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Morale Buster – Morale Booster

2 December 2016

High of 34° – Super Sunny

It seems our streak of super nice weather has come to an end.  The last week was tough as temps dipped into the teens each night and it hasn’t been above freezing except for today.  Also, it has been cloudy and crazy windy, leading to some problems with a camper running off of solar power and exposed to the elements.

We woke up Tuesday morning to find our water pump had frozen, despite the hay bales all around the camper.  We have to unhook the water hose to the camper from the hydrant each night, as the hose will freeze and the ice will move into the camper plumbing system and the hydrant causing all kinds of problems.  So, to have water available, we have a fresh water tank in the camper and a water pump that provides water to the hot water heater, the toilet and the faucets.  Well, Tuesday morning el pumpo no worko!  Frustration followed as we realized the hydrant was frozen as well so we had no access to running water.  The high on Tuesday was in the 20’s and it was cloudy and windy with no chance of thawing out and not a lot of excess power from the solar panels…..ugh….morale buster!

We went to Custer and bought some antifreeze and a space heater to stick under the camper.  We were both feeling pretty low, thinking we may have busted our camper and how it would be next to impossible to live out here without any running water.  We even contemplated winterizing the camper and getting a month to month rental in town…morale buster. Image result for winter memes

I talked to my parents on the phone that day. Dad told me how when he grew up they didn’t have running water or heat in their house.  He grew up in Iowa and the cold winters were not easy in that situation.  He said they would wake up and have to break ice off the top of the water bucket to get something to drink, then he and his siblings would run to the barn which was warm because that’s where the cows were!  Well, I guess we don’t have it that bad in our little propane heated camper.  Mom said, “things break and when it’s cold they break a lot.”  I’ll take these wise lessons from two seasoned farmers who lived in a time where cold and no water were the norm, not the exception. Thanks for the gut-check Mom and Dad….morale booster! 

Wednesday morning, Pilot Dave and I woke with a fresh perspective.  This is South Dakota and winter is here and we aren’t going to quit that easily.  Dave took my hair dryer to the water pump and I covered the hydrant with black plastic and his grill cover, hoping to get some warmth in there or at least protect the pipe from the wind.  Around 10 AM, the water pump defrosted and came back to life.  Morale Booster!  It really is the little things out here that make all the difference.

Since then, we have decided to run the pump off and on throughout the night to keep some water moving. This seems to be working – morale booster.  We also have discovered we have a leak somewhere, and the waste water pipe to the dump valve has frozen solid – morale buster.  The roller coaster continues. Today I am doing laundry in Hot Springs (which has the nicest laundromat I have ever seen in my life) and Dave is at Ace hardware picking up some heat tape and sealant for the pipes.  We are not yet defeated!  The forecast has two days next week with highs in the teens and it is supposed to drop below zero at night. An arctic blast!  Our plan of attack is to stock up on propane and keep that camper and underbelly as warm as possible.  We can also run the generator at night to keep the heat tape warm and put a light bulb under the camper body amongst the hay bales if necessary.  Wish us luck!

Other good news is the progress on the house.  The sheet rock guys (aka the Sheet Rockers….could be the name of a new rock band?) have been at it all week and are making tons of progress.  Todd and his crew have been doing a heap of work as well and it seems like things are accelerating.  The house is so insulated that even though the temps are in the teens at night it has remained 50 degrees or more!

So the saga continues…….despite what has been the low point in our adventure thus far we are still happy to be here.  We really have no complaints, we are healthy, happy, eating well, entertained by cows, and definitely appreciating the freedom we have out here.  We hope you will continue to read and I promise there will be less crabbing in the next blog, come hell or high water or snow drifts and no water.

Finishing Touches on Water Hydrant

 

5-28-16

Sunny, Calm, Warm, Rainy, Cold, Windy

Today we put the finishing touches on our water hydrant.  Although the 6′ hydrant was connected and buried along side a treated timber we needed some way to keep the cows from using it as a scratching post.  So we dug three holes in a triangle around the hydrant to a depth of about 2′.  Then we put in 8′ treated timber poles, threw in some rock and dirt, tamped the rock and dirt until sturdy.  To add more stability we added two runs of cross boards connecting the three poles.  When we cut off the excess poles we added those in an “X” pattern on top. This ain’t going anywhere!

When we went back up to the High Lonesome for some extra wood screws, Cowboy Dave came across this sign and asked if we should put it on the hydrant.  He added the “S”, fitting if you know Jenny.

IMG_3378

IMG_3379

 

 

Water Situation Update

Saturday, 21 May 2016, Foggy, Cold and 64°F – barely!

It was so cold and foggy this morning.  We had planned to take advantage of the official opening weekend at Custer State Park and drive through and see what was happening.  We drove South on 87, up through the mountains where we could see nothing from the scenic overlooks because of the fog.  Actually, we were in the clouds and it was eerie and awesome.  As we descended through the southern part of the park on the Wildlife Loop, we could see much better and spotted many bison, antelopes, and some very friendly wild burros.

We were feeling quite adventurous and decided to leave the main road and head south on one of the dirt roads that is much less traveled.  What a treat, we saw so many more buffalo including many Mom and baby pairs right in the road.  We followed the road up a very steep hill and were rewarded with one of the best views either of us has ever seen.  360° of nothing but wilderness, rolling hills and the silhouettes of buffalo on the ridge lines; not another car or human in sight. These pictures do not do the scenery justice, if any of you readers ever get here in person we will have to show you this spot!

