Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Damfest 2017

Now that was a Damfest! The days leading up to Friday the 26th forecast the weather to be potentially…inclimate. Rain and overcast skies were in the cards, but by the afternoon of the day of, the skies cleared and the temps were perfect. Setup was straightforward except for a lack of power this year which required some trekking across town for mechanical assistance. Turnout was possibly the largest ever, breaking the 30 barrier. Lots of great food, cold drinks and no Po-Po drive-bys.  

One new addition was a tripod Micah brought along to get a well-composed dam shot and that seemed to work well. I unburied the Polaroid 220 but the aging film (10+ years old by my estimation) captured a couple of partial shots before giving up. One notable absence was Cam’s showboard; previously display space was at a premium, but it occurs to me some twine tossed around the roof support on either side would allow it to be hung up on one of the sidewalls up out of harm’s way.

Around 9:30 someone got the bright idea to close up shop but evenings as clear, temperate and bug-free, under twinkling lights and with good music are tough to come by. Even tougher to come by as the years progress. A small group of us hung out and chatted for another hour or so until finally retreating to Micah’s place to witness the infamous back yard fountain and take a spin on the new rider…at midnight.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hard Stop

That title goes double for this entry. Firstly, it's time for a brain-dump and a little timeline of the goings-ons around here. As far as I can recall, September was consumed with Geoff's visit, a rather low-key birthday (mine), travel to Chicago for work, the Don and Mark wedding, and a good old fashioned flood. Any remaining time was consumed with a final mowing of the upper field, painting of the CS3 east and west fascias, and some prep work on the Suburban.

This rolled us into October and the first camping trip with the Shasta. Pike's Peak was a great time and the scrambling to get the Pull-Rite bars modified to work was well worth the effort. Unfortunately, there's not much more camping to be done this season, so the Shasta now waits for a wash and winterizing before putting it away for the winter. As for the rest of October, that's a blur. The next Saturday I hopped in the car and drove to the twin cities on a moment's notice. I had learned of an auction at the Northwest Airlines flight simulator center in Eagan and bid on a few items I knew I could fit in the Sonic. Half the anticipation, however, was having free reign of the building. Free to explore the computer rooms, simulator rooms and offices. And that is where I ran into the LINK Group General Precision GP-4 Computer. A mid-60's design that would easily fill a single stall garage, housed in 9 double-width steel cabinets towering 6' tall. My back hurt just looking at this machine. How could I have missed it during bidding? And what would I have done with it if I had won? I snapped lots of pics while trying not to sweat all over everything (the heat was CRANKED) and I had been moving equipment and climbing up on half-walls to remove aluminum blinds. Then another 3.5 hours back to get home in time for Micah's birthday celebration.

Festivities kicked off at Oktoberfest on The Hill with wrist bands and craft beers. Jon and Amanda joined Micah, Cam, Cara and myself as we worked our way through several different brews. Then onward to Los Cabos on University for some welcome food. Robert O. dropped in and we made a time of it.

After dinner, we pressed on to the Beer Hall over by Rudy's where Viet joined us. They had replenished their stock of Old Tankard and a tallboy hit the spot while much kibitzing ensued. But if that wasn't enough, we decided we better head over to Maple Lanes for semi-lunar bowling. For some reason it wasn't as dark as I recall back in the day, and we pretty much closed the place out at midnight. However, as someone mentioned, we witnessed a unicorn. The attendant on duty pressed the reset switch for the entire alley. Every lane, save the 2 in use, knocked over all their pins and performed a reset before shutting down..all in the matter of 5 seconds or so. Like the crack of a bat, that is a VERY satisfying sound.

The news of the closing of The Blue Room prompted us to make that our next stop. Jon was supposed to meet us there but ended up MIA. Cam and Viet called it a night, but Micah, Cara, Robert and I pressed onward. Some foosball and (lousy) pool was in the cards and the place was fairly busy. Around 1, we folded and headed for home.

Sunday arrived and the thought of that GP-4 continued to haunt me. I put out a post to a computer mailing list I'm on. This list was formed back in the 90's and is the home for all manner of experts that indulge in rote daily conversation that keeps me a lurker. When that message failed to ignite a discussion, I uploaded photos of the complete center I had taken and posted the link on Monday. I buried the lead and this time someone took the bait.

