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Dale and I are looking into getting a second vehicle*. We’re tearing down an old moldy shed and an outdoor set of stairs, this summer, and we’re doing work on the house, and we’re still in Furniture Acquisition Mode, so one thought is a [small!] pickup truck with 4-wheel drive. On the other hand, gas is $4.50 a gallon and probably not going down soon, so the other thought is “something fuel efficient.” (There’s not anything fuel efficient with 4WD/AWD, so that’s a down side. Recall that Alaska doesn’t believe in plowing down to pavement in winter. And, although the biggest hills are avoidable, it turns out we need 4WD to pull into our driveway from our unplowed alley.)

I’ve always loved little pickup trucks—you know, like Nissan and Toyota used to make—and we’d actually use its hauling capabilities, at least until our house is closer to done**. So I guess I’m leaning that way, a bit. I don’t know if you can buy pickup trucks that tiny, new. I also know that, if you want 4WD, your pickup truck options are a bit limited.

This is where, if you have advice for us, we’d love to hear it. New/Used, specific dealers to try/avoid, whatever. So… thoughts?

*We work in opposite directions from where we live. Normally, it’s not a big deal: one of us drops the other off (which wastes gas and time, but not a whole bunch of either). But he had an 8am meeting and an 8:30am-but-far-away meeting, last week, with more of them coming up soon, and there was no way he was going to get me to work in time to make those meetings; I also work Wednesday nights, which means I go in after lunch on Wednesdays. Which is fine, as long as he can leave work part-way through the day (we eat lunch together); sometimes he has 1pm meetings, which means I’m at work earlier than I want to be and he’s rushed to get back. Also, his work is going to move onto Base, before too long, which is going to limit his ability to leave part-way through the day. I can bus, but it only runs once per hour, and I’m unwilling to take the bus (which is full of sick people all winter) when I’m fighting bronchitis, which feels constant, lately. In the summer, I can bike, but I don’t have the skills, the gear, or the constitution to do that in winter.

**Projects: tearing down the shed (that moldy stuff is NOT going in the back of the Subaru, or any enclosed vehicle), buying or building a new shed in a different part of the yard, tearing down the back stairs, tearing down the front stairs, bringing replacement materials for the stairs home, replacing the gutters, bringing materials home to build a duck house and duck fence, tearing out and replacing the white picket fence, framing and putting up “pink board” in the basement (for insulation), putting up drywall in the basement, bringing home furniture, and various gardening/tree-planting/tree-removing shenanigans.

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It might come as a surprise to some readers of this blog that Dale and I are planning to start raising ducks. (It will not come as a surprise to anyone who’s spent more than an hour with me, lately, I think. I’m very excited about it!) But that is totally the plan. Two ducks, both girls, to live in a fenced-in part of our yard, along with our garden. They’ll keep each other company—unlike chickens, ducks can be happy in pairs—and lay eggs and keep bugs out of the garden. When they stop laying eggs, we’ll get a third duck, to lay eggs, and the first two will keep her warm and happy with duck-company.

A delightful plan, right? But the only duck farm we know of, up here, is hatching ducks in late May or early June, and I have to be at the American Library Association conference for almost a week, in late June. Call me crazy, if you want, but I really don’t want to miss a full week of my ducks’ development! They’re only babies for such a short time, and it’s really important that they bond to and trust Dale and me. (It’s important more because I want them to be nice pets than for any other reason. You can raise ducks who don’t trust you. It’s just not as fun.)

So, as hard as it will be for someone as impatient (and excited) as I am, we’re going to put off our duck plan for a year. (Yes, I’m technically supposed to go to ALA Annual again in 2013, but it’s the very end of my position on the NMRT board—my position actually ends half-way through conference, because of its late timing in 2013—and my predecessor in this position didn’t go for her last conference, which makes me think it’s probably OK.) That will give us time to build a really great duck-house, to make sure the place we want to put the garden-and-ducks will work, and to get some other projects done, this summer.

I guess it’s good that I’ve started so many marigold seeds; without ducks to protect my plants from bugs, I’m going to need them!

Other projects

Other projects for this summer: 1) Make the arctic entry into less of a “breezeway,” as our friends have started calling it, and more of an acceptable piece of the house. (Insulate under the floor, fill in the spaces letting air in, and replace the door.) 2) Plant an apple tree. And possibly a cherry tree. 3) Take everything out of the [incredibly moldy] shed, spray down the inside with a bleach solution, see if the sunlight will kill the mold on everything from the shed, and either refill it or drag off all the stuff. 4) Replace our back stairs & ramp with something less death-trappy. 5) Turn our front stairs around to face forward, instead of sideways. 6) Move the front gate, and set up a nice walkway through the yard. Plan for, but probably don’t yet implement, a patio for yard parties. 7) Dig out the flower beds and plant pretty things. 8) Run electricity to the front of the house, for grilling parties. 9) Replace the gutters. 10) Paint the two basement “bedrooms” and the places we missed in the kitchen.

That numbering system is meaningless. It’s just the order in which I remembered projects. Some of them have to be done sooner; some can be done later. Though I’ll be pretty disappointed if we don’t get through it all before next winter. Out of all of it, the front gate and front stairs are probably the ones I could most stand to put off, followed by the shed.

In current-project news, the contractor is coming back soon to replace the bathroom fan vent. It started dripping, again. This time, the dripping is down the outside, and I find myself really concerned about the insulation in our attic, some of which was put in by said contractor. If he doesn’t take responsibility for any of that being messed up, it probably isn’t the end of the world, since we also have a fairly serious roof leak (at least, we hope it’s a roof leak and not a hot spot), which is dripping slowly down one of our newly-painted walls and into the basement stairwell, of all places; we’ll have to get that repaired and then have a bunch of insulation pulled out and put back in, anyway. Extra insulation was one of the things on our energy rebate list, so that’s not so bad.

I’m very nearly finished with unpacking! We have several boxes of books and games, downstairs, but we have a place for them! I think I’ve gone through all of our “random stuff” boxes. Our basement shelves are almost ready to be taken down, and then we will sand and paint the drywall down there (Dale’s sanding, I’m painting, I think) and get the place a little more ready to serve as a fun hangout. We’re going to buy an inductive burner for making beer in the basement kitchen, which will be excellent! It’s still chilly down there, but we’ve found that our portable heater makes it a lot more acceptable. Rugs of some variety would also help. (If we were willing to go all crazy-retro, rugs on the walls would help A LOT. But we’re probably not. Insulating those walls, for real, was also on our energy rating list, but it’s a big undertaking. In the short term, we will content ourselves with hanging up fabric. It *might* not even look cheesy. … But it probably will. :))

And, finally, I have little seedlings coming up, and they will be more than ready when the snow melts and the garden—actually, a set of half-barrels—can safely take them. I didn’t buy Alaska-specific seeds, which my gardening book tells me (belatedly) I should have done, so that’s too bad. Here’s hoping Lowes was responsible in what they stocked, right?

Anyway, the house and life have been keeping us busy, but things are good. I’m a little bummed on the duck decision, but I think it’s the right one. I would be far more sad to miss a week of duckling antics, right?