The gift of a day!

Rene Martin called at 6:15 AM and told us that school was cancelled for the day. I naïvely thought of all the many things I could get done with the extra time. I ordered another classes photos, I’d already started the fire in the Blaze King. Then I called K.C. Thomsen—next door—and he said he’d just finished snow-blowing his drive and I might already be too late to use the snow blower. You have to stay ahead of it he said.


As you can see from this picture The snow is almost exactly as deep as the top of the auger-housing.

Immediately, at 9:30 AM,  I suited up and headed out to snow blow the drive and the sidewalk.


The driveway is not small, but not huge either. Our old driveway is much smaller, but there was no place to put a snow-blower or the car.


In this picture, you can see that the snow is about four inches deeper than the input on the auger. You can see that the snow doesn’t cling to my snow-pants, which have a tight nylon weave unlike my Carhartt Jacket and gloves which get permeated with snow.


I’m definitely going to get out there before the snow gets that high again. It took me about 2.5 hours to run the snow blower. So far the gift of a day has not arrived, but on the bright side, we’re still ahead of the snow, as far as the driveway is concerned.

Rest of Today

snowVisibilities often below 1/4 of a mile in blowing and drifting snow. Snow heavy at times with a new snow accumulation 3 to 4 inches. Highs around 28. North wind 15 to 25 mph with gusts increasing to 35 mph. Near the border…north wind 40 mph.


nt_snowVisibilities often below 1/4 of a mile in blowing and drifting snow through early this evening. Snow heavy at times with a new snow accumulation 2 to 3 inches before tapering off this evening. Lows around 20…ranging to around 8 above near the border. Northwest wind 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 45 mph.


chancesnowPartly cloudy. Windy. Slight chance of snow in the morning. Highs around 20. North wind 15 to 30 mph with gusts to around 40 mph.

Thursday Night

nt_partlycloudyPartly cloudy. Colder. Lows zero to 8 above zero. North wind 15 to 25 mph. Wind chill to 20 below.


partlycloudyPartly cloudy. Highs 11 to 17. Northeast wind 10 to 20 mph. Wind chill to 20 below.

Friday Night through Saturday Night

Partly cloudy. Lows 3 to 10. Highs 13 to 17.


Cloudy. Chance of snow. Highs around 25.


So we had a busy weekend of playing house. Holy cleaned and straightened (the house looks wonderful—thank you Holly), while I worked on the straightening out the electrical system. We now have the light at the end of the walkway that Holly wanted me to put in last year, ready for the coming dark winter months.

Davis Family 1522

I put a motion sensor in the lamp but it didn’t seem to work, perhaps it only works in the dark and stays of during the daytime. I’ll experiment with it later. I split up a circuit that we had in the house. The outside lights were on the same circuit as the interior entryway hall light, which was really lousy when we wanted to leave the outside lights on at bedtime. To put in a new light switch, I used the Fein Multi-tool to plunge cut a hole in the log cabin for the light switch. I strongly recommend the Fein tool.

Davis Family 1517

The photo above was shot with my LUMIX DMC-ZS7 at ISO 125, f/3.3, and 1.6 seconds, handheld believe it or not. I find it amazing that a picture like this can be handheld for 1.6 seconds with image stabilization. Of course, there is no need to be shooting at ISO 125 after dark.

Then we went out to Chilkoot Lake to see the bears. We saw the sow with the radio collar and three cubs. You can see the mother bear multi-tasking in the picture below.

bears 135

After viewing the bears, the boys wanted to get a drink at the green fountain near the lake so we had an impromptu photo session with some eager posers.

bears 236

Mark had fun showing his guns, as did Luke. Be sure to check out the photo album below by clicking on the View Full Album link.

This photo album above is not really of my design. It is automatically generated using Microsoft’s Windows Live Writer. I recommend that anyone wanting to write a blog with photos throughout use Windows Live Writer as it really makes it easy to put photos and text.

Christmas Letter 2009

Here’s a link to our Christmas Letter (pdf) this year, which is actually pretty cool, if I may say so.  We had it done, printed, folded, stamped and put into envelopes (but not licked) before Thanksgiving Day.

Merry Christmas

Windows Live Skydrive: CLICK HERE

Google Docs: Christmas letter 2009

If you want a printable size document to hang on the fridge, that’s too bad, because this one is only large enough to view on the screen.

Actually, send me an email, and I’ll pop you one, if I know you, duh.  Then put us on your list and send us one too.  BAM

This was the first time I used Publisher to produce a document and did not use a template.  I recommend a book to you: The non-designer’s Design book by Robin Williams CLICK HERE!!

New Steps!

