Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winter Blast!

Howdy readers.  Winter has hit Shangri La BIG TIME, and we're getting snow and frigid temps earlier than we've seen it before.  That's not a complaint...just an observation.  Our take on northern Michigan winters is that you can either choose to embrace it, or choose to hide from it (and complain about it).  We're definitely more in the former camp than in the latter.  For me, I'm a bit of a claustrophobic and if I'm inside for too long I can get pretty darn annoying to those around me.  I think Shelly will vouch for me on that fact.  Since waiting until spring to play outside is not an option, around here we gear up and go play.  We've been getting quite a bit of snow, and last weekend Shelly, Peanut, and I went out and had some fun.  We actually went out with the intention of hiking to the deer blinds to check on them, but we wound up staying out long after that was done.  :)  

I thought y'all might like to see what things look like around here in the winter time.  I know we typically post project pics, but we don't do a whole lot of outside work this time of year...other than plowing snow.  You're not likely to see an outdoor project pic until spring, so please enjoy this slight deviation from our standard fare.  ;)

Picnic Table Snow Gauge

Peanut, scouting ahead in one of the deer blind clearing.

"You're getting too far ahead, pup.  Get on back here!"

Shelly, looking stylish in her winter attire.

The mandatory selfie, with Peanut's dog butt in the background.

The power line easement at the front of our property.
Yeah...we're getting some snow.

The Shangri La homestead, decked out in its winter finery.

Hopefully you've enjoyed this little winter sightseeing tour of Shangri La.  I may wind up doing another one of these at some point.  Winters are long around here.  :)

Thanks for visiting.  Until next time.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Changing Plans and Tackling A New Room

We really thought we had nailed down our main winter project, but we've decided now to put the basement project on hold for a little longer.  With our son Michael leaving soon I no longer need to build a home office.  Instead we're going to use the second upstairs bedroom as my office, with a queen sized futon also in there for whenever we need a room for guests.  For those that might not know, our house (not counting the basement) is only 700 square feet.  We truly can't afford to have any unused or barely used rooms, so the spare bedroom as a dual-use space makes great sense.  We're still noodling around with how we want to reconfigure our basement plan, but it's looking like it'll be significantly simplified.

So, with no set plans for the basement, what room should we tackle now?  If you said master bedroom...DING, DING, DING...we have a winner!  I knocked two things off the project list this weekend...painting the ceiling, and removing and replacing the old ceiling fan.  The previous owner was a HUGE fan (no pun intended) of gloss paint...everywhere...including the ceiling.  Here are a few "before" pics.

We're not overly fond of the 80's vintage ceiling fan.  It's got to GO!
Check out the shine on that ceiling!
As you can see from the above pic, the ceiling had one heckuva shine to it with that gloss paint.  It also had a gray cast to it.  We're fairly certain this is the original paint from when the house was built in the 80's.  That gray cast is about thirty years of wood stove soot that we couldn't scrub out, even using TSP.  You can also see where I removed the old fan, then removed the light fixture from it and wired it back in to give myself some light while painting.  We went with a flat white paint for the ceiling.  Clean and simple.  We've picked out the color for the walls, but we're going to make y'all wait to see it until after we're done.  Neener. ;)  One thing is certain.  It won't be anything remotely like the pink walls you see in the pics.  :)

Here is the finished product, after some minor sanding, two coats of flat white paint, and a new fan/light installed.

Harbor Breeze, Lansing model, purchased at  Lowes
No more shiny!
We chose this ceiling fan because it matched up real well with the night stands and bedside lamps we already have.  It should also go very nicely with the cork flooring we'll eventually be laying down.

I know that it's nothing earth shattering as projects go, but its impact will be felt daily.  Perhaps starting off with a smaller project is the best way to ease back into this.  That might be the right of it, because it feels very good to be back.  :)

Thanks for reading.  Until next time.  :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

For those following, may we humbly request...

May we humbly request your forgiveness for the lack of updates, and your indulgence for the reading of why we've been absent.  I know that it may seem that we've abandoned the blog, and I guess it's partially true.  This year has been one to remember.  Unfortunately it's one that we, in our darker moments, would prefer to forget.

