've never driven a tractor before.  I don't know how it works."

"It's a good time to learn."

So I clambered on to the tractor, got it started, and drove it up the ramp and on to the trailer.  It took a bit of doing because when I'd stop, the tractor would want to roll back down the ramp.  

"Step on the brakes!" hollered Daryl.

"I am!" 

"Step on 'em hard!"

Finally, by actually standing on the brakes, the tractor stayed in place.  I had read on the internet that tractor brakes are pretty much non-existent.  See, you can believe some things you read on the internet.  I turned off the ignition and left it in gear.

Daryl had to leave for a doctor's appointment, but before doing so he started his compressor so we could put air in the tires, which were flattened by  the weight of the tractor.  We then chained it down, and off we drove to Bleecker.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  That tractor wasn't on there real good, and the roads in Fulton County are full of bumps and pot holes, especially in the spring because of frost heaves.  We didn't want it bouncing off.

We made it just fine, although I was watching the tractor bounce and rock and roll in the rear view mirror the whole way.  Here are pics for you.

I started the tractor and, for the first time, got to drive it around.  I shifted it, raised and lowered the bucket, gave it gas and everything.  I drove it next door to our property and parked it.

Purty, ain't it?

I got a kick out of this plate on the engine.

This was built just nine years after the end of World War II.  The US economy was booming and America was the most powerful county in the world, not only militarily but economically, and we were rightfully proud.  To the left you can see an image of the Capitol, and the phrase "Powerful as the Nation" emblazoned on it.  I have a fondness for antiques and anything old, and that's one of the reasons why.

We've named the tractor Bessie.

While enjoying a couple of well deserved victory beers, it started to rain.  Again.  Great big thunder boomers.  Poor Bessie was sitting out in it.  I decided that my first building project shall be a pole barn.  Does anyone here know how to build a pole barn?

Today we're off to Saratoga with Earl's trailer to pick up an old Vermont Castings Resolute wood stove.  I think the trailer and Audrey (our Kia Sorento) can handle that OK.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

10,000 Page Views

Bleecker Mountain Life is nowhere near as popular as our Drift Away blog, which gets 10,000 page views a month, but 10,000 hits in just a few months is pretty cool, I think, especially because we're not into the fun stuff yet like operating heavy machinery.  If you haven't done so, click the "join this site" button on the left side of the  page, right over here...

Yesterday Pam went off to register her Miata and to pick up a used mitre saw that I bought from a local Facebook swap shop group.  A 12" Dewalt for $175 is a good deal, I think.  New they sell for $399 at Home Cheapo.

I'm retired and living on a social security check and a mortgage I'm holding.  I have a little stash in the bank, but that has to last us the rest of my lifetime, and with my luck I'll live to be 110, so I have to be careful with it.  I'm going to try to build our Unabomber cabin as inexpensively as I can buying good quality used tools and materials whenever possible.  I started a spreadsheet to track the costs, and I'll keep you updated as we progress.   This is the list thus far.

1954 Ferguson Tractor 2600
generator 1000
mitre saw 175
screen house 200

Total, $3,975.  I posted about the tractor the other day.  The generator was purchased from marina friends Geoff and Linda in Brunswick Georgia.   It's a brand new 15 KW diesel generator with 1/2 hour of run time on it. I'm adding the screen house to our list even though it's at our rental house since we'll move it later.

I got an estimate last night for grading the few acres of land we cleared.  $1,500 a day for two guys, a bulldozer, and some kind of stump puller.  They estimate four days.  Ugh.  I figure the well will be $10,000 or so for 150 feet of drilling.  I'll be meeting with the architect on Thursday morning and I'll be getting a proposal from him too.  The money is vanishing quickly.  Maybe I can get some of that money back by becoming a potato farmer.

The local co-op said they need Adirondack Blue potatoes.  If I plant one acre of them, the yield is 200 to 300 cwt/a (hundred weight per acre).   So 200 cwt/a is 20,000 pounds of potatoes.  At, say $.50 a pound wholesale, that's $10,000.  Of course, I'd have to buy one of these.

