We arrived back home on the last days of March. It was also the last few days for a while that we could have driven onto the property and turned the rig around and parked it. As it was I was tired and more incompetent than usual and needed more tries to get it positioned “just so” in the dark than I might need lower on the fatigue scale on one of my better days in daylight. So “good enough” became the order of the arrival and maybe before we leave here I will move the fifth wheel trailer over a few feet. Or maybe not. But here we are in what passes for spring in the frozen north. The melt is on. The unpaved roads and driveways are mushy for the foreseeable future with freezing most nights and melting most days. There will be expectations of the occasional snow still for the next month. Last year’s grass will appear and get covered a few more times.
One will be encouraged by seeing the grass and then a spring storm will come along. They have had snow here one year or another every month of the year except for July. Not every year, of course, but it has happened and it could happen again. The year we moved here I planted some tomatoes and was dismayed to see them shivering in six inches of snow on August 20th. Then there was the Mother’s Day a couple of years after that when we got over a foot of wet, west-coast-type snow and Juanita was out for hours trying to knock the snow off the tops of the spruce trees she could reach before the tops snapped off with the weight of the snow.
Our mental deadline for getting back was April 7th. That would allow for a week to get our Canadian taxes calculated so Juanita could file her United States Taxes by April 15th. That was taken care of in the first few days. Then life settled down to routine. Amazing how quickly we settle into our ruts, isn’t it?
There was time for a bit of writing. My favourite piece posted was this one on Jail Mindset. Maybe it will be yours.
Sonja, Sasha and Kohen all participated in the music festival and we trooped off to the local high school for several days of some pretty decent playing and some really good commentary by the adjudicator from out of town.
I only managed to take two pictures before being told that they had annouced (before we arrived) that no picture taking was allowed.
While we are away Deborah collects all our mail from the post office, throws out the fliers and places the remainder in a rubbermaid container. It is sort of fun to go through it and read the Christmas cards three months late and have all the tax pieces of paper at once.
There was a surprise cheque for five bucks from the local credit union that was a few days shy of stale dating so that got cashed during a routine trip to town.
One thing that was not quite so pleasant a surprise was a letter from the union saying the policy had changed so that we all needed to be “Ready for Work” and have all our necessary safety qualifications up to date before we could pull a dispatch slip and go to work anywhere. I guess the employers are tired of people showing up to work and having to spend a few days in re-certification training on the employers’ dime. Fair enough.
I checked around and determined which courses I needed and registered a training account on-line and booked them in a really user friendly process on-line. There were three all-day courses I booked in Edmonton for the week after Easter with the first one on Easter Monday. And then there was a half day course I booked later for May 1. Those should be enough for now. There are a couple of other potential hoops to jump through for some specific jobs which I am not sure I would want, but that should cover it for any jobs I am considering as an instrumentation technician.
While in Edmonton we got to spend some time with Rebekah and her children (husband Nick is working on an out of town job for a few months). We attended the start of an AWANA meeting where Ezekial received an award and one fine afternoon we went to a nearby playground.
Easter in the North Woods
Good Friday we all went to dinner at Deborah and Ernest’s. There was another couple and Ernest’s brother and his significant other and her daughter as well. Ernest’s brother left after dark and we left shortly after. I followed the tracks his truck made through the snow. I know the centre of the loop can get soft so I swung wide of his tracks. His tracks were already wide enough and I quickly found myself buried to the hubs of our 4x4 dually truck on all four wheels with none of them doing anything useful movement-wise. They just flung mud. Lots of prairie gumbo. Ernie hooked up his truck but that did nothing. Meanwhile during our attempts the ABS brake warning came up on the dash along with a “Service 4 Wheel Drive” message. Nice.
Deborah and Ernest live on a quarter section of land (one quarter of a square mile, 160 acres) but just rent out most of the pasture land and have no farm equipment. She called a neighboring farmer and he showed up with a huge John Deere tractor and dragged us backwards for about a hundred feet until we were sure of being on firmish ground. I thanked him, shook his hand and called him his brother’s name and asked is I could help with the fuel for his tractor. He graciously refused, even after being called by the wrong name. I guess he is used to it by now. They do look alike and I was a little stressed. Juanita was even more stressed. There was some really touch and go minutes between the house and the highway and even a few on the highway home in the winter whiteout conditions and roads the snow plow had not got to yet. But we made it home okay. On the way to the highway the warning messages and lights went away.
The next day the snow had reached about a foot deep and seemed to have stopped for a while. I cleaned a path across the deck and pulled the snow off the slides on the fifth wheel trailer. Juanita cleared an area around the car for leaving the following day.