Some of you may know, but for those that don't...before we took ownership and named this property Shangri La it was owned by Shelly's folks.  If you have read the blog update Life Intervenes, you'll know that we lost Shelly's mom in March.  We've found that the loss of Shelly's mom is inextricably tied to the things we do up here to the old family property.  Before her passing, with every project we completed, whether big or small, Mom would get a full report.  She was very supportive of everything we were doing, and was always expressing her happiness that we were up here.  The bottom line is, without being able to update Mom we couldn't bring ourselves to update y'all.  We're sincerely sorry about that, but there it is.

You may be wondering, as I might if I was reading this...  What has been going on for the eight months since?  Unfortunately, more upheaval followed.  The loss of Mom would have been enough for us to contend with for one year, but 2013 wasn't done with this family.  Just two short months after we lost Mom, an aunt who Shelly was close to died very suddenly.  Then, nearly two months to the day after that, Shelly's dad had a stroke.  Thankfully he is recovering and doing well, but it was another sucker punch to the jaw when we were already reeling.

Only until recently were we beginning to feel like ourselves again, with Shelly scratching and clawing her way out of an understandably serious case of depression.  We thought, hoped, and prayed we might make it out of 2013 with all family members unscathed, but it just wasn't meant to be.  Just last week our nine year old nephew, who was up here with his dad for his very first hunt, had to be life-flighted from Gaylord to Detroit Children's hospital.  They found that he had a ruptured brain aneurysm, and he has spent the last week clinging to life and enduring no less than four cranial surgeries. As of this writing he has miraculously stabilized, and the sedation which has held him in a coma-like state has been removed.  We don't know to what extent he will be affected by the trauma to his brain, and won't know until the sedation wears off and he begins to respond.  No matter how positive the outcome, he will have a long and arduous recovery.  If you're someone inclined to prayer, we humbly ask that you send one up for our nephew Collin.  If you're not inclined to prayer, we ask that you please keep him in your thoughts.

So, where does all this leave us?  That is still to be decided, but I suspect that when the dust settles we'll dust ourselves off and get back to doing what we do around here.  If you've been following the blog for a while, you've likely figured out from my writing that I'm not a doom-and-gloom kind of guy.  I believe that in the overall balance of a life, if someone is open to looking for the good, they'll find that the good outweighs the bad.  That being said, I have never felt this belief as sorely tested as it has been this year.  I don't know how soon we'll get back to regularly updating things here, but we will get back to it.  We have found great enjoyment in chronicling our progress up here, and we want to and will feel that again.

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Let's talk about stuff...

Like most folks, Shelly and I are good at collecting stuff.  The more stuff you have, the better...right?  This experience up here, clearing away tons of stuff, has us thinking very differently.

For those that aren't familiar with the backstory, this place we now call Shangri La originally belonged to a close friend of Shelly's dad.  Shelly's dad bought it from his buddy Dale about a dozen years ago, and it was agreed that Dale would continue to live here until the day he died.  That day came about six years ago.  Old Dale was a good man but he was something of a hoarder, and he left quite the pile of stuff when he died.  The house, basement, and two outbuildings were pretty much full.  After his family went through and took most anything of value the house and buildings were still full of stuff.

About two years later we took possession of the house from Shelly's folks, and Shelly and I began tackling the task of clearing and cleaning what would later become our home.  There were just too many ghosts up here for Shelly's dad to take on the job, and we sure can't fault him for that.  We tackled the house right off, and we now also have the two buildings and most of the piles on the property cleared.  We're a large dumpster away from having the remnants of a collapsed shed and all of its contents cleared away, and that'll finally put an end to it.

From this experience we've learned this.  Stuff has no value, no importance whatsoever, if you don't use it or enjoy looking at it.  It's mostly a cut and dry thing when something is kept solely for it's usefulness, but emotions muddy the water when items have sentimental value.  We certainly understand wanting to keep something that has sentimental value, especially an item which may have belonged to a treasured loved one.  That being said, what we believe after all of this is that locking a treasured item away and never enjoying it, or experiencing the memories it should invoke, does that item no justice at all.  We honor a sentimental item by enjoying it, and by relishing in the memories it invokes.