Soon I'll start doing much of the work myself, such as digging for the foundation and leech field with the backhoe.  And perhaps building a house.  We'll see.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Back With Friends

Pam and I spent a few years living on our boat Drift Away and cruised down the east coast of the US from Albany NY to Jacksonville FL.  We made many new friends along the way and reconnected with many folks who we've known for many years through Al Gore's Internets.  We've made friendships that I'm sure will last for many years, if not forever.  But they, and we, moved along.  Some headed north on their boats, some headed south, and some are headed to the South Pacific and perhaps around the world.

Moving back home means that we're back with old friends,  most of whom stay put.  That has its advantages, and yesterday was one of those days.  Pam went shopping with her mom and her best old friend Kim.   I cut more brush from along side the house and then offered to help friends Lance and Barb rig their new-to-them Capri 22 sailboat.

Since Pam had three passengers, she took the Kia Sorento.  I don't have my tractor yet, so I was stuck with the Miata.  I guess it was fun to drive.  It handles like its on rails, but you're so low to the ground that 50 MPH feels like 80.  And I found that I'm a little rusty with a manual transmission.

When I arrived at the marina on the Great Sacandaga, it was easy to find Lance and Barb's boat.  There's only a handful of sailboats there.  I arrived just as they did.  The mast was up, but that was it.  So the boom went on, the mainsheet, boom vang, and topping lift.  The main sail was bent on and the downhaul, outhaul, and reefing lines run.  Their jib was at the sailmaker for repair, but it was sunny and warm, and the wind was out of the west at 5 or 6 knots.  It was a perfect day for a novice's first sail.  Let's go!

It was apparent that Lance and Barb had done a lot of reading about sailing basics.  They had most of the lingo down.  If you're not a sailor, the lingo can be baffling.  For example, a sailboat has rope running all over the place, but not a single piece of it is called rope.  There are halyards, rodes, sheets, and lines.  Why?  Because when the skipper barks out a command, it is imperative that the crew knows exactly what he/she means.

"Ease the jib sheet!" is more meaningful than "Ease that rope over there" while pointing.

Yep.  It was a great day.  I had fun, and Pam came back from shopping with a rug with bears on it.

The dogs like the rug because it gets their butts off the cold floor.

Today, Pam is registering the Miata while I wait for the telephone installer to arrive.  We have no mailbox here, so I made a small sign with our number on it to stake out by the road.  I hope his truck is a 4 x 4.  Our driveway is still pretty muddy, and we're forecast for showers today.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Farm Vehicles

Pam and I both went off in search of the perfect vehicles for our little farmstead.

Yesterday, I bought this 1954 Massey Ferguson TO30 tractor.  Besides the front end loader, it has a three point hitch with a power take off for accessories.

With this baby, I'll be able to pull stumps, plow fields, cut brush, bale hay, plow snow, and a myriad other farm tasks.

This is what Pam came home with.

I don't know how she expects to pull stumps or mow hay with that.  I think she was swindled.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Did you grow up in the 50s? Book Recommendation.

I'm a baby boomer.  I was born in the 1950s.  It was a wonderful time to be a child, and yet a scary one.  It was wonderful because of the marvel of technology, such as television.   Soon we'd even have flying cars!  But it was scary because of the threat of nuclear holocaust.

If you're a homesteader, living a rural life far removed from many modern conveniences, chances are that you read more than average.  While I do the vast majority of my reading on the internet researching things I'm interested in, I occasionally read books.  You remember those, right?  The original laptop?

An old friend and fellow blogger, Bob of Rensselaer Plateau Life, recommended A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson.  I enjoyed it immensely (thanks Bob!).  Bryson has a captivating, humorous writing style that's easy reading and difficult to put down.  While I suggest you read A Walk In The Woods, if you're a baby boomer I strongly recommend that you read The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.  It's Bryson's memoir of his childhood, appropriately exaggerated and enhanced.  It is laugh out loud funny, especially if you remember bomb shelters, Sky King, and comic book superheroes.

In Bleecker news, the past couple of days was certainly bleak.  Cool and rainy, making doing anything outside miserable.  But I did go outside to address this.