In Alaska, in the winter, footing can be very treacherous.  Especially in SE Alaska.  i grew up in Barrow, and it’s really not that slippery there for most of the year.  In the fall when the snow comes, we skip right past 32 degrees F and go right on down to the sub zero temperatures.  Since it’s rarely near the freezing point of water, it is rarely slippery.

In Haines, it can be right near freezing for a good portion of the winter, which makes for some slippery footing for a good portion of the year wherever there is any slope at all.  If you’re at all familiar with Haines, You know there is not much flat ground to be had in the Chilkat Valley.

IMG_6549Holly and I got to thinking about or driveway and how difficult it is to get from the car to the house and we decided it would be better to spend some money on a safe way to get into the house than to risk accident and injury later on in the winter.  So we called up Coleman Stanford and asked him to build us some steps. 

We told him we really liked the landing style steps that Randy Miner built so he built us some similar steps to go up to our house from the lower drive-way and also from the upper driveway.

We really like how they turned out.  They are just like we wanted, and the finishing on the concrete is first rate.  I’m convinced that the steps are going to be very safe for many years to come.

In the photo above, you can’t really tell that the upper steps are landing style, large steps, the last step which ends at the driveway is a standard step.  In the photo below, I think you can see that the stairs are pretty gradually sloped.  The only thing to add still is the railing at the bottom of the steps plus a light-pole at the bottom with a 3-way switch.  The steps are beautiful to walk down.


We had stairs and a sidewalk before, but we rarely walked on the sidewalk, we always went down where these stairs no go.  We still need to get the extra dirt hauled away, as you can see in the photo above.


Also today, we did the picture day retakes for the school, plus retakes for the community photos, I replaced the toilet seat which had a broken hinge, and I cleared the brush out to the shed so we can get some electrical service installed out there for lights and the occasional power (battery charger) need.

John Caleb washing dishes?

I was washing the dishes the other day when I stepped away for a while.  I came back to the sink to find that my helper was having a great time. 


The only real down-side was he was still wearing a brand new diaper.

Recently, Holly noticed that some of her friends who have clean houses have husbands that help out a lot around the house in the evenings returning things back to ‘normalcy.’  Now I’m vacuuming a lot more and doing the dishes more.


25 Random things

  1. I grew up in a place with no trees: Barrow, Alaska the most northern city (village) in the North American Continent
  2. I now live in a rain forest: Southeast Alaska.
  3. I walk to work 1.24 miles every day no matter what the weather is like.  Mark walks with me.  I do it to save on gas and for the exercise.
  4. My parents spent 2 years in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps, yet remain republican.  I refuse to be either Republican or Democrat, but love to criticize both whenever there is humor to be found.
  5. I have no plans to ever buy an iPod.
  6. We don’t have a TV in the house.  We don’t watch movies.  We do have a wonderful VCR that was given to us.
  7. My name is Matthew and my son’s names are Mark, Luke, and John.  My older brother Jack calls us the gospel brothers.
  8. My current multipurpose laptop is a Dell Inspiron 6400/e1505.  I recently fixed the floppy LCD screen, replaced the keyboard and graduated it to a bigger HD.
  9. My wife Holly was born on Christmas day.  This does not surprise people that have known her for years.  She is beautiful.
  10. We have virtually brand new school in Haines where I teach.
  11. This next year, I want to offer a couple of dual credit math classes through UAS.
  12. If I want more money as a professional photographer, I’m going to either have to start traveling more or move to a bigger city.  I’m shooting a wedding in Sitka in April.
  13. If I’m going to continue to get better as a fisherman, I first need to fish more days in the month of July and start saving up that extra money.  Then I need to invests in more infrastructure, such as a flush deck boat with more capacity.
  14. As a father, I need to put aside my own interests and work on spending more time enjoying the boys and living in the moment with them.
  15. I don’t listen to music very often.  I don’t have a favorite music group.
  16. My dream car would be a used Toyota 4WD Siena Mini-van with a a nice sound system and seating for the whole family plus a couple more kids.  Right now my stand-in dream car is a 1990 Mazda MPV 4WD which seats seven.
  17. My dream photo laptop would be an HP Pavilion 9000v or newer model, with two 320GB 7200RPM drives, 4 GB of RAM 2.6 Ghz core 2 duo processor, a TV tuner, WiFi, and cell phone internet.
  18. My dream laptop for lecturing is an HP 2730p or a motion computing LE1700 with a Core 2 Duo so I could run the projector wirelessly while walking around the room.
  19. My favorite food is Italian food.  I spent the fall semester of 1989 in Florence, Italy and have loved pasta ever since.
  20. I can count to ten in Inupiat which is the native language in the North Slope.  They have a base 20 system with a ridiculous number of syllables per number.
  21. I can still do the Rubik’s Cube in about 80 seconds.
  22. My main camera right now is a Canon 40D and the lens most often on the camera is the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM.
  23. My family lives in an log house with no insulation.
  24. I’m not good at multitasking.
  25. I need to spend less time on the computer.  The boys are starting to squabble, so I need to make them some oatmeal with granola for breakfast.