Old Dale has taught us to be highly proficient at sorting through and keeping only the stuff that has value through enjoyment and/or usefulness.  We'd be more thankful for the lesson if we didn't know he was looking down and having a good laugh at our expense.  See, we've been told stories of how he used to joke about Shelly's dad having to clean up this mess after he was gone.  He was one generation off, but we figure he's still having a chuckle or two.  ;)

Until next time!  :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

It's all good, and then some...

Well, how about that.  It's only been two months since our last update.  That's an improvement...right?  :)

We've been living up here at Shangri La now for a little over a year and a half.  That's not a ton of time, but it's long enough to know whether this move was a good or bad idea.  Remember, this move wasn't about leaving our home in Ohio.  It was about moving here.  Had we had a bad experience in Ohio we could have called this a success right out of the gate...right?  There are things, and most definitely people, we miss in Ohio.  Shelly and I have talked at length, though, and we both agree that the positives for us far outweigh the negatives.  This move has been, and is, a good thing for us.

We're well into spring, and we've been continuing to tackle smaller, but needed, projects.  That is, when we're not dodging raindrops and high winds.  It is most definitely spring in northern Michigan.  Tightening our belts has paid off, and we managed to pay off quite a bit.  We're on much more solid financial footing, and are beginning again to think about tackling some of our larger projects.  Before talking about any of that, let's get caught up on what we've been doing around here.

One of the things we needed to pay down was the purchase and installation of new windows.  Between last fall and this spring we had new windows installed throughout the house and basement.  We had a combination of metal framed casement, wood, and old vinyl, with the latter being very poorly installed.  We now have vinyl insulated throughout the entire house, and the difference has been nothing short of astounding.  You may recall that I had to rip out all of the baseboard heat in the basement for the finishing project.  That leaves the pipes coming into the house from the wood fired boiler as the sole source of heat down there.  With just that for heat the basement remained between 60-65° throughout the winter.  Before the new windows the basement saw winter time temps between 40-45°, so the windows were definitely a good investment.

After the installation of the new windows the wood trim needed attention.  Shelly puttied, sanded and painted the trim in the rooms we've already finished.  The difference is stunning.  I always believed that window trim should be a different color than the walls, and stand out.  Shelly has convinced me otherwise.  She painted the trim the same color as the walls, making the view outside the focal point.  I freely admit it...Shelly was right, and I was wrong.  :)

Shelly also painted the kitchen cupboards...twice.  The first color she chose was too close to the color of the walls, and it looked a bit too washed out.  Window trim blending in with the walls = good thing.  Cupboards, not so much.  The second coat looks fantastic.

First paint job

Second paint job

We have an older picnic table that had seen better days.  The wood planks were really showing their wear, with most of the paint flaking or completely gone.  I took the belt sander to the benches and the table top and wire brushed the metal frame.  I then painted the table top and benches with some Dry Lok from the basement project, and gave the metal frame a good coating of Rustoleum.  I had all of the materials on hand for this job, so this was a nice return on a free project.

Our enclosed back porch is our primary entrance.  The storm door was a simple, old aluminum storm door, and as first impressions go we certainly could do better.  We installed a swanky new door with a retractable screen.  We also changed up the door so that it opens from the opposite direction.  We had replaced a door in Ohio with something similar, but the job then was far simpler.  Since then the manufacturers have stopped making left and right opening doors.  They now make one door and put the responsibility of making it left or right opening on the installer.  It's sad, really.  They're not charging any less for the door, yet they're giving the consumer far less.  Oh, well.  It turned out well, and we're happy with the look and feel of it.  

Before - Old aluminum door and old windows
After - New door and new window.  The steps will be the next
thing to get done.  We've already started on them.  ;)
The yard close to the house, where it meets the driveway, was a bit too undefined for my taste.  I wanted to install some type of border to better separate the yard from the gravel drive, but I also needed it to be flush with the ground so that I wouldn't catch the plow on it in the winter time.  I wound up using 4"x4" treated lumber.  The front end loader on the Kubota made quick work of the needed trench.  I'm pretty darn happy with how it turned out.  Another nice return on a free project.