So, why all the interest in this machine? Well, for one, this was a fully intact computer, that appeared to be turn-key, and had somehow survived over 50 years in working order, complete with its schematics and connection diagrams. There are only a couple computers in the WORLD that date from the same era and are complete enough to have been restored to working order. Two, I felt like this might have been my time to step up and be the voice of preservation for something pretty darn rare. At age 25 I couldn't have done it, but at 35, while stretching it (trailers, storage, moving equipment, connections in the community, etc) I might stand a chance. But it was not to be. After some detective work and a few phone calls, I had the buyer's name, number and the selling price. Before I could figure out my next step (perhaps just saving a couple cabinets full or early digital cards), I got the news I was hoping not to hear. It had all been bought for scrap, and while I was pondering what to do next, half the machine had already been gutted, the control panel cut out and in the back seat of some guy's car, and the rest would be gone in a day. So ends the chapter on the GP-4.

I suppose I'll stick to little things, like console TVs, and cars. And so we jump forward to the next weekend. Friday I had lined up a U-Haul trailer and Saturday before sunrise Cara and I set off for Overland Park, KS. A long haul in the Suburban, especially when we were turning around coming back the same day! The trip was a success, and we loaded 8 Philco Predicta TVs from 1959 into the Suburban & trailer, along with another late 40's console and some early portables. We also indulged in some delicious KC BBQ for lunch. Paired with a Boulevard wheat, it hit the spot.

And so, we pointed the rig north onto 35 and began the trudge back to Iowa. At roughly the same location as seen when we departed, we now watched the sun drop below the horizon, and the miles click on. Sleep came easy Saturday night.

Sunday came the unloading, and getting the trailer back over to University Ave. Then more chores before setting off to the parents' for my sister's birthday. Meanwhile, Cara's father dropped in to unload "her things" that have been cluttering his basement. Guess everyone was on the road this weekend.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MMM Check-In

So it’s been a year since I signed onto the MMM train; at the time I kicked myself for not discovering the group earlier. I still do, but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer than I did. So now that we’re 12 months in, how are things shaking up?

If you recall, the first order of business was taking advantage of any tax deferred accounts. This meant things got kind of lean towards the end of 2015, but it also meant I was able to max out the 401k up to the federal limit. If I had to live on Ramen to do so, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Everything not put there gets taxed at your AGI, plus the state tax, and if you spend it, better tack on sales tax, too. In the end that dollar only has about 75 cents of buying power, even in your savings account. While a simplification, you just worked 10 hours of your 40 hour week for free. Not only did you do it for free, you will never get that time back. Scale that out to 25% of the working year, and….

Don’t have a 401k? You likely qualify for other pre-tax savings plans.

Next step was investing in an IRA. Nice thing about a Roth, if you need the money in an emergency, the contribution portion can be withdrawn at any time without penalty as it’s post-tax money. You can’t make up for the lost cost-opportunity of pulling that money out, but it is a legit option. Roth or tIRA, see which one is right for you.

There was some pain and work involved.

The next goal was to reduce fixed costs. I sat down with my insurance man…several times…and sharpened the pencil; coverage is now appropriate and we moved a couple cars over to take advantage of bundling discounts. A pain in the ass for sure, but I’ll be sitting down with him again in a month to revisit. If I don’t like the numbers, I can always take my business elsewhere. You’d be surprised how much money can be ‘found’ if you talk turkey.

Other fixed costs; I had a car I was making payments on. A 2009 Sky Convertible. My newest vehicle…working A/C, impressive gas mileage, fun to wind out. It had been on various trips to MN and even New York, but I had a note on it and as is the case with new cars, eventually it would cost me major bucks. Sold that off before it would eat me alive. No more car payments.

Some very uncomfortable phone calls to the farmer renting my land, and lots of paperwork at the FSA office to get us into a CRP program. This also meant a conversation at the Assessor’s Office to get us squared away for farming changes. And it’s not as easy as shuffling paperwork. Both C and I have spent untold hours on the tractor rotary cutting 47 acres of grass and weeds so the prairie has half a chance.

Taxes: Such changes have implications, but there are likely credits and deductions you qualify for that aren’t caught by H&R Block nor a computer program...because to qualify, action is required on your part ahead of time to take advantage of such. The biggest takeaway for me was that if you wait to look at your tax situation when taxes are due, you’ll always be behind the 8 ball. I admit, this is a rather daunting topic, but the question becomes, at what level of effort are you okay with sitting in a cubicle vs. taking action. If you look into it right now, you still have 4 months for course correction.