It's the road down into our place.  The puddle isn't the biggest problem here.  Follow the "road" up to where it turns right and climbs steeply.  It's not a road, it's a mud slide.

We had cut many small scrub pines down around the house, so I decided to limb one of the bigger ones and use the branches to lay in the muddiest parts.  We still didn't try to go anywhere yesterday, but we may today.  I arranged to buy an old Vermont Castings Resolute woodstove off a fella on Craig's List and may go pick it up today if I can get out of the driveway.

I also want to go look at this.

It's a 1954 Massy Ferguson TO-30 tractor with a bucket!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It's Getting Bleaker in Bleecker

It's absolutely miserable weather here.  It's 40 degrees right now and raining a slow, tortuous drizzle.  It was much nicer yesterday when it was in the 50s and raining a slow, tortuous drizzle.  We had to get off the mountain and do something.

As soon as we got in cell phone range, Pam called Frontier Communications to arrange for a land line to be installed.  They're coming on Tuesday.

Next was to the Walmarts to pick up some gun oil and cleaning solvent, and then to an antique shop to look for cabin stuff.   Pam bought an old red enamel tea pot for the woodstove.  She then wanted to stop at the local food co-op and so we did.  She talked to the manager about selling produce there.  He said he needs someone to grow asparagus and blue potatoes, so that's now on our farm list.

Next stop, Frank's Gun Shop for .22 bullets.  Believe it or not, like all ammunition, even little bullets like that are in short supply.  Walmart had none.  Frank's limited purchases to two boxes, so that's what I bought.  I'm looking forward to target shooting with it.  I haven't fired that gun in over 40 years.  I used to be a crack shot with it, open sights and all.   I wonder if I can hit anything smaller than a Buick at 50 yards now.

We went to Pour Jim's for lunch, a great little place in Mayfield.  As soon as we walked in, we saw old friends Ed and Jean.  It's nice being back home where we both know so many people.  However, it's also nice that my appearance has changed so much that most people don't recognize me and stop me on the street to ask me computer questions.

We then trotted off to visit old friends Andy and Betty, a quick stop at Washburn's Dairy to look for a used trailer, and then back up the mountain to home.

It was very chilly, so I fired up the woodstove.  Pam sacked out on the couch, and I decided to play old records and clean my .22 Remington bolt action rifle and 20 gauge shotgun.  Yes.  20 gauge, not 12.

My house in Saratoga Springs was burglarized about 33 years ago.  One thing taken was my rifle.  I immediately hied myself to the Jamesway, a regional department store, and bought a single shot 12 gauge shotgun and a box of rifled deer slugs.  The police recovered all my stuff, including my rifle.  The shotgun went to the back of the closet.  To this day, it hasn't been fired.

With all of our moving, I misplaced the 12 gauge deer slugs.  I bought a box of 12 gauge buckshot shells at Walmart.   Because of the theft of guns around here, I thought it would be smart to record the serial numbers of my guns.

Pretty, ain't it?

This is a Remington Scoremaster Model 511.  According to the stamps on the barrel, it was made in 1952.  This gun is almost as old as I am.  It's held up much better, though.  There's no serial number stamped on it because of it's age.

I next checked the shotgun.  I was amazed to see "20 Gauge" clearly stamped on the barrel.  I just never looked at this gun closely.  This is a sissy gun, not a manly gun like a 12 gauge.  I'd return it if I could find the receipt and if Jamesway was still in business.  Oh well, no big deal I guess.  We'd only use it to frighten off bears and coyotes and such.  I suppose it will either make a big enough bang to frighten off the bears and coyotes, or it will make them stop whatever they're doing to roll on the ground and laugh hysterically.

I was listening to Jimmie Rodgers while putting a new coat of linseed oil on the gun stocks.  He's no doubt one of the best pop singers of all time.  What a voice.  If you don't recall Jimmie, here's a few examples for you.

Jimmie Rodgers - A Singer Silenced

Friday, May 24, 2013

Magic Jack - FAIL!

I'm an ex-computer guy.  I thought I was pretty savvy on most things technical, and fairly good at sorting out things I'm not familiar with.  Not.

