Winter is Our Friend, Winter is Our Friend

Say it with me..

6 am or so. Snow is falling and the neighbor is texting to say she hopes the trailer doesn’t cave in. I go out into the white with my pajamas still on under my coat, boots and gloves. With a huge groan, I wrestle the ladder around to the back of our makeshift shed that is topped by only tarps that are sagging under the load. I don’t want a cave in.

I climb up the ladder with a shovel and start to scoop and push snow off the side. At least the plastic is slippery and I can move some of the snow to the edge and off. One shovel at a time. I figure each push is a little less weight on the “roof”. The snow is heavy and the shovel is cumbersome to manipulate from the top of the ladder. I’m bummed. Very little money and little means to live comfortably at this time in our lives. The snow is oppressive to me right now. Not fun. Like it used to be.

I feel resentful that I agreed to sell our home in the burbs to come out here and experience this. I did agree to it though. Maybe a reward is somehow coming down the pike for all this. I often burst out in tears at this point, wanting to live somewhere else.

Deep down, I know this will pass, that there is meaning in everything. That I’m learning and experiencing things in life that will be worth telling a story about sometime in the future but it sucks. I’m breathing hard and I’m cold and miserable. I’m angry. I’m depressed. Once again, for the hundredth time, I feel resentment that I’m even here.

When I say last winter sucked for us, I mean it really did. Writing this blog, I tend to skip past a lot of the emotional upheaval that truthfully underlies our story. We’ve argued and cried (mostly me) time and time again about our circumstances. I want to blame but I know I have no one to hold accountable but myself. I understand we have made our decisions to come out here together but this is really, really really hard.

But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

A hundred, not even a hundred years ago this is how people lived but they were used to it dammit. We went in with a certain amount of naivety. I actually hate the term newbie but it fits. You learn as you go or from watching Youtube.

Ultimately, we discussed it and me and my son went to live at an emergency shelter in town for three months while my husband stayed on the property with the cat. I didn’t even care about admitting defeat by that point. I was glad to be able to get away from the cold and I had a bigger responsibility to our son to provide a warm place for him.

When I think back on all of that last winter, the feeling that I’m going into overkill on winterizing dissolves.

Every day we do a little more to prepare. We finally got Bridgette the truck out of the shop so we can bring up supplies to put a real roof on the shed. We have the tools now that we need to do the jobs. We have the means we didn’t have last year and that’s liberating. I have an all too good understanding now of what’s in store and I’m taking this all very seriously.

We’re looking for a more efficient heating system for the fifth wheel that accounts for keeping the basement area warm enough to prevent freezing of the water pipes and drains. We laid down insulation, if haphazardly, in the basement and added insulated sheeting to the access panels, along with doors, windows, etc.

Today we bought a 350 gallon water tank for storage outside our trailer. We’re exploring ideas on how to keep it from freezing. I found a heat hose that came with the RV. I gotta figure out how it’s used or if it will apply to this situation. We’re talking about heat blankets or some other means of keeping the water in the tank from freezing.

I bought a full body Ted (the movie) sleep suit to keep me warm in the mornings. It has a hat with ears and a logo from the movie (which I’ve never seen, thank God), which I’m going to remove before I puke, but the suit looks soft and warm. That’s for the cold mornings inside when I first get up to blog. 🙂

Although I grew up in Utah where the climate is very similar to that here, I’ve lived most of my adult life out of the snow belt. Western Washington, the Puget Sound region is where I’ve spent a majority of that time. It’s the rain belt; a place of moderate temperatures year round and lots of rain.

I used to pray and pray for snow every winter because I missed my childhood days of sledding, snowball fights; the usual stuff.  After we moved from Utah, snow became the little bit of cake mix left in the bowl you got to lick. There was never quite enough and you were always left wanting more.

Now I’ve had the whole bowl full of cake mix and I don’t want to eat anymore. It’s not so fun anymore. As a matter of fact, it’ll soon be the only thing I get to eat every day.

When it snows only sporadically, it melts pretty quickly and you get to go back to what you were doing until next time. But in the snow belt, it’s here to stay for months at a time. You can’t get away from it.

That first 15 minutes of play time is soon over and you have 172,800 more minutes to try to get it out of your boots, car, carport,  half mile of driveway, off your windshield, off of the top of your trailer, off the top of your shed, off your solar panels, off of your sidewalk (if you have one), and out of your life in general.

