A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

cheap fix

So, when we bought our little geo metro, it would not start. If you pop started it, it worked great (you know, pushing it until it is going fast enough to start running if you give it gas and let out the clutch). But if you tried to start it with the key, it would not start. It would turn over, but not catch and drain the battery very quickly. Jump starting it did not work either. We were told the starter was bad by the guy we bought it from. Taking it on faith, even though James did at one point say that it just didn't seem like a starter problem to him, last night he took the starter out and took it to the auto parts store to be tested prior to shelling out the $61 for a new one. It was fine. James came back and frowned at the car for a little while, occassionally reaching in and fiddling with things. He checked the ground wire and it was fine, same with the connections to the battery. Hmmm.... Then he looked inside the battery to check the water level. It was EMPTY. bingo! So I went to the store and bought a gallon of distilled water for $2.29, James filled up the battery, hooked the jumper cables up to give it a jump, and it started right up. Let it run for a few minutes to charge the battery back up, and it works fine. I am thinking the guy we bought it from knew it wasn't the starter, but didn't know what it was. If he knew it would be a $2 fix, I am thinking we would not have gotten it so cheap.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Is, of course, the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I talked about a commuting problem here: http://lifeonthelastfrontier.blogspot.com/2008/03/well-shoot.html. The answer to to that problem is also numerical, and the number is 50. As in miles per gallon:

This is a 1997 Geo Metro. We bought this last night for $750. It needs a starter and a passenger side window, but James can fix both of those. We have looked around previously, and to get a new car that comes even close to the Geo's mileage, you have to fork out $40K for a hybrid. Otherwise you are looking at something in the mid 30's in miles per gallon. Plus, you wind up with a payment and full coverage, which would quickly eat up a large chunk of the savings in gas money.

We could have gone out and bought a new car, no problem. But it just didn't seem like the sensible thing to do. We just paid off our Dodge Durango in January, and I am very happy to be free of car payments. (James actually does have a payment on his work van, but since that is just for his work, he takes care of it... I don't even have to worry about it.) And if I can't get a $20K new car that can match the gas mileage of a $750 car, I just don't see any benefit to it at all. Except maybe a warranty, but we have had a Geo before, and we already know that James can fix anything that breaks on it, as they are very simple little cars. (Even when someone happens to hit a bump too hard and shear off the piece of the engine block that is attached to the engine mount. Then you have to buy a new engine. Even then, James could have fixed it, but chose not to. And, yes, that was me.)

So, if you do the math, it turns out that if we commute 55 miles each way round trip five times a week in a Geo Metro, we will spend less on gas than I currently spend to drive my Durango around town every week. What's not to like about that?

Monday, March 17, 2008

more sheetrock

This weekend, we put sheetrock on the lower 2/3 of the back wall of the cabin, which is the hardest wall of all, as it goes straight up to the vaulted ceiling. We also did most of the stairwell. Take a look.



We still have to figure out how we are going to put sheetrock on the top 1/3 of the wall, as it is a minimum of 12 feet off the ground. James may be able to borrow some scaffolding from work. We'll do something. I mean, we figured out the rest the house, including placing the roof beam by hand. We can do this too.

Monday, March 10, 2008

bits and pieces

Got a lot of little things done this weekend. I did the grout on the tiles surrounding the wood stove:

James got the doorway to the cupboard under the stairs (tiny pantry) framed, sheetrocked, and mudded, along with a bunch of other mudding:

Ryan cut away the piece of bottom plate across the doorway (by hand, need I mention?). Steven stood on it to hold it still:

Sunday, March 9, 2008

well, shoot....

So, here we are making plans to relocate to our cabin by the end of the month. Doing this will mean that unless we can get jobs closer, both my husband and I are facing a 75 mile commute to Anchorage every day. James is working something out, but that won't happen til end of June, looks like. Openings with my agency in the Wasilla office are few and far between. Therefore, it is likely that at least I will be commuting.

So, this evening, I see this article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23550921/, saying that gas is expected to rise another 20 to 30 cents next month. Gas right now is about $3.20 for the cheap stuff in Anchorage. If it goes up to $3.50, I figure it would cost us $1000 a month to drive my truck to Anchorage and back every day for work. That's as much as I am paying now for rent.

There are a couple options. If James can find work that does not mean commuting, and only I am commuting, I can either ride with someone else and split the cost of gas, or ride the bus or a rideshare van. The bus would be the least favorable option because it would put me away from home the longest, but it is easiest in terms of startup. I just look up the schedule on the internet, and get on the bus. If we commute together, then we either just pay for the gas in the durango, or buy a cheap car that gets really good gas mileage.

Lots to ponder, before we make the decision.

Monday, March 3, 2008

blueberry syrup

Another post about emptying out my freezer. I had this big bag of frozen blueberries in it that I had great plans to mix into yogurt for my breakfasts. Never happened. So I have this four pound bag of frozen blueberries to figure out how to use. I didn't want to do anything with the whole berries because freezing them changes their texture, making them soggy and mushy. So I made blueberry syrup, in which you crush the blueberries, simmer them to get the juice out, then strain out the solids. Then you cook it with sugar, put it into jars, and process them in a boiling water bath. Piece of cake. I got 11 half pint jars of absolutely delicious syrup:

the wood stove is in!

This weekend, we installed the wood stove in our cabin, lit a fire in it, and warmed our cabin up. It worked great. It was somewhat weird cutting a hole in our roof for the chimney. Seemed almost sacriligious, after all the work we did to make sure it had no leaks to then put a monster leak in it on purpose. Check it out:

We gave our landlord 30 days notice once we got home, as this was the last major hurdle to our moving into our cabin. Yay!