Separate from the house, we've been working on our fruit trees and our garden.  I posted previously on pruning the fruit trees, and they're coming along nicely.  The tree with the pink blossoms is an ornamental crab apple tree.  I was fearful that after aggressively pruning it this winter that it wouldn't come back.  It not only came's thriving.  

We're working on a garden again for this year.  We learned several things from last year's failed garden.  First and foremost, we SERIOUSLY downsized for this year.  Boy, did we get overzealous last year.  We started this year by laying a dark tarp down for over a month, to try to kill off the grass before tilling.  Our garden last year was about five times the size of what you see here, and last year we tilled the grass and weeds right into the soil.  It seems obvious now, the things we did wrong, but last year we didn't even know what we didn't know.  We're learning.  :)

We recently did make one larger purchase.  We needed to be able to maintain our 1/8 of a mile driveway.  I have been hunting for a good deal on a box blade, to mount to the three point hitch on the tractor.  We got to the point with the driveway that waiting for a good deal was no longer possible.  The ruts and potholes were getting away from us.  We did our research, and bought a 54" Land Pride box blade.  We have absolutely no buyer's remorse.  This is the exact tool that we needed.  With just several passes, the driveway was smooth, and rut and pothole free.  It also brought quite a bit of gravel back to the surface.  We were ready to have a sizable load of gravel brought in.  We'll still need some, but now just for spot fill.  

There are a bunch more pictures of the work we've done.  If you'd like to see them click on our Pictures & Video page, then click on "February 2009 to Present" under Picture Archive.  You'll be taken to our Shangri La photo album on Flickr.  :)

That's pretty much it for this installment.    We have a few other things we're working on, but I'll save those for a later installment.  Until next time!

Monday, April 8, 2013

We don't need no stinking big projects!

As I said in our last update, we're operating under something of a self-imposed sequestration, and we've put major projects on hold until we get our fiscal house in order.  Well...what am I going to post on, you ask?  We have been able to squeeze a few small projects into the budget.  That's a good thing, because we really don't do too well at sitting around.  ;)

One small project that's been needing to be done but kept being put off (because I was dreading doing it and I managed to put it off because I was working on big projects) was the re-plumbing of the drains for our kitchen sink.  The garbage disposal was completely locked up and useless, and was constantly causing clogs on the right side of the sink.  We have a dual basin sink.  We decided to rip out and not replace the disposal, as we have a septic system and figured it'd be better for it in the long run if we didn't.  At the start of the project I thought I could remove the disposal and plumb the drain to tie into the existing plumbing.  Yeah...that didn't happen.  The J bend wasn't your typical removable J bend.  It was glued PVC, and it was leaking.  Still, I thought I could salvage some of the original work.  After more than a few false starts and trips to the hardware store, I wound up cutting out all of the old work and re-plumbing it all the way back to the stack, including new drain/basket assemblies in both sides of the sink.  Didn't I say that I was dreading this project?!  I did learn (re-learn) a valuable lesson.  Though it might seem cost effective up front, plumbing to tie into existing fittings isn't worth the time and effort.  Once I decided to go all of the way back to the stack this project immediately simplified itself.  We also now have the added benefit of all new plumbing and no old headaches.

Another small project we ticked off our list of to-do's was organizing our linen closet.  We have a pretty darn small linen closet, at about 36" wide x 16" deep.  We had hanging organizers in there, but they didn't give us the ability to use the entire depth of the closet.  It worked fairly well for a while, but that was back when we were just coming up here once a month.  Now that we're living here, it is definitely time for an upgrade.

With storage space being a premium we really need to maximize what space we do have, so we bought a simple closet organizer and got to work.  Here is the completed project...less the linens that are now filling the shelves.  We even managed to create a space for stowing the vacuum cleaner and attachments. :)
The only other project we tackled since the last update was getting our camper ready for the camping season.  I spent a Saturday scrubbing down the entire exterior, and fixing a few things that needed fixing.  Shelly will spend this week prepping the inside.

We're going on our first outing of the season this coming weekend, meeting up with friends from the camping club.  So, that means that not a darn thing will get done around here next weekend.  I think we're okay with that.  :)

Until next time!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life Intervenes...