After goofing off on the park back roads, we headed down to Hoten Holler to see if we could get the hydrant hooked up, finally.  Reef jumped in the hole and it had dried enough that he was able to shovel out most of the mud and reach the hose.  We used Dawn Dishwashing Soap to lube up the barb and the water line and Reef hammered the fitting into the hose.  He clamped the hose and turned on the water and it works!  We spent the next couple hours packing rocks into the hole and shoveling dirt back in.  This was work, but not as hard as shoveling the dirt out. Hotens – 2, Black Hills Rural Water – 3.  We are gaining.

This hydrant is one of the first of many projects on our homestead list.  Next big project:  barbed wire fence around the driveway and home area.  Of course we finished the day by visiting the High Lonesome where we drank a few beers on the porch and celebrated our victory!

Barbed Wire and Beer

12 May 2016 – Sunny (WINDY) 63°F

Today we went out to the property to meet the water guys and get our water turned on….finally.  Unfortunately, they had already done that after some miscommunication and our hydrant hole is now full of mud.  Black Hills Rural Water – 2, Hotens – 0.  Now we are waiting for it to quit snowing (yes snowing!) so we can get back there and dig some more in that danged hole!

We also met with Todd (builder) and the solar guys and discussed where the battery bank would go and how they would trench for the conduit for the solar panels to the battery storage.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I wish I would have taken some pictures!  More to come.

After all the “business” was taken care of, we went over to Cowboy Dave and Linda’s to see if they needed help with anything.  We spent the afternoon stringing barbed wire between his pasture and the National Forrest.

We had begun this project last week, tearing down the old barbed wire fence and learning all sorts of new tricks from Cowboy Dave.   I am so happy to now have received some tutelage in the use of fencing tools.  (Pilot Dave has done this type of work before.)  I learned to use a fence post jack, a fencing tool, a post cannon, (actually Pilot Dave did all of the post cannon work), and a fence stretcher.  Last week we had jacked the posts and taken down the old barbed wire….some of it was single strand which Cowboy Dave pointed out has not been manufactured since the late 1800’s.  There is some history out here in the hills!  So we rolled that wire and he kept it as an antique.  We salvaged the multi-strand wire and reused it when we moved the fence.

The two Dave’s built an “H” which was two big logs that were driven into the ground with braces in between.  The H provides stability and tension for the barbed wire in the corners.  Then Pilot Dave used the post cannon and drove all the posts into the ground (sometimes into the rock!).  This was good exercise, and Cowboy Dave was happy to have Pilot Dave’s help!  We attached the wire to the H and the last post pulled it tight, and began hanging it on the t-posts all the way to the end.  We did 3 wires and have one to go, but about 4pm, Cowboy Dave said, “Is it time to go drink beer?”  And everyone knows the answer to that question.

So back up to the High Lonesome homestead we went and had a few Keystone Lights on the porch with our wonderful friends and their two sweet dogs.  Shortly thereafter, our other new friend, Matt, showed up with his 5 dogs!  Yes, 5 dogs….I’m in heaven!  Then, another friend showed up whom we had not yet met.  This man, Chad, had a rough week as his parents’ home burned to the ground on Tuesday and his girlfriend broke her back in a separate incident and was in the hospital.  Cowboy Dave and Matt had rushed to Chad’s folks’ place to help fight the fire but it was too windy and they were too late.  Chad said they were having a massive cleanup effort this Saturday and we volunteered to go help. 

So these are some things we have observed about the people in the rural Black Hills.  Neighbors are good to each other.  They want to help new friends succeed in their ventures into farming/ranching. They want to help old friends when things don’t go well.  They take advantage of the sunny days by getting up early, working hard all day and then drinking cold beer in the late afternoon sun.  No one ever pulls out their smart phone during conversation, in fact they rarely use cell phones. They love their dogs.  They love their guns.  They love their freedom.  We love it here.

Water Hydrant

Okay, so we have rural water to the property.  Two water lines actually, one designated for the house and the other for livestock.  The water company, (a name that shall not be mentioned), trenches the 1″ pipe along the road and then about 50′ or so into our property.  The pipe is buried about 6′ down.  Then they install a meter connected to a post in the ground and leave about 10′ of the pipe sticking up out of the ground.  Since we are already paying for the water, even though we have not used a single gallon yet, (I’m hitting the keys very hard now),  we are going to install a 6′ frost free water hydrant so we can use the water we are already paying for.  If you’ve never installed a 6′ hydrant, and I don’t know why you would, let me tell you, digging a six foot hole is a great workout!  Just ask Jen, I’m tired just watching! We hope to finish tomorrow before the rain fills up the hole.

 

Update: 5-7-16

Added the elbow to the hydrant and put gravel in the bottom of the hole for the drain, then we cut the 1″ pipe and added two clamps to attach the pipe to the brass elbow.  Before attaching the pipe to the hydrant we wanted to turn on the water line to flush it out in case any dirt or debris was in the line so we didn’t clog up the hydrant.  The water company, has installed a “special” valve near the road that turns on and off the water supply so we were not able to flush the line today.  We will have to call them out to the site on Monday to turn on the water, I can’t wait to spend some quality time with them!

 

 

 

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J.C. Brae

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