We installed Hughes Net gen4 satellite internet service.  The basic package is 10 MbPS download speed, 1 MbPS upload.  It's not as fast as cable, but it seems to work fine for our use.

I checked out Magic Jack as a solution to our lack of telephone service.  The only requirements on the package are high speed internet and a telephone.  Checking their website, they require 128 KbPS upload speeds.  Our Hughes Net is seven times that speed.  So I bought it.

In the interest of saving you time and me aggravation in repeating the story, Magic Jack does NOT work with any kind of satellite internet service.  Cable and DSL internet is a continuous stream of packets of data.  There is a latency in the bursts of packets sent to and from satellites that makes VOIP (voice over IP) unusable, creating "static".

While on the Magic Jack tech support chat page, I made sure to vent all my frustrations on the support guy.  I think his name was Peggie.  I used words like "fraudulent" and "deceptive", and phrases such as "a waste of my time".  I asked questions such as "If Magic Jack doesn't work with satellite internet services, why not put this information on the package?  And on your website's home page?".  I got no groveling response from Peggie, nor an apology.

So Magic Jack goes back to Walmart, and I'll have to contact my local telephone company to see about running a phone line in here.  That will be, I'm sure, even more aggravating.  At least I have to wait until at least Tuesday because of the holiday.  And of course, checking their website, I can't email them for new service.  I have to call them.  On what?

Memorial Day weekend here in upstate New York is always a gamble.  Today, the working folks lost.

5-Day Forecast for Bleecker, New York

Today: Rain, High: 56 F, Low: 46 F

Tomorrow: Rain, High: 49 F, Low: 40 F

Sunday: Showers, High: 52 F, Low: 41 F

Monday: Partly Cloudy, High: 68 F, Low: 42 F

Tuesday: Partly Cloudy, High: 72 F, Low: 51 F

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And Now We Have Telephone, With No Phone Lines

Yesterday, I wrote about how we bought Hughes Net satellite service for our internet.  So far it's worked great.  Next we needed to figure out how to get a telephone in here.  Our cell phones have no bars and only work off the mountain.

While I was at the Walmarts, I picked up Magic Jack.   The package is very vague about how it connects and works, but once I opened the package, the instructions were clear and easy.   So easy, as a matter of fact, that it installed itself.

To use Magic Jack, you must have high speed internet and a router connected to your modem.  To install Magic Jack, you also need a computer connected to the internet.

First, you plug the Magic Jack connection gizmo into a USB port.  The software boots itself up and installs the device.  It then brings up an installation window where you enter your name and address.  You can pick your own telephone number for $3 or let Magic Jack do it for you.  I went wild and let MJ do it.   That was it.  Done.

I then unplugged the USB device from my laptop and plugged it into my UPS battery backup using an adapter (included), and ran a cat 5 ethernet cable (included) from the USB device directly to the router.   Finished.

Yes, it is that easy.  Oh, and don't believe some of the internet stuff you might read about how MJ won't work well with satellite because the upload speed is too slow.  That may have been true a couple of years ago, but Hughes Net is more than fast enough.

Speaking of speed, I ran a test on   We're running at 10.29 MbPS download, .8 upload.  That's plenty fast for us, since I don't play games online.

Magic Jack cost $70, and includes the first year's service.  Each year after that costs $29.95.  You can discount that to $19.95 if you buy five years at a time.  I didn't do that.  At my age, I don't buy green bananas let alone pay for five years of something.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We're Online!

Remember how hot it was in Georgia, for those of you who followed our Drift Away blog?  Please note that it's May in the mountains in upstate New York.

Yes.  93 degrees on the 21st.  Of course, the humidity is a mere 50%, and so it felt cool to us.

The cabin that Pam and I are renting is only about a mile from where we're going to build.  Like there, here we have no cell service and no cable TV.  We also have no telephone and not even dial-up internet.  That changed today.

We drove down to our property this morning to plant our mailbox.  Pam's mom and step-dad are next door, so Pam went over to do some laundry.  We found out that Pam's mom ordered Hughes Net satellite internet service based on some research I had done for her, and the installer was arriving that morning.  I placed a hasty telephone call to Hughes Net and arranged to have him install ours as well.  The installation company is out of Utica and is over an hour drive away.  Why not do two installs for the travel time of one?