I know that it's been a while, but as the name of this update implies, life threw us a curve which required that our attention be places far from the blog.  Sadly, we recently lost Shelly's mom.  Mom was battling several significant health issues, with kidney failure and dialysis three days per week being the most severe.  She fought the good fight, but Mom grew tired and made the decision for herself to discontinue dialysis and enter hospice.  We moved into Shelly's folks house to spend the last few weeks caring for and spending time with her, and in the end Mom passed while surrounded by loving family.  We were so very proud to be able to honor Mom's wishes right until the very end, and it was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences we've been through as a couple.

I have to share one of the overwhelming positives to come out of the experience.  The hospice care workers who we encountered, and the care that people in their line of work provide...they can absolutely restore your faith in humankind.  I know that they did mine.  I truly cannot say enough good things about these angels on earth.  The absolute "Good" within these people is truly something to behold, and though I pray that you do not find yourself in a situation where their services are required, if you do I wish for you all of the love, caring, and respect that we encountered.

Being there for Mom and dealing with the emotional aftermath has certainly put us on our heels, but we're slowly feeling things begin to ease back into a sense of normalcy.  We're looking forward to getting back to work on old Shangri La and updating you all with our progress on several different fronts.

Spring is slowly creeping into the air up here, and before the trees bloom there is work to be done.  I've been doing research on caring for our fruit trees, and the one thing that all of the documents I found agree trim the trees in late winter, before the sap starts running.  So, I worked on doing just that over the past two weekends.  We have fourteen apple trees, one pear tree, and one almond tree that we newly planted just this past year.  The apple trees had been seriously neglected for the five or more years that this place sat vacant, and I did the major pruning on all but four of them at the end of last winter.  This year I fine tuned the ones I had pruned last year, and tackled the first time pruning on the remaining four.  I also tackled the pruning of a crab apple tree, whose branches were trying to take my head off when cutting the grass.

After the snow melts I'll be laying down some fertilizer, and watering per the recommendations I've been reading.  As long as mother nature cooperates, and we don't get a hard freeze after the trees bud like we did last year, we should get a pretty darn good fruit harvest.  That's when the magic happens, when Shelly turns those apples into jelly, sauce, and pies.  Mmmmmm...  Shelly is making plans and strategizing for this year's garden as well.  She learned a ton from last year's failures, so we're adjusting our game plan a bit.  More to follow as we get on to that project.

That's really it around here.  In addition to dealing with life's twists and turns, we're also going through something of a self-imposed sequestration.  We're working hard at paying everything off, and I do mean everything.  We've had to sacrifice some progress on the basement and other projects for the short term.  Those that know me, you know that I'd be lying if I said that it isn't eating at me a bit, staring at a half finished basement.  I absolutely know, though, that it is completely worth it for the long term health of our finances, and our ability to fund projects with income and not credit.  Shelly, aka The CFO, is totally rocking the checkbook, and is making the most of every dollar coming into the house.

I did manage to pick up one very much needed item, and still stay within the CFO's sequestration guidelines. ;)  We are very much in need of a door to cover the 11' wide opening on our barn.  I've been pricing the track and hardware for a sliding door, and OUCH!  Enter Craigslist.  I scored one heck of a good deal on 24' of heavy duty track, the door hardware and rollers, and all of the mounting hardware.  I got it all for just...get this...$85!  So, you should be seeing a barn door project update popping up here in the not too distant future.  :)

Until next time!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blog of eternal stench Part II...Project Complete

I was able to finish up the Blog of eternal stench... project today, completing the plumbing to bypass the basement cistern.  I had to make a judgement call on one of the two floor drain lines.  One of the drains is perfectly placed in the laundry area.  The second drain is in the middle of the floor, sitting uselessly in our workout area under rubber jigsaw-type floor tiles.  I didn't have enough room in the cistern to plumb everything in 3" PVC with that drain line tied in, and I really wanted to keep everything at 3".  I figure the larger the diameter of the drain the fewer issues I'll have with clogs.  I despise clogs.  Decision made...the one floor drain in the laundry area is all we need.

Here is the finished product on the plumbing.

I went with a tee to give me an easily accessible cleanout, which will also double as a drainage point for the dehumidifier.  Here's the finished product.