Flexible Spending. Based on a rolling 12 months from the year prior to the most recent 12 months. Groceries and adult beverages: We don’t scrimp here, but the local grocery stores put almost everything on sale on a given rotation so it never makes sense to pay full price. If there’s a sale, I stock up and ride it out. This takes almost no effort and keeps the spend under $200/mo for two people. If I’m out of state and see a good deal, I’ve been known to buy a few cases of libations which really adds up in savings over the long run. Plus I send in the rebates.

Fuel costs are down, due to a combination of pump price, but also due to a little planning. I have to drive into town for work anyway, might as well make the most of it.

How about plugging those leaking holes? I know people here at work that buy both breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria DAILY. That way madness lies. According to my records, in the 12 months prior, I paid for lunch at work 20 times during the course of the year. That’s less than once every 2 weeks. For the most recent 12 months? I cut this number to 1, and it was for the outdoor car show with coworkers.  

And coffee? 71 times at $1.18 now down to exactly 10 cups over the year. And I ate outside the office 4 times at a total cost of <$10. So roughly, a $20 bill took care of lunch and coffee for the last 12 months. I can live with that. Yes, I am still drinking coffee every morning, it just means I have no excuse not to clean the percolator and load the basket each day. And I still eat lunch at my desk, I just don’t “treat” myself to the overpriced cafeteria. Is my quality of life somehow reduced due to those decisions? Not that I can tell.

I was a debit card man up until this time last year. It made record keeping easy as all transactions were in one place and I could be completely up to date in 5 minutes. Plus, as you know, credit cards are evil. Well, so much for that. There are folks that take CC churning to new levels, scoring travel miles and cash rewards by being savvy on the latest offers. I decided to stick my toes in the water and took advantage of several cash back rewards cards and can honestly say it was worth the juggling. The Citi Double Cash is my go-to for most purchases but each card has their advantage. For example, there will always be something I need from Amazon, so having that card as a tool in my belt makes good sense. I will always buy groceries, so why not take the 7% bonus for 3 months and 2% for the other 9? It’s free money.

Additional “opportunities”. I try to routinely list a few items on eBay for a little ‘fun money’, branched out into other services for RR Central, and doubled down on our energy costs by going solar. Interestingly, as time rolls on, the state and fed tax credits continue to decrease so it makes sense to get this plant in now. As of August, we are online and producing and just crossed the 1 megawatt/hr production threshold. Yes, payback time is in YEARS but the tax credits are arguably more valuable now during my working years when we’re in a higher tax bracket, so that’s bonus 1. And every dollar I save not giving to the utilities for electricity can be put in pre-tax savings, so that’s bonus 2. Oh yeah, did I mention clean energy? Plus they look cool.

No, I am not riding my bike to work from where I live; I don’t have a death wish. No, I am not trading my ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles; I see the automobile as more than just transportation. Yes, I actually bought a project car earlier this year that I can spend time working on when I’m out of the rat race. Perhaps not the most opportune timing, but the fact that I could see the car in person rather than as photos on the internet, and that I wouldn’t spend 25% of the purchase price transporting it on a carrier, weighed heavily into my decision. I don’t plan to stop such insanity anytime soon.

Wow, so I guess I did make some changes in the last 12 months. In my estimation, quality of life is exactly the same, but now I know each day I spend at work gets me one day closer to a goal; something tangible. C is onboard and has made similar changes with her spending and investing as well. Do I recommend it? Hell yes.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Good. Lord.

It has been a week. Literally, a week’s sabbatical without pay to get away from work for a few days during the factory shutdowns and allow me some quality time to get to know the Shasta Airflyte. Most of it was fun, though rustoleum paint dripping in my face, and lots and lots of sweat were not so fun. I looked back yesterday eve and managed to cross off 41 projects; others had to wait as parts weren’t yet here, and still others due to time constraints. Eventually I’ll put up a webpage with info for other owners, but I was pretty vocal on the Shasta Reissue FB group, to the point some people thought I was talking cheap shots at the manufacturer (and to think I was holding my tongue).