The installer's name was also Dave and was a good guy.  After setting up the in-laws, I had him follow me to our place.  There is no way to find the driveway unless you know exactly where it is.  There's no mailbox, no newspaper holders, no driveway reflectors... no nothing, and you can't even see the driveway unless you know exactly where it is.  You drive off the road on faith that there's something there.

Within a short time, he had the Hughes Net dish installed, the modem set up, and even reset my Linksys router for me so the wireless works.

Of course, when he did that, he also disabled all the security I had set up, and that means that all my neighbors will be able to log on to my unsecure connection until I fix it.  That's very low on my list of priorities since we have no neighbors.

I will now be able to update this blog with some regularity, perhaps even everyday as I did with our Drift Away blog.

By the way, the dogs are fascinated by living in Bleecker.  They've always been in a controlled environment.  Either on leashes, or voice command.  They've never been free.  Here they are, and they're having a tough time adjusting to it.

Ruby and Chevy, the pitbulls, don't stray much more than a hundred feet or so from the house.  The creek is very enticing, however.  Water and sticks.  It doesn't get much better than that for Ruby.

So tomorrow's task will be telephone.  I'll let you know what I did and how it worked out tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Too Many Projects to Count

Pam and I are renting a little camp about a mile from where we're going to build.  While most of our efforts will be directed towards our own place, we're working around the camp to make it nice.  It's been unoccupied for a couple of years and looks it.  And because it's a camp, maintenance has been put off.

The first job was to replace the faucet in the bathroom.  The washerless faucet was dripping real good and I picked up a replacement at Home Cheapo for $19.

You might notice that the throne is a throne, raised up a foot or so.  The camp was built on a slab.

This is the old, nasty leaking faucet.

This kind of a project might be a fun one to blog about on Drift Away, our old trawler, because nothing is ever easy on a boat.  But in a house, it's a pretty mundane project.  The only exciting part was trying to get the hot water hose connected so it didn't leak.  Someone cross threaded the plastic nut and I had a heck of a time getting it on straight.

The next job was to install a screen door.  I wanted the old fashioned wooden kind with a spring that makes the door bang everytime it shuts.  It does, I'm pleased to say.

Yeah, I'll be cleaning up that mess soon.

Pam was heading down the mountain to see her friend Kim.  I asked where she wanted the screen house we bought.  She indicated a spot that's the only somewhat level place on the property, but it was covered in scrub pines. I needed to cut them all down.  The camp's owner has a couple of gizmos that look like weed whackers, but with blades instead of nylon lines.  The one with a circular saw on the end was broken, but after some effort I got the other to start.  It didn't cut worth a crap, but I worked at it, basically using it like an ax to chop down the little trees.  After a couple of hours it ran out of gas.  I set it down to let it cool and while I waited, I examined the blade closely.  The cutting edge was blunt and dull, but the back edge seemed sharp... it was mounted upside down!  I removed it and flipped it, filled it was gas, and it cut like a charm.  Soon I had a place big enough for the 10 x 10 screen house.

I was so ambitious at this point that I decided to attack all the scrub pines growing on the south side of the camp where all the windows are.  I got them all except for the biggest ones.  It was then that my father-in-law Earl showed up with his chainsaw, and I had most of the rest cut in short order.  I was exhausted and had to stop.   While Earl and I were enjoying victory beers, I glanced at the instructions for assembling the screen house.

"Do you want help with that?" asked Earl.

I wasn't going to tackle any more project, but decided that it would be a nice surprise for Pam if it was up when she returned.  Within a couple of hours, we had the screen house up and were enjoying victory beers in it.

Earl left, and shortly thereafter Pam returned and was pleasantly surprised.  We spent the rest of the evening enjoying sitting out in the screen house, bothered only by the black flies who were trapped inside when we put it up.  When they die off, it will be nice in there.