I really couldn't be happier with how this project turned out.  No more standing more freezing cold air jetting out of the drain pipe...and NO MORE STENCH.

Until next time.  :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The blog of eternal stench...

Have you ever smelled something so foul that it stays with you for long after, even when the smell is long gone?  A smell so bad that your face squinches up and your stomach churns just from the memory of it?  A smell so vile that it's all you can do to stay near it, let alone finish the project that will address it.  For me, unfortunately, that was today.

The aforementioned project is the correction of a bad decision by the previous owner.  One of the oddities of this house is that the sump pump is in the root cellar, and not in the basement.  That's not the project, though.  I don't actually mind that it's out there.  With the floor of the root cellar a good 2-3 feet below the floor of the basement, the water table is held that much lower.  With the basement in the process of being finished, having the water table held that far at bay gives me a nice warm and fuzzy feeling.

In addition to the sump pump and cistern in the root cellar, there is a sump pump cistern, with no sump pump, in the basement with three 3 1/2" runs of PVC that enter into it.   Two of the PVC runs are from floor drains, and one drains from the cistern in the basement and underground to empty into the sump pump cistern in the root cellar.  There is a sink in the basement that ties into one of the two floor drain lines, which means exactly what you probably think it means.  This sink drains into the basement cistern.  When the level of the water reaches the height of the drain to the root cellar...well, it drains into the cistern in the root cellar where it is pumped to an undisclosed location by the sump pump.

There are two big, glaring problems with this setup.  First, we have standing, and mostly stagnant water in a hole in our basement.  This adds both dampness and an unpleasant musty odor.  Second, the line running from the root cellar has no J bend to block air from coming into the house.  There is a pretty good draft coming through there at all times, and an absolute RUSH of air when the clothes dryer is running.  As we're pumping warm clothes dryer air out of the house we're sucking cold air right out of the root cellar.  Even when we're not running the dryer, the vent for the pilot on the LP boiler is sending warmed air up the vent and drawing cold air through the drain pipe.

By now you might be wondering about that stink I started out talking about.  Yeah...we're to that now.  The previous owner, for whatever reason filled half of the basement cistern with gravel.  In addition to the gravel, as I was cleaning the cistern out, I also found half of a cinder block, and under that an anti-freeze container.  No, I don't know why.  We're not supposed to ask why anymore...remember?  Just taking the cover off of the basement cistern released a stronger odor, but the "best" was yet to come.  When I used a shop vac to remove the water from the cistern and exposed the gravel to the air, it was then that...GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY, DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN!!!!  There I was, with my face right there at the opening of the cistern, when the smell of THAT hit me full on.  THAT being the gravel mixed with a slime consisting of whatever was put down the sink drain over the past 30 years.  My eyes started watering, I gagged, and I nearly vomited.  The only thing that prevented the latter was the thought of the smell of vomit mixed with the stench of THAT, and the knowledge that I'd have to clean up vomit enhanced THAT.

I  knew immediately that there was no way I was going to be able to bring myself to dig through THAT to get THAT out of the cistern.  I immediately turned the sink on to drain fresh water into the cistern to cover THAT back up.  I then thought, why not leave the water running and stir THAT so that the worst of it will slowly drain out into the root cellar and the sump pump, leaving only some far less offensive gravel to empty.  This meant putting my hand into THAT to stir it, but I was betting that the texture would be less nasty than the smell.  Surprisingly, it was.  After doing this for a while, and making several trips up the stairs and outside to empty the shop vac, I was able to get the cistern completely cleaned out.  A good wipe down of the cistern with some bleach water, and stench begone!

This is after cleaning out THAT.  I didn't really think you'd all want to
see a picture of THAT.  The left PVC is the floor drain including the sink,
the right PVC is a floor drain, and the top PVC is the drain
to the root cellar cistern.
The next step in the project won't be even remotely as offensive.  I'll be tying the three lines in the basement cistern together, to remove the standing water issue, and include a J bend to put a stop to the air infiltration.  I was hoping to finish it up today, but I need to pick up a few more pieces to get it all to fit together.  I did add the J bend to the drain pipe and filled it with water to test my plan.  It immediately stopped the cold air from bleeding into the basement, and the temperature in the basement climbed a few degrees almost as quickly.

