Elizabeth and I loaded up the pets, a zillion tools, and a U-Haul trailer full of furniture (redundant furniture from gettin’ hitched, or gathered at garage sales and second hand furniture stores). We also tried out beds here at Denver Mattress, and ordered one to pick up at the store in Great Falls on the drive out. The little truck got to show us what the SuperCharger blaze is all about as we headed over the pass after pass and multiple crossings of the Continental Divide.
We arrived at the end of the season for running cattle way up on our ranch, and the leasers were rounding up their herds and moving them out- just in time or just a bit late as the late wet season of cold and snow and mud was in full swing. Cattle in the corral. Moving herds to ramp into the semi. The ladies don’t want to leave. Into the rig. Single file please. Meanwhile back at the ranch, it was time to get going on the projects. #1: Repaint the downstairs bedroom; strip the windows to the wood so they open and refinish them inside and out- including the storm windows, and the doorway, as long as you’re at it; wire wool all remaining laquer from the floor with denatured alcohol and refinish the floor with urethane. The stove moves into place nicely in the living room so we have heat as we watch it snow, but the new hot water heater that I finally got connected and working for our last day of the summer fix-it-trip was out to lunch. By the last day I had a good idea of what was wrong as I finally found my electric meter which confirmed that it had full electricity- my father had used the breaker to turn his old derelict water tank on and off as the temperature switch had burned out on the old unit. I think all the throwing of the breaker may have compromised the breaker’s ability to turn off, or it pulls itself from off to on as the switch is so hammered- which left the diode trying to heat an empty tank for the past few months burning out the heating element. I’ll have to check this theory next time I’m out by replacing the element. The old house fights me every step of the way… Paint stripper pulled off the first 5 or 6 layers of paint, then it was up the heat gun and scrapers and electric palm sanders to do the rest. Then we pulled off the old kick-panel boards, which 50 years ago (at least) had been removed and flipped over for a new paint job, and the rough sawmilled ege had been put facing up rather than the nice finished edge. The difference in flipping over vs flipping around. Another little detail was the ceiling light: it was not snugged into place and had always hung at a crazy angle- so I fixed that too. The bedroom is ready for furniture- and now we can move the bed out of the living room and get started out there. But first, lets keep going on that bathroom we started this summer. Still needs more coats of paint; the window and doorway stripped and refinished; the vent to the defunct heater sealed off (ditto on all 5 other old heat registers/critter & cold highways through the house). The bear had ripped off the lower window sill two summers ago, and with the big bee hive quieted by the snow I finally got around to putting in a new Cedar sill. Then I went about stripping the entire window down to the wood, adding wood putty, giving it a rough-sanding, and painting it all with a primer/seal. The storm windows wound up having rot and other issues that were discovered and triaged on our last day. Our land manager Dave had killed 9 Packrats in his bucket trap since our last visit. We still had at least one big guy banging around down in the basement, then working his way upstairs each night, then down and out through the basement each morning. I wired & foam-steel wool treated all the holes through the foundation and down through the storm cellar, and even built a temporary wire mesh door (the old wood door frame has swollen and flexed and no longer closes tight). The packrat would find ways around everything, so I put the trap in the basement and that ended things for him. Rat #10. Our last day started with a trip to town for supplies to finish out the work, then it was “go time” till after midnight to get all the last things done, coupled with all the other things that cropped up along the way. Dave was moving his cattle on a cross-country cattle drive with horses and 4-wheelers that day, and though I wanted to ride old Rudy with the cows, the work wasn’t going to do itself. By the time we got back from town one cowboy had already been thrown and broken his leg, and the rest had moved the cattle to the edge of our land. Though Rudy whinnied for me to get with it and ride, I had to keep my nose to the grindstone at the house. Elizabeth puts on the space suit to sweep the upstairs. She calls me up from my triage on the storm windows to handle the wasps & flies pouring in through the old leaky windows, and to fix the missing attic access panel, and cover a few bad holes in the old plaster/lathe walls that let in daylight: the envelope is now much better up there. The windows are fixed and refitted and the upstairs swept. Now it is time to Kilz paint the living room to lock back all the yellow smoke stain/smell, twice. I do the roller work and E handles the trim work. This takes us well past midnight. It is a blustery muddy morning, so I back the truck up to the front porch and load us all up for the drive home. Heading down from the ranch to the mouth of the canyon- the truck is covered in mud as we slowly slip and slide our way through the gumbo and gain the highway to the snowy pass.