The reality of snow is that it slows you down, gets dirty, is heavy, is cold, is wet, and rules your life for months at a time. But snow is also transforming. It muffles sound and brings soft silence. It is fun to play in and it’s just beautiful. That’s why I missed it so much all of those adult years.

I think our biggest problem last winter is that we couldn’t get out of it and get comfortable. We had to trek back and forth up and down our half mile long driveway to and from our truck. The road was completely impassible from the first deep snow on.

We wore ruts in it with our feet that became the last portion to melt come spring because of the compaction. We had good truck tires and four wheel drive initially but we didn’t put weight into the back and we had transmission problems later in the season.

Now that we have neighbors moving into the upper lot next to us, we’re hoping they’ll have the equipment to do the plowing. We’d be happy to take turns, we just don’t have the plow.

Ultimately, I have no regrets about moving. This is a dream come true for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  The same for snow. I just want to be comfortable and be able to function during the worst of the winter months. I can now take my favorite hot baths when I get too cold. We’ve made sure things are in place for those types of comforts. We’re even considering the possibility of putting in a wood stove which I dismissed at first but am now reconsidering.

I want to enjoy winter days and nights all tucked in safe, warm and cozy while we watch the snow fall outside.

Next winter, I want to be watching the snow fall from the window of a log cabin.

 

 

The Great Leveling

Jammed door syndrome.

Our house is crooked. Rather, it isn’t level. Being a recreational vehicle meant for travel on the road, every time you park it and unhitch, you have to level it; that is, try to distribute the weight of the rig as evenly as possible all around as well as level.

Looking at the photo above, it looks terribly askew but that’s mostly optical illusion.

If you don’t do it properly, your doors and access panels will not open and shut properly due to the trailer not being squared and stresses being created in places where there is very little clearance for movable parts.

It doesn’t help that one of our hydraulic landing jacks isn’t moving up or down. I think it’s a damaged sheer pin and I’m not sure we’re capable of fixing it.

The location of the fifth wheel was pretty uneven in the first place so we dug ruts for the rear set of tires on the uphill side before it was pulled in. The ground also rises on the front end side of the trailer so we’re having to compensate for that too. It came with a tripod for that part of the fifth wheel that normally sits in the bed of the hauling truck. It’s to support that front section of the trailer to prevent it from the slight stresses that may lead to leaking from sagging, if ever so little.

We had to dig holes for the legs of this tripod just to get it to recess enough into the ground for the rest of the rig to be lowered onto it. We redid and redid it until it was far enough down but then the left front jack quit on us. Now we are stuck not being able to lower the front of the trailer to complete the leveling process.

We managed to get the side to side level by digging those wheel ruts deeper while we had the back jacked up then lowering the wheels into the recesses again.

I’m getting tired of everything rolling towards the back of the fifth wheel and the visual of the thing, especially when we’re inside, looking obviously sloped.

I’m thinking that the majority of the weight being on the 2 sets of 3 wheels on either side would naturally be the best configuration. It’s all of the other points of contact that are a pain in the butt to adjust.

I just had an idea. If we can temporarily get the weight off of that problem jack, we can dig under it and lower it just like we did the wheels.

Be right back.

Update: Going to go get a jack.

Obsessions of a New Blogger

Things going through my head right now.

I probably edit every one of my posts approximately 12 times – after I post it. And that’s after I’ve already proof read it a dozen times before I post.

I find typos, redundant words, misspellings, too-long paragraphs, points that could have been made better with fewer words, things I forgot to add to the post that I add later.

I imagine someone reading one of my posts as I’m furiously editing it and updating it 10 times in 5 minutes then refreshing their page and it being a completely different topic with completely different images.

Then I question how interesting the content really is. Yellow Jackets? Is that compelling in any way? There’s no call to action or effort to change the world with my words. Just a stupid joke (which I came up with by myself, thank you), and stories about our experiences with them. Is this subject even vaguely fascinating or entertaining?

Then there’s the speck on your computer screen that looks like a period and throws you off. Caution: Don’t ever try to clean your touch screen while it’s active. The series of commands you initiate by trying to wipe that chocolate off will take you places…..

I’ve also tried to edit when I’m on the published public page. I’m trying to click on it to edit it and it’s not working. Duh.