This far and away tops my list of disgusting home projects.  Until now hair clogs in sink and tub drains seemed bad, but on the Home Project Nastiness Scale this has drain Wookiees beat by a clear mile.

Until next time.  :)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

In a moment, past meets present...

Though I've not written about it here, some of you I've talked with about it know my history with the area around Shangri La.  My grandparents, who raised me and my two older brothers, owned a cottage just a short drive from Shangri La, on Black Lake.  Every summer until my senior year in high school was spent "up north".  I'd have to say that a good 90% of my best childhood memories are from that time.

If you're wondering why I'm writing about this now, it's because of something that happened today.  Shelly and I went into town, to Onaway.  After dropping Shelly off at her hair stylist's shop, and filling a few gas cans at the Marathon station, I stopped off at Glen's, the local grocery store, to pick up a few things.  When I walked out of Glen's and looked around something odd happened.  

I had a very jarring moment as I looked around that was kind of like deja vu, and yet it wasn't.  It was as if a bunch of my best memories from times spent "up north" came rushing back all at once.  It lasted just seconds, but it was so amazingly vivid.  My breath left me in a rush, and my legs nearly went out from under me.   All of the family trips to Dairy Queen.  All of the Fourth of July parades.  All of the bike rides to the 211 Outpost to buy candy, and rides to and through the trails in Onaway State Park.  All of the time at the lake spent swimming...water castle building...all of it.  It all came rushing back.  

I don't know for certain what brought it on, other than that I have to wonder about the timing.  Shelly and I just yesterday signed up to join our local Fraternal Order of Eagles, following through on our commitment to become more involved in our community.  Though we have done all kinds of clean up and renovation projects to make a home of our house and our property, this is the first step we've taken to make the community around us our home.  

We have now been up here just over a year.  I believe that what I felt today was an emotional realization that THIS is now our home.  In hindsight, and after some reflection, that moment today felt very much like all of my history colliding with and joining with my present.  That, my friends, is a very cool thing.  

Until next time!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New and Improved Shangri with back-up power!

First things first.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We've been thinking about buying a generator for back up power for some time.  As is typical with emergency preparedness, we fell into the trap of not thinking too much about it until needing it.  That, and there was always something else to spend the money on.  After the most recent storm took our power down we figured we had pushed our luck long enough.  It was only out for four hours, but as remote as we are we had to acknowledge the fact that it just as easily could have been four days.  An unexpected and eerily timed...and HUGELY appreciated bonus from work removed the money issue. 

After thinking about what we want to keep powered, the whole house or just the necessities, we decided on keeping it to just the basics.  
  • well pump
  • sump pump
  • boiler pumps (winter time)
  • freezer (summer time)
  • limited power outlets for light/weather radio/computer
To power the above, and to give us some cushion, we needed to go with a 5,000 watt unit as a minimum.  That took care of the size.  Now we needed to decide on the type...hard wired stationary, or portable.  We opted to go with a portable generator so that it can pull double duty for providing power around the property, in addition to back up power.  Power tools for building deer blinds?  Yep...we can do that.  :)

With size and type decided we needed only to decide on a manufacturer.  I was absolutely stunned at the volume of generator manufacturers out there.  In the end we decided to go with a proven brand name, and opted for Generac.  We found the unit we were looking for at the TSC in Alpena.  We bought a Generac GP5500.  At 5,500 watts it gives us more than our decided minimum.  The well pump, sump pump, and one of the boiler pumps are on-demand units, powering on and off as needed.  With a start up/surge rating of 6,875 watts it'll handle the various pumps' start up draw, even if they all fire up simultaneously.   

Generac GP5500
There are far fancier units out there...electric start, digital readouts, on board inverters, etc...  We need power...this unit provides power.  No frills power.  We still need to wire in a transfer switch for powering the household devices we need to power in an outage.  We're also going to buy a small UPS/inverter, to make sure we're providing clean power for electronics.  Even with that not done, though, we're feeling far more prepared for whatever mother nature might throw at us.

That's ours...fully assembled, oiled, fueled, and tested. :)

Until next time!