But it wasn’t all trailer work. The rock came in for the driveway on Monday. Took 17 truck loads, which I estimate to be over 300 tons. In addition to the rock MidAm put down on the final curve, that gets us a layer a couple inches thick from tracks to road. Problem was, it wouldn’t spread from the truck as it should, which meant bare spots and piles several feet high, both left/right and fore/aft. So instead of spending Monday working on the trailer, I was busy with the loader trying to make things passable while the rock kept on rolling in. To add insult, the final product is so bumpy that if you exceed a crawl, you’ll get bounced through your windshield. I made a call midweek and found a guy in Waverly that does excavation and grading work and he stopped out Sunday. He’s going to put a guy with a skidloader on the job today to see if they can smooth it out before it compacts. Fingers crossed.

I managed to burn a couple other mornings by running errands- Menards a few times for supplies, then groceries, post office, etc. That still left me with afternoons. Friday morning (with last bearing in-hand) was spent rebuilding the PTO for the Farmall and  getting that installed for the real test on Saturday. The original outer bearing had blown out to the point several ball bearings were worn into halves! After assembling a cheap hydraulic press, I was able to drive in new bearings as well as the output shaft. What a lifesaver. That meant Saturday we’d finally be able to cut the grass that had been growing for two weeks. That took the better part of Saturday…thick, wet grass that put the mowers to the test. While I ran the Farmall, Cara ran the JD as the 14 acres of prairie on the east side of the tracks needed another cutting. I managed to sneak in a couple hours late in the day but she really handled it, finishing that field on Sunday.

All-in-all, an enjoyable, if not exhausting, experience. By the end I couldn’t even remember what the office looked like. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Heat-Wave Update

So here we are, mid-July already. I figure an entry is due, at least as a way to capture the progress and events of the last few months should I ever look back at 2016 and wonder what happened.

On the solar front...Apr was set aside for planning the system, revising the system, shopping components around, contacting the necessary authorities for approval and ordering parts. May was the buffer for the parts and components to arrive from all corners of the globe (and of course multiple freight deliveries), while the galvanized pipe was sourced locally. I also took care of the digging and cement work during this time. June was slated as the build month, for trenching, framework, panel bolt-down, excavation into CS3, etc. And I'm happy to report we were ready to flip the switch as of 1 July, with just one little hangup. Inspection. However, this process went smoothly after a date was pinned down and as of 14 July, the initial pass was given, CFU installed their net meter, and we went online that afternoon. Initial response is favorable- we are in fact generating more power than we're using, though without the ethernet link connected (hopefully be end of the week) I can only compare values off the inverter display and the registers on the net meter. It's an interesting paradigm shift (to use a phrase I'd rather not use). During the day we generate power at a higher return per kWh than we use.. And at night, we buy kWh's from the PoCo at the standard reduced rate. So when it's a cloudy day and production is down, the initial instinct is to conserve, but I'd argue that's probably the best time to consume as you're not offsetting those more valuable solar kWh's your selling back. One day I might get around to putting together a web page to capture the entire build; I made sure to snap photos and keep a log of the process and part numbers as others have done as no two builds are ever alike.

Earlier this month was the annual trip up north. This year was similar to last year's in that obviously the destination (Leech Lake) was the same, but also that both grandmas tagged along. On what is normally one of the busiest travel days of the year by car, I chose to avoid the whole 35/94 beaten path and headed west at Albert Lea, taking 13 to (state) 14 to 15 which merges with 10 at St. Cloud.  With no congestion, accidents or construction, I'm convinced this was a faster route. And it allowed us to have a nice sit down lunch at McCormick's Family Restaurant, to pick up some tasty bacon and summer sausage at Knaus' Sausage House, and spend a few minutes at the Motley antique, uh, shop. Plus it was a beautiful day to cruise the two-lanes.

Once up north things unfolded predictably, except my desire to play Canasta. Years ago I'd play this up on 3rd Crow Wing and it didn't take much doing for us to get back into the grove of things after a quick consult with Wiki on the scoring rules. But for some reason this game managed to bring out the bickering and loathing of half the players when we'd all sit down for a 6-handed round. I have no idea why. Dominoes was a much safer choice and became the default when it was obvious things were going sideways.