I end up going in circles editing. Write the post, proof read it, post it while somehow overlooking the obvious, reading it on the “visit site” link to see what it looks like to everyone else and finding more mistakes. Adding one missing letter and updating it then going back to the public site and finding something else.

I’m getting dizzy.

Then there’s the stats page. Don’t get me started on that. Being new to this blogging thing, any kind of activity there is totally exciting to me. That page is a regular stop in my obsessive travel back and forth on my blog.

I’m finding writing to be immensely enjoyable and a great outlet. I even get to use some artistic abilities which just makes it that more great! I do amateur photography but I’m not bad at it so I can always photograph my own visual content or scribble it on Paint. I just got my new camera in the mail yesterday and can’t wait to get out and use it. I haven’t had a decent camera since mine got stolen a couple of years ago.

Sometimes I start to wonder if I’m spending too much time blogging but screw that. I’ve found something that maybe I can build into a career with time. I just have to learn how to monetize it.  I have a clear understanding that building any kind of business out of blogging may take years but the fun will carry me through. I’ve had a business before so I’m familiar with the realities and the hard work involved. Bottom line, time spent here is valuable to me in many ways and well worth it.

My husband has seen my excitement while typing away and I read him every post I do. He is incredibly kind, patient, and supportive. I couldn’t ask for more. Besides, it keeps me happy and busy. Of course he’s happy for me. 🙂

I’m guessing my story is familiar to some of you. The obsessiveness, the jumping to see who liked something you wrote, the unending editing, the staring at the computer screen for hours but being quite content as you do so.

Got my ticket for the Merry-Go-Round. I pick the black horse.

I bet this page morphs 6 times in the next 10 minutes 🙂 6 and counting. 7.

Another Man’s Treasure

A hillside populated with the discards of another era.

I’ve tried to imagine what those who went before us here were like. They lived on this very spot we now occupy. They did dishes, cooked, cleaned, fixed things, plowed, took care of their animals, cried, laughed, made love, ate, drank, read……all of the things we do today.

The only clue I have in answer to these questions is what they left behind, on a hillside just 30 feet from where I’m typing.

Before me and my family came, they left this place. Nearly 70 years ago. Why did they leave I wonder.? No one else came after them until now. The land passed through a succession of owners but no one saw fit to stay here. To care about the place. It sat quietly waiting with only the deer, the ants, the trees, rocks, and soil to occupy it’s time.

But the hillside held their secrets. Mundane, every day items such as an egg beater that succumbed to the slow embrace of the tree under which it sat. The tree hugging it more and more tightly year after year, as if afraid of losing it’s last connection to those who planted it.

Tin cans degenerated with each passing season; snow, rain, heat, wind, snow, rain, heat, wind until they began to lose their identities; their memories of what they were and why.

Parts of machinery held up better to the gentle onslaught of time, quietly proclaiming their usefulness only to become silent themselves with the passing years.

Salad forks, spoons, lamp bases, marbles, can openers, old TV dinner packages. Bottles; lots of them. Most broken, some intact, unbelievably, encased in the dirt just inches below the soil. Protected from the elements. Souvenirs from Japan, a hand poured heart made of lead from a mold, condiment jars and every other kind of product a family would use in the 50’s, 40’s and back.

A bracelet bearing the name Best, tossed down the hillside with the rest of the trash. Why, I wonder?

best bracelet
You can barely make out the name “Best” on this bracelet. I tried to find her successors to give this too but didn’t have any luck.

Did they get into arguments? Did they go to church on Sundays? They certainly had young children as evidenced by the small shoe soles and toy wagons left behind.

There are areas where bulldozers were most likely used to scrape together what was left of their existence, entombing it in neat piles. Sacred memories shoved together along with pipes, fencing, machine parts, barrels. Why did they leave and why bury everything?

I found this hillside and it’s occupants the first day we arrived on our property. I was fascinated and asked myself all of these questions. I wondered if our arrival had excited energies that had been dormant all of that time.

What did they think of us? Did they approve? Did she mind me polishing up her can opener and using it again for the first time in 70 years? I bet she didn’t.

wouldn’t mind if I was a ghost.

PS As I was finishing the editing on this post, a cupboard door in my kitchen quietly opened by itself. I really wonder if they’re watching now. 