Today, I'm heading off the mountain to get into cell phone range to call Verizon tech support.  I had called them a couple of days ago to tell them that I had no service, even though I'm supposedly only four miles from a cell tower.  Kristen said that coverage here is "spotty" and she'll have an engineer check it out and get back to me.  Well, yesterday she called and left a message on my cell phone that it appears that I might have a problem with my Jet Pack because there's no activity on it and they can't connect to it.  Well duh.  I told her it works fine if I drive off the mountain and sit in a parking lot someplace, but not on the mountain.  Of course they can't connect to it.  So this should be a fun call.  But at least I can update the blog while I'm sitting in the Walmart parking lot.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bleecker Assembly Project Number One - the Grill

It was chilly when we awoke yesterday.  Chilly as in below freezing.  Welcome to Bleecker.

The bedroom is upstairs.  Heat rises.  Sunshine is warm.

We have a nesting pair of Gray Catbirds just outside our windows.

Olivia, our German Shorthaired Pointer birddog, actually quivers with excitement when she sees them.  It's pretty funny to watch.

The cabin hadn't been lived in for a couple of years (for you Drift Away followers, are you noticing a pattern here?) and we have a lot of clean up to do.  Dust and mouse droppings mostly. I expect the mice will move out because of the dogs.  I hope they do, anyway.

The hats are part of a collection of the places we've been.  I'm not a hat collector, really, but bald guys need to cover our noggins.

Pam is doing a wonderful job of making our little place cozy.

There it is.  Bleecker Assembly Project Number One.

The first thing to do is to scatter the parts all over the yard.  Then, read the "directions".  I say this with derision because, like all assembly instructions, you really can't tell which way is up on most parts.  I had to remove and reinstall several parts.  It was such frustrating work that I started consuming victory beers before comletion of the project, something I rarely did on Drift Away.

Black Flies were swarming all over me.  I lit two Tiki torches, a citrinella candle, and doused myself in insect repellent.  This had the odd effect of attracting more Black Flies.

The finished product.

I fired it up to burn off the factory paint and gunk, which stunk up the yard pretty good.  This attracted more Black Flies.

I had to retreat inside the cabin at this point.  Today, we're off to Home Cheapo to buy a new bathroom faucet a toilet flapper valve to fix very minor leaks, but which make the well pump kick on every ten or fifteen minutes.

We're also shopping for a screen house for the yard.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

We arrived in Bleecker mid-afternoon.  After several days of packing and driving, both we and the dogs
had enough.  We spent the night at Pam’s folks house and relaxed.  The next day, Friday, we tackled the cabin.

The “driveway” is no more than a rutted path through the woods.  If you didn’t know exactly where to
look, you would never find it.  The Kia Sorento has great ground clearance, but the hitch on the U-Haul
trailer was only a few inches off the ground.  I knew I’d never be able to get in there, but dad-in-law
Earl’s truck could, so we jacked the U-haul off Audrey the Kia and put it on the truck.  Earl towed it over to the cabin’s driveway and surprisingly decided to back it down the narrow, twisty one tenth of a mile long road.   He did it well, much better than I could have.  It would have taken me several days to back down there.  Pam followed in Audrey while I gave directions to Earl.  He really didn’t need them, but it made me feel useful.

Here’s our first view of the cabin.

It’s certainly very rustic, and like many Adirondack cabins is a work in process, but it will suit our needs well.  It’s less than a mile from our property.  We unloaded the trailer into the cabin, which was a much easier process than loading it.

I like how the owner made clearance for the ceiling fan over the stairway.

The back of the cabin.  I called the owner and left a message asking if it would be OK to cut the small
trees growing up around it.

The dogs were exhausted.  For the first time, Olivia was able to run free all day long, which she did.  As a hunting dog, she had plenty of things to hunt.  Rodents and small birds, mostly.  I don’t know what she’s going to do when she sees a bear or deer.

We awoke early.  It was chilly, much cooler than the Georgia and Florida weather we left.

That’s right.  28 degrees outside.  I cleared boxes away from the woodstove and started a fire to take the chill off.

I have no internet access here at all.  No cell service, no cable TV, no telephone lines, no nothing.
Verizon claims there’s a cell tower only four miles away, but even on the second floor of the cabin I get zero bars.  I’ll call them today to see if I can get an answer.