If you’ve read all that, what you’re supposed to do now is sit down and write down 25 random things about yourself and post it on your blog and also in my comments section.  That way, we get to know each other better.

Severe Electrical Problem

On Monday Holly called me at work and said that her mother had called her to say that the dryer had made a flash and a loud noise and then the Toyo Stove (Laser 73) had shut off along with a bunch of lights.  The breakers had flipped.

It was during the 4-minute passing period when she called right before my prep period, so I went home in a borrowed car and unplugged the dryer and the Toyo stove and then flipped on the three breakers that had tripped.  Immediately they tripped again and also gave off a large spark with a snap.  Obviously this wasn’t your garden variety electrical problem.  I found an outlet that was still working and ran an extension cord to the Toyo stove to keep it working and keep the house warm, then called Irwin Hertz, the electrician to puzzle it all out. 

Houston, we have a problem.

For three days, we heated the house by closing doors on in the extra rooms, running electric heaters on working circuits that I’d bought at garage sales over the past 10 years: an 1800w oil/electric register type on wheels, a small 1500w thermostatically controlled ceramic heater with a fan, and a parabolic radiator dish on a stand.  We kept them powered down to 2/3 power most of the time and lit the house with extension cord powered lamps.  When it got too cold, we turned on the oven at 350 degrees with the door open.  The nice thing is that we have a propane stove to heat with and the circuit for the hot water heater was not faulty.  We didn’t dare try the washer or dryer.

In the end, the power company had to run a new wire to the house, as the old one was corroded and insufficient, we lost the Toyo stove, the dehumidifier, a number of the lights, and the electric piano.  This will probably cost around $1,700 by the time we have our Toyo heating stove back from Gene Strong, as it needed both circuit boards replaced, along with the wick and the burn pot, which amazingly was cracked due to the excess heat in the igniter, if I’m understanding everything correctly.

When summer comes, we’ll have to run a new wire to the power box in a metal conduit, if we can find the time or perhaps see if AP&T can move the box to the house for us.  For the time being, we have all the proper wires from the power pole to our house and we are safer than we’ve been for a long time.

Currently, the house is being heated with a loaner Toyo Laser 72, the model that preceeds our model, which Gene installed to keep us warm until the parts come in for our stove. 

Life is good.

My shoulder hurts, but I don’t have cabin fever.

I just shoveled the porch, the driveway, the sidewalk, and the steps.  I like to leave the snow on the hand rails, as a measure of what’s fallen in the night.


Here’s a shot that shows the partially blue sky, which is much welcome, the 18 year old minivan/SUV that we bought this fall from Rainbow Glacier Camp along with two days worth of snowfall atop the hood and a week’s worth of snow above the driver seat, the shovel that I used to clean the driveway, the snow that is melting off the roof and forming icicles, and the cleanliness of our picture window.

IMG_9799_exposure   Seasonal affective disorder, SAD, is something that often hits alskans and those who live in the northern climes during the dead of winter when they don’t go outside.  Personally, I’ve never had the slightest inkling of SAD in the winter, and I think a great cure is to get outside and do something.

Earlier this week, I went to “the store” to get a scraper brush combination to replace the ones we misplaced over the summer and was shocked at the price: $16 for the two foot long model, and $12 for the hand scraper, brush. 

I just told the clerk, “Wow.  I’m not  paying that.” Turned on my heel and walked out the door leaving the four scraper/brushes there on the counter where I’d put them.  Perhaps I’ll stop calling it “the store” and start calling it something else. 

IMG_9797_exposureThis morning after I dropped off Mark Daniel for his piano lesson, I bought seven scrapers/brushes at Haines Home Building: the 2 foot scrapers were $4.49, the single hand models were $3.79 and the one had scrapers with no brush were $1.79.  Cha-ching.

This year looks to be a snow-filled year.  Regrettably, the plastic snow shovel broke and needs to be replaced.  The aluminum one which I use for doing the steps and sidewalk is fine and works for everything, but the snow sticks to it, which tends to make the shovel much heavier than it might be.

Mark is outside sledding.

The Bathroom Sink fell off the wall…

While I was out of town in Anchorage for training, Holly called saying, “Matt, the sink in the bathroom fell off the wall and it smells really bad.  What should I do?”

I asked, “What?”

She said, “The bathroom sink fell off the wall and is lying on the floor.”