This is likely the first year we didn't get to see the fireworks. Had pizza at Rocky's but the rain moved in fast and after sitting for an hour with clouds moving in the first droplets starting, we packed up and headed for the car before it became a frenzy of dashing tourists flailing coolers and folding chairs in the dark. As it turned out, they went on with the show 45 minutes after the fact (according to the radio), but I can only imagine sitting in all that rain and lightning just a few feet from a sizable body of water. I think we made the right call. Too bad the drive back to the parents was another hour.

We have our rock! Well, a quarter of it at least..I'd estimate about 50 ton. I got Mid Am to lay rock on the final stretch of lane where the biggest wash outs occur after the final turn. Actually, the rock extends up past that turn as we originally did have gravel there which was bladed under during their construction this winter. Nice to have that corrected, and the order for the rest of the out of pocket aggregate should arrive this Friday, weather permitting.  Still have some grading to do as well as laying more of the geotextile fabric.

The Farmall is in intensive care due to a PTO bearing "failure". This little issue has turned into a project after pulley failure the week prior, prompting the purchase of a hydraulic press, which'll come in handy for lots of other uses. New seal, bearing and gaskets are on order. I just hope all goes well and soon! We'll get by with the push mowers and the rotary cutter if necessary, but that grass is starting to take off.

The CRP project is underway and we have completed the first mowing of the 47 acres. This is to cut the weeds down so sunlight can reach the prairie grass seedlings. It was roughly a 2-week task of getting in a few hours here and there whenever weather would allow, and burning weekends to stay ahead of the growth. Though it's really a never-ending battle and it looks like we'll have to go for round 2 here in just a couple weeks.

With respect to the Annex, the siding and paint work are officially complete. Soffits are next, though I'm not entirely sure if that's in the cards this year. I've got the materials, but it's a major time sink and there's enough other projects happening that it can wait. They say you'll never be bored living in the country, and that's true to a fault. I have finally managed to slug my way through sorting and stacking all the wood we cut from the highline project. I forget now, 3 or 4 pickup truck loads full up to the Lodge. Initially I laid a pair of treated 6x6's over landscape cloth as a makeshift drying base and stacked the logs on that. When that filled up, I added an 8' pallet and went three rows deep with logs (took another afternoon). When that reached capacity, I dragged over a 4x4 pallet (yesterday) and managed to get the last logs off the ground. Those rotting, not easily stacked or partials then got hauled to the burn pile. At least there's no longer a big pile of cut-up wood killing the grass and inviting snake habitation.

And to top things off, we got to see Huey Lewis and the News play right here in town to a venue of 1500 just two days ago. There's nothing more surreal than spending your afternoon sweating in the sun stuggling with a galvanized fence...a few hours later, raiding the refrigerator, and in between, seeing Huey Lewis perform. Foremost, they put on one hell of a show and somehow, 30 odd years later, sounded just as good as if I were spinning Sports. I have no idea how these guys manage to put on a show almost every night of the week; check their schedule, I'm not exaggerating.  Frankly, I couldn't say enough good things about the performance, but the venue was a little too formal (typical CF haughtiness), and the dynamic of the crowd, a bit odd due to a mix of college kids not entirely familiar with the repertoire, older folks, like the man next to me, who I'm not entirely convinced had heard of HL before, and those in between who were rocking out to Power of Love.

(note: Originally photos were going to be added to this post, but it's 98F in the room I'm sitting in, and if I don't post the text now, it'll never happen).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring has Sprung

It’s been a while since I’ve written…partly lack of desire, and partly due to concerns of modesty or privacy. It’s hard to give personal updates that involve the positive progress in one’s life without it coming off as a humble-brag, but rest-assured, I don’t like to dwell on negativity nor air dirty laundry, so that’s why you don’t see that here. I have no problem mentioning challenges and obstacles in this blog, but when I do, it’s because I’m thinking about ways to resolve them. If you want bad news, just turn to your favorite mainstream media outlet.

So some good news- Spring has finally arrived. No April showers yet, but the grass is greening up and the temps are warming. That means spring maintenance like taking down the snow fences around the trees, trimming branches, putting away the snow shovels and ice chipper. And a return to fair-weather transportation.

The to-do list is growing and I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to last year on my “break” summer. Still one wall of siding to complete on the Annex, soffits remaining and painting to tackle. I think the secret here is to hit it hard while spring-fever gives me enough drive to do so. And before the heat, bugs and humidity make it unbearable. The picker batts are charged and I have this Friday off so we’ll see how the painting goes on the north side.