Pam is off to the city (Gloversville, population 15,000) to pick up some odds and ends.  I set up a little
table in the spare bedroom, which is now a storeroom, to use for an office.  I set up my laptop so I can write this blog in MS Word and then just copy and paste it while sitting in Audrey where there’s cell service.

The rest of today will be more unpacking and getting ourselves set up in the cabin, and then we’ll figure out what we’re doing with this.

This is our land, just down the road from our cabin.  I need a bulldozer.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lost. I need my Chartplotter.

When Pam and I cruise on our trawler, the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) basically follows natural and manmade rivers and canals down the east coast, occasionally crossing bays or venturing out into the ocean.  It can often be confusing when one or more waterways intersect and buoys and day markers are seemingly scattered willy nilly about.  To find our way, we have both a chartplotter (sort of like a car GPS) and paper charts (nautical maps).  Pam steers and uses the chart plotter, and I navigate with paper charts.  Between the two of us, we've only gotten off course a couple of times.

Well, yesterday we got an early 8 AM start from North Carolina.  That's pretty amazing for us because we walk three dogs, get breakfast, drink coffee, check Al Gore's internets, pack up, and walk the dogs.  We were underway and making good time and decided to push on straight for Bleecker, getting us there around 10 PM we figured.  We can only run at 60 MPH because of the heavy U-Haul trailer.  It gets a little squirrely faster than that.  Yes, everyone passes us, in all lanes.  Even little old blue haired ladies in Buicks.

Our timing was perfect.  We hit Washington DC well after the morning rush hour, and before lunch traffic.  We passed Baltimore after the lunch crowd and well before the evening rush.  And then it happened.  I was supposed to leave the I-95 channel and take a starboard exit to the Jersey Turnpike and the Delaware Bridge.  I did not.  The road was five lanes wide.  Three ran up I-95 to Philadelphia, and two went to the Delaware Bay Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike.  I was in the third lane from the left, the right most Philadelphia bound lane, clearly marked I-95.  After a quick discussion, it was decided I needed to get my ass over one lane and head towards the bridge.  I looked in my mirror for an opening to shift right, but there were cars were in a long line, drafting each other NASCAR style.  I swear a few even flipped me off when they saw me look in the mirror.  We were on our way to Philadelphia.

After a friendly debate about who's fault it was, complete with salty sailor words not fit for little ears, our paper chart navigation system shut down.  Shut down as in "Go anywhere you want to go."

Before long, we were smack in Philadelphia area traffic at rush hour.  Everything was gridlocked.  To make a long, boring story short, we're now in a Quality Inn in New Jersey after our paper chart navigation system rebooted.

I'm still not sure what happened.  Clearly, after three years of living aboard a boat that travels at 9 MPH, we're out of our element now.  But I-95 runs all the way to NYC, then Stamford and Boston.  You can theoretically just stay on I-95 all the way and sooner or later find a sign for the New York Thruway.

Pam looked at the road atlas and said we could take I-76 to I-295 to I-95 and then the New Jersey Turnpike.  We took I-76 to I-295 SOUTH/I-95 NORTH.  What??  Then there was a sign saying END I-95.  Insert salty sailor word here.  What to do now?  We then saw a sign for the Jersey Turnpike, so we stayed on I-295 south.  It picked up another version of I-95 again as well as the Jersey Turnpike.  That's when we'd had enough and stopped for the day.

Of course, we didn't stop like normal folks.  I saw one of those blue exit signs that said Comfort Inn.  Perfect.  So I got off exit 8B.  No Comfort Inn.  After some struggle turning the U-Haul around and making an illegal left turn in a right turn only lane, we got back on I-295.  As we passed the exit AFTER exit 8B, I saw a Comfort Inn sign.  Nice.  Let's put the blue service information signs an exit before where the service really is.

How can there be two I-95s?   One that goes to Philadelphia, and another to New Jersey?  Why are Philadelphia drivers among the most obnoxious I've ever encountered and, even though your left blinker is on because you're in an exit only lane they refuse to let you merge into their lane (thank you out-of-Philadelphia driver for letting me merge).