I queried, “What, the sink fell OFF the wall?  The bathroom sink?” How often does that happen? I thought.

“Yes, it fell off the wall and it smells really bad.  It’s sitting on the floor.  We’ve just been using the kitchen sink instead.  What should I do?” 

(Below is a picture I took of the bathroom when I got home from the trip.  You can clearly see the spot on the wall where the sink broke off and you can imagine the smell coming up from the septic system since the ‘P’ trap was not in place.  Perhaps you could also imagine how hard it was to keep John Caleb from playing with the water faucets, as they were still functional)IMG_0006

IMG_0007After a bit of discussion, and wondering who would want to fix the sink for us for free, we agreed that she should just pretend there had never been a sink in the bathroom for a couple days until I returned from Anchorage, Hopefully with a new sink. so I could install it myself.

At the right, is what I think may have happened to the sink.  Actually, I don’t think Elisabet sat on the sink.  But it’s a funny thought.

IMG_0009Jeremy, Jack and I went to Home Depot and I bought the smallest bathroom sink they had, that is, the one that sticks out the least from the wall and was the most narrow.  Our bathroom is small and I wanted a bit more room to squeeze between the door and the sink when bathroom is occupied.  I was able to share one of my three Alaska Airlines checkin bags with Jack and Jeremy and return from Anchorage with the sink ready to install with the base and a nice new faucet.

I wanted to get an even lower profile sink, say about 10-15″ as I’ve seen one in a magazine like that for really small spaces, but ended up just getting one that was convenient to purchase.

When I returned from the trip, I put in the new sink. Here’s what it looked like.  I think this sink will last for many, many years, as it has a pedestal base that supports nearly all th weight and is much smaller. 

I IMG_0014I also moved the sink over towards the toilet a few inches to get it away from the door.  With the old sink, there were just a few inches of clearance whereas now it’s JUST possible to squeeze through the opening when the door if open and pointing at the sink..  Here’s the new faucet, which I really like a lot.  The faucet spout is raised up a bunch from the base compared to the old one, which makes it easy for the boys to fill up the water glasses for dinner (we always drink water for dinner, as it’s the best beverage you can drink)..

Initially, when I installed the faucet, there was no room for the soap or the water cup, but I removed the set screws and re-set the handles at an angle to allow us to use the left-hand side for the soap and the right hand side for the water glass. 

It was nice having a DIY home maintenance book on the shelf to read before fixing the sink too.  Having very little actual experience fixing things around the home, I really like a good DIY book, like the ones sold at Home Depot.

Tough week: living in a log cabin

No one likes the smell of mildew in their home.

Here in our little cabin we had a kind of tough week.  I picked up the mattress to check under it, knowing full well I could be in for a bad sight, as our mattress was lying directly on the uninsulated floor.  When we got it up we were hit with the smell of mildew, or mold–actually I’m not very good at distinguishing between midew and mold.  So, I started moving the bedding out of the room and getting organized to clean it all.

I called my mother and she said I needed to mix some Purex with some water and spray everything down that had mold on it.  Purex is a laundry detergent and comes in at least two grades: with bleach and without.  I bought the type with bleach in it and mixed it 8 oz per gallon of water, then got a squirt gun and started spraying and scrubbing everything.

Bring in the big guns…

Then I called Nishan, who’s done quite a bit of work cleaning, repairing, and restoring things and he came over to look at it and said I needed to pull up the carpet–which would have been fine except that we have these two really heavy bookshelves in the room that needed to be emptied out.  When the Greens came over, Jim helped me clear out a bunch of stuff by hauling it into the boy’s room.  We pulled up the carpet then removed the carpet pad and looked at it real hard and decided the carpet and floor needed to dry out.  So we hauled the bulk of the items out of the room into the boys room then we put into the room a few things: Jim’s ozone generator operating in high mode, a heater to keep the room warm, and a fan to circulate the air around, and let it run for a day or so.

The furniture store had carpet pad rolls in stock, so I put new carpet pads down.  I borrowed a carpet stretcher from K.C. Thomsen and put the carpet back.  The way to stretch the carpet out is to do the long straight sides first, from midpoint to midpoint securing it as you go, then do the corners last.

The whole process wouldn’t have taken a week, if I’d had an uninterrupted stretch of time to work on it all.  But since life continued on in the house, albeit in a limited fashion.  I think I actually worked on it for about 5-6 hours and ran the ozone generator and fan for about 15 hours.

So, now we’re back in the main room again.  The only problem is, I can’t tell if it’s healthy to be in this room or not.  The boys seem to have a sinus problem, but people at Church said they had some sinus problems too, and I know they weren’t sleeping here in the room with us.