There’s also some new construction projects this year, including adding lean-tos to each side of the existing tractor-shed (of course that means geo-textile fabric and gravel $$). I’m also moving full-steam ahead on the 10kW grid-tie solar project. I’ve spec’d out a system and put together a proposal. This week I met with CFU to share my details and was met with a “fine, whatever” response. I was provided a form for Parallel Generation of Power to be completed and submitted, but am waiting on questions regarding credits to make sure this project is worthwhile. Unfortunately, Iowa is not as progressive as other states when it comes to alternative energy, and this utility offers ZERO rebates for installing such a system. If the answers come back favorably, I’ll be pushing this forward hard to take advantage of the summer peak-power producing months. The next obstacle will then be pulling a permit and working with the district inspector for approval.

This is the first year we’ll be ‘farming our own’ and have pulled the land off of cash rent. Seeding is already taking place around us but we’re at the mercy of MidAm to get their equipment and dirt piles cleaned up before that can start (within the next 10 days). This’ll be an interesting experiment as well as it requires a lot more work than just depositing a check once a year, but it does mean no more heavy equipment cross-traffic on our lane. On the upside, with MidAm out of the picture, and potentially the neighbor using his own new-found property, we might just get a real road put in this year.  

Plan 2020 is still in effect. We added a camper to the lineup this winter for future endeavors but my engineering side has put together a list of improvements and upgrades that will actually be fun and provide instant gratification (as opposed to multi-year gratification which ain’t so hot). I also brought home a ’66 Toro from MN with Ben’s help…something to tackle later on, after construction projects are wrapped up and the Bluegill Pontoon is restored. And after I figure out what to do with this Touring Sedan. Actually, if it were in better interior shape than I thought it was in, this wouldn’t be a problem. I suppose I could clean it up..after all, the paint and body is excellent, and after some mechanical work it should run like a new car. Hell, with a little elbow grease it’s essentially free transportation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Mid-Summer's Check-In Part 2 aka The Second Half of the Year in Review

It wasn't too long before an opportunity in Michigan presented itself. A complete Cad 390 engine and Hydra-matic transmission from a 1959 Cadillac were put up for sale. The pickup was empty and the price was right. Don offered up his place for an overnight stay and Ben and I hit the road for a quick turnaround. We made it back by Sunday afternoon though missed out by minutes on a Radarange. We may also have worn out a few cassettes….

Next thing you know, the Cadillac-LaSalle Grand National was staring me in the face. Betwixt the construction projects and travel, I was also working on the '59 CdV that's been off the road since '09. Brakes were completely dry and still on a single MC. The rebuilt engine was untested. The fuel system needed an overhaul including a new fuel tank, hoses and fuel sending unit, and the exhaust remained loud as hell despite throwing money at it back in '05. The leather was dry, the interior panels were once again discolored and the mice had made a real mess. But by the end of July, the car was ready, and we set out for Milwaukee with Ben and his '61 for the show. It was the perfect 'shot in the arm' needed to get the car ready and roadworthy and we had a great time traversing the countryside and taking in the other beautiful cars despite the rainy departure. I think we may have even made a few friends there.

With barely time for a breath, Cara, myself, and both grandmas, loaded into Grandma K’s Deville and set-sail for Walker, MN for a week of relaxation. This was the first 4th of July trip since my grandma sold her place so it was a little different game plan, but I'll save that for another entry. Let it be said, there was some Cracker Barrel on the way! The fireworks did not disappoint and Cara and I got in a little canoeing. We even came right upon a bald eagle perched on a branch enjoying a fish he had just caught. Our presence didn’t seem to faze him.

The '59 Pontiac became the daily-driver after putting exactly 1000 miles on it last fall. Mileage is probably triple that by now this year. The only issue has been a faulty fuel pump (new last year) causing a knock and occasional starvation issue. Easy fix once I figured it out. 

For a brief while, we had a functioning 1957 dishwasher, after adding casters, replacing hoses, and sprucing things up a bit by adding a lighted dial. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the pump seal started leaking thereafter, so this one goes back on the list for repair. A GE combo machine was added to the collection and after a few hours work, is now in service. This was my first transaction with Uship and getting the machine from California to Iowa was interesting with delays, excuses, and break-downs, but it made it intact.