Arrrr.  I can't wait to get to Bleecker and the quiet, peaceful, no traffic mountains, and to get that U-Haul unloaded and off the car.  Sadly, I think the box with the alcohol in it is all the way in the front, on the bottom.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Used Shipping Containers

I was intending to build a 10 x something building to use for storage.  It would have to be big enough to hold a whole bunch of our stuff plus a Miata.  While daydreaming at 60 MPH on I-95, ignoring all those honking horns and finger signals, I thought about buying a used shipping container.  Last night, at our motel in Brunswick Georgia, I googled a few sites.   I found a 10 x 40 for $2,400.  I emailed them asking about shipping costs to Bleecker.  They answered me today.  $1,000 on a roll-off, $650 if I can get it off myself.

I have access to a backhoe.  If that would lift it, I could use that.

A shipping container would be perfect, I think, for storing goods unattended in the Adirondacks in the winter.  They're waterproof, mouse proof, and bear proof.  The fact that they're ugly doesn't matter much to me.  I'll spray it forest green and paint pansies on the sides.

I emailed them back asking about the weight of the container, and then will figure out if the backhoe will lift it.

In moving news, this morning we picked up our diesel generator (thanks Geoff, Linda, and Dick!) and then went to our storage unit and unloaded that.  Our 6 x 12 trailer is loaded to the max.  I'm pretty sure we've exceeded our maximum tongue weight.  The aft end of the Kia is sagging pretty low, and the U-Haul trailer's hitch is about 2 inches off the ground.   Our cruising speed is only 60 MPH, which you might think sounds slow, but is much faster than the 1,643 miles we cruised at 9 MPH on our boat.

We're now in North Carolina, and will make Delaware tomorrow if we take it easy, and Bleecker on Thursday.  We're anxious to see what our newly logged property looks like and what kind of view, if any, we have.  We're also eager to see what the cabin we rented looks like, since we rented it sight unseen.

I think having a cruising mindset makes you unafraid to just jump in to test the waters.  You look at your chart and the available information around you and make your best judgement call.  You're also completely unafraid to change course if that-a-way looks interesting.

This should be interesting.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Loading Up and Moving North

My wife and I unloaded our belongings off our much loved trawler Drift Away.  It's amazing the things you accumulate when you live aboard a boat.  We filled up a good portion of our 6 x 12 U-Haul trailer. And we still have to stop in Brunswick to pick up a diesel generator and a lot more stuff in our storage unit there.

Our tow vehicle is our mountain car, a 2013 all wheel drive Kia Sorento, with a 276 HP six cylinder engine. 

It pulls the trailer effortlessly.  Our 30 MPG highway mileage is now 16.5 MPG, however.  Wait until we load another couple of thousand pounds in there.

One of the first things we'll be building on our land is a 10 x 20 storage shed to hold our stuff.  That will eliminate our two storage units and $200 a month.

I was daydreaming while driving on I-95 (I know.  Fair warning.  At least I'm not texting) and I wonder how much a used container costs?  Or perhaps an old trailer from a tractor-trailer?  We have plenty of woods and ten acres to hide it on, so looks doesn't matter.  Mouse proof, waterproof matters.  I'll have to look into it.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting Ready for the Move North

We moved our car from our marina in Georgia to the marina where Drift Away will spend the next six months.  I've arranged for a 6' x 12' UHaul to cart our stuff up to Bleecker.  I've also purchased a generator from some folks here at the marina.  Things are coming together.

We hope to be up in Bleecker in mid-May so we can start cleaning up the stumps left from clearing the land.  I need to replace a hydraulic hose on the backhoe first, though.

There is a mobile home on the property that I posted on a local Facebook swap shop page.  I had a lot of people who wanted it then, and gave it to the first respondent.  He was supposed to have removed it.  According to my mom-in-law, it's still there.  I posted it again, but have gotten no response.  Great.

Pam and I are both sad to be leaving Drift Away, our home for over three years now.  But our mini-cruise should be fun before we're hauled out.  If you're interested in following it, our cruising blog is