Then I sanded some pieces for the stairs I was making and took them over to varnish in Deborah and Ernest’s basement. I asked Juanita if she wanted to come. She declined. The drive over there was mostly uneventful on the highway although it still wasn’t totally ready for prime time. Once off the highway things were even worse than the night before. Nearing the end of the first mile I was on an almost level piece of ground and the truck started going slower and slower and finally stopped moving forward altogether. I got out and checked. The wheels were all sitting high. Just no traction. The cows across the fence watched with interest, but offered no advice. Cows are like that. I got back in and the truck would not move forward. I gently got it to go back and forth a bit and then carefully got it going faster and faster and then didn’t slow down even for the corners on the way to Deborah and Ernest’s where I parked on really high ground, well away from the house. It was a bit of a pain to make multiple trips with all my pieces of wood, but better that than getting buried again.
When I left I went as fast as possible back to the highway. Maybe a little too fast. As I rounded the corner of the first intersection the truck started sliding sideways into the ditch. Fortunately the snow was so deep and sticky that when I released my foot on the accelerator the sideways motion stopped instantly and I carefully drove away from the brink and toward the highway. Back in town I sat in the line of mud covered pick-ups until it was my turn to spend eleven dollars at the wand wash to get the mud out of the wheel wells. Then back home to drive over the drive and make a track for the car to leave on Sunday morning.
The plan was to go to church then get on the road to Edmonton.
As our e-mail to friends said: “It is normally a ten-minute drive to town. We left at 9:00 for the 9:30 church Easter breakfast. Only made part way to the grid road. Finally, after church with six designated pushers and one designated driver the car was on its way again.”
The longer version is that the truck provided a path for the wheels of the car, but the snow in the centre of the driveway was still too high. After about twenty or thirty feet the bumper would push up enough to almost stop the car. The solution was to back up and take another run at it. That was working really well until I mis-backed and managed to get the car stuck on the edge of the driveway with two wheels into the softer ground.
Two old people couldn’t get it out.
There was not enough room to get past with the truck. There was nowhere practical to attach a tow rope. I jacked up one wheel and put carpet under it. I guess this year we are not going to be even Easter Christians as far as church attendance goes. I walked the rest of the route to the grid road knocking the centre snow down with a shovel.
We went in the house and waited for church to be out and Deborah and Ernie and their kids to come. If they had not been coming I would have jacked the car up corner by corner and put it on sheets of OSB but that would take hours. There is also a spot on the rear bumper for an eyebolt to go into but the manual is highly discouraging about the use of that for getting out of mud or snow. And, of course the back was full of luggage and the eye bolt lives under the spare tire under the luggage space.
While they were getting us unstuck a grader went by the end of the driveway. A while later another grader went by to get the first one unstuck and then left in a hurry with his blade up. The first grader came back and filled the end of our driveway with big lumps of snow. The kids and Ernest and Deborah kicked them out of the way and we only got stuck a little bit on them and followed the Johnston clan to the highway. They turned right and pulled over to see that we made it. We turned left and headed south. This is not the normal route we take to Edmonton, but we would get south of the snow faster this way. After following a snow plow for a number of miles and passing it when it went wide to clean out a safety stop we eventually got to bare and dry highways. An hour south we turned west and carried on to Edmonton.
Sonja turned seventeen in April. Her aunt Rebekah and her Edmonton cousins came to Meadow Lake to help celebrate.
Replacing the Ladder
We have had a ladder to the loft in our tiny house. This month I finally bit the bullet and started the process of replacing it with a set of Jefferson stairs using the "Ladder Stair" plans at Country Plans as a starting point. Jefferson stairs have alternating treads to give the same effective run in half the space of regular full tread stairs. They should be easier to go up and down than the ladder and open up some useable space under the stairs. We’ll see. I understand that people tend to go down them backwards because they seem so steep. Again, we’ll see. Sometimes the time for pondering is done and the time for action arrives. I have noticed a lot of material lately that making a decision and acting on it has huge benefits. In there is also a hidden message that a decision to not do something is a decision. So make up your mind already. Are you going to do it? Yes? Then what action(s) can you take right away?. No? Then stop thinking about it. Free up that mental energy.
Every year or two I re-read Steve Pavlina’s Do It Now article which is an inspiration to me each time I read it.
So whatever I read or thought that finally got me moving the outcome is a mini-project that had been put off for around eight years is now complete and I am mostly pleased with the result.