Summer Chores
Almost every week there was something new in July…from getting tipped off about a CRP program and getting the ball rolling with the local FSA office, to finishing the rock and drainage at the pole building. I even finally pulled the trigger on a much-needed tractor at the local dealership which handled mowing duty, lane maintenance and snow removal this December. Plus hauling and transporting rock and other heavy things around the place (like toting a THM325 from the Lodge to the pole building in its bucket). 

Taking a break to enjoy a weekend bonfire
By this point we were bearing down on August, and a welcome invite from some washer friends had us loading up the Sky and heading to Minnetonka, MN for the weekend. The weather was perfect as we enjoyed drinks on the lake, cruising away the afternoon. Just recalling it from the distance of this snowy January morning is enough to give me a little inspiration to get the Blue Gill restored. The trip was memorable for another reason as well….we almost died. A 4x8 sheet of plywood broke off of a semi we were about to pass and hit us square on, but since we were so low to the ground we were fortunate that it only skimmed us. Any other vehicle and the force would probably have tripped the airbags while we were doing close to 70MPH. This also meant that I had to deal with the transport company’s insurance and have the repairs made on the car.

But August was busy for other reasons, too. My failed attempts at trying to finish the Lodge EIFS had culminated with me tracking down Fernando. He took on the job but it was slow going, finally wrapping up almost a month later. Meanwhile I focused on the Annex siding. Finished the front, the rear and 95% of the west, though only the rear received paint treatment. My bigger focus was finishing CS3 and between rocking the foyer, installing pavers and milling cedar for the rear siding (which I painted a 2nd coat earlier in the spring) I’d say is just about there. I also discovered MMM and the potential of early retirement that month which I’ve written about prior.

Trimming out the doors after EIFS completion
During this time Cara and I were also busy sending out invites and securing Black Hawk Park for our wedding celebration (29Aug). The party was a major success even with torrential downpours the days prior.

September kind of snuck up on us. I found a little breathing room to get things ready before Geoff dropped in from Australia and spent a couple weeks. We paid the Kiwi a visit to exchange a teletype for a homebrew computer that was once a Mohawk Data Systems Key-to-tape unit and took in some super computers in an Iowa barn as well as a Delorean, but more importantly, toured the Iowa countryside in the Suburban on a sunny, but chilly, day, and had a memorable meal at the Dirty Dog. 

The '59 Catalina and '61 DeVille ventured to Montour, IA.
The month marched on, I continued with my evening RR panel repairs for folks and struck up a deal with a seller on the east coast who had an actual RR-1. A friend is holding it until I can get out there in 2016; while I don’t want to count my eggs before they’re hatched, this would be a real centerpiece in the collection. Meanwhile, more dealing was taking place on setting up the CRP paperwork for next year. Cutting out costs and getting my insurance up to date, and deciding to sell off the Sky. I could either have that money working for me generating interest, or working against me as depreciation in a used car. Time to get serious!

Now it was getting cold and the prospect of snow was on the way. With the potential for MidAm to come in this winter and work in our field, I decided a gate and fence would be cheap insurance not only from trespassers, but also from damage to my personal portion of the lane from their heavy equipment. I cut up some of the old drive-in 6x6 timbers and Cara and I installed them along with a 12’ gate down near the tracks. It took a few weeks (not a lot of evening light in December) but I eventually got the barbwire fence put in along with the timber N-frames at each end. A come-along put the needed several-hundred pounds of tension on the barbed wire so I could get it tacked in place and supported. An educational project for sure.

I had wanted to get CS3 online in the fall, but eventually decided the only way to get the project moving forward was to skip connecting to water at that time (digging down to the well and installing an underground valve and drainage would have been a major undertaking). I can run an alternate path to the east side of the building at a later date, and the savings of trying to combine both in the same trench is minimal in the long run. After lining up the trencher, I got cold feet and decided to ‘play it by the book’ with the service entrance. It worked out as we spent all day trenching from the new gate to CS3, then CS3 to the Annex for power. We got a little snow a week later and the electrical inspector got back to me and gave the go-ahead for the service entrance. While not exactly a ‘fun’ time, cables were buried for power to the meter and for communication into the lodge.

We wrapped up the year with solar power up at the road, an automatic gate opener controlled from the Lodge, and full time power into CS3.