Cold

Inspired when the inside of our trailer froze last year.

Cold By Linda Jordan

Stealing along a darkened road; it’s path crooked
Fleeting around trees, leaves shivering in its wake, grass frozen mid-bow in homage
Inspecting, watchful, it’s purpose clear
A lone traveler comes; hungry for warmth
A house in the darkness; to the porch, peeking into windows; a door ajar
Cold sees an opportunity
Leaning in like a party guest offering unwanted advice, seizing the moment to enter
Quickly occupying every nook and cranny; nesting, rooting,
Inching forward through every carelessly cracked window, down every open chimney flue
Seeping along the floor, hugging corners
Inspecting cupboards, trying on boots and gloves
Filling closets and testing bed sheets; searching
Halting in a darkened corner, cold utters a sigh; glittery breath frosting windows in the vacant night
Uninvited visitor, unwelcome guest in the quiet
Faintly, the sound of voices tug at the fringes of its weary consciousness;
Lights flicker on interrupting its blue reverie; the rising sound of laughter assaults it’s crude senses
Suddenly feeling exposed, resolve melting, Cold hurriedly gathers it’s things, shoulder’s its frosty rucksack, and dissolves into the baseboards and walls, hiding
Whispering down halls, tendrils collecting its belongings along the way, cold escapes out the door as a warm body enters, door shut rudely at it’s back
Indignant and disheveled, Cold collects itself, shrugs its pack into place, and starts once again down the road trailing winter behind it

horese snow
A snow sculpture I did last year. The picture at the top is also a snow sculpture I did and enhanced with Photoshop.

What is Black and Yellow and Flies All Over?

A very confused Yellow Jacket. Get it “”Flies” all over”?

They wait outside your door and the second you open it, they seem to almost be sucked in by the sudden change in air pressure. The pesky and painful Yellow Jacket. Now you have to follow it around the house with rolled up newspaper or other weapon of your choice until you get it because if you don’t, you know it’s there. Hiding, waiting for you to accidentally reach in somewhere and, zap! Pain.

I got stung twice this summer and my husband once. His was worse because he was minding his own business sleeping when I heard him groan in pain waking up. The pain apparently was really bad judging by his reaction as he grabbed his index toe.

Thinking fast, I asked to see it and recognized a sting wound. I quickly crawled to the bottom of the sleeping compartment and sure enough, there was either a yellow jacket or hornet or wasp there. I squished it and confirmed what had gotten him in his sleep.

What a rude awakening.

It hurt him for a couple of days unlike mine. When I got zapped, I was also minding my own business walking and all of a sudden, sharp pain on the top of my foot. Again, I realized what had happened right away and I grabbed my foot and put hard pressure on the sting mark and held it for about a minute. Surprisingly, the pressure seemed to help and I barely felt it after that.

The second time for me was again, minding my own business when I shifted my leg while sitting on a bench. There went the pain and the instant recognition of what had happened. I put pressure on it again but this time the back of my leg swelled up considerably over the next two days.

Wondering if I’d had an allergic reaction and not wanting an emergency, we looked it up online and the swelling is called a large localized reaction. It’s a sort of allergic reaction but not of the systemic kind. If you have that sort of reaction though, your chances of having a more severe reaction in the future rise somewhat.

The things were rampant this summer. When we went to get spray and other means to control them, most, if not all the stores’ shelves were cleaned. Apparently the scourge was worse than usual this year.

We tried suggested DIY techniques for repelling them and trapping them over the course of the several weeks when they were at their worst. We were more mindful of them because we’re outside most of the time. Probably more so than a typical house dwelling human might be and they were everywhere.

The paper bag fake hive trick didn’t work but most of the water bait traps worked fairly well. They love meat and especially hot dogs. We’d place one in a shallow tub surrounded by water and the bees would miscalculate the landing and end up in the water. Add dish soap and it was almost instant death.

We watched some videos on youtube featuring professional bee exterminators and one of them used just soapy water to subdue them and take out the hive initially. He would spray it on the hive and the actual bees and just having it on them would somehow suffocate them.

We found a couple of hives on our property and used that method and it worked like a charm. You shoot the soapy water at them and the hive from a safe distance and you’re done. My husband remarked that there’s a pattern to their behavior when attacked. They go through the extremely aggressive swarm phase initially but if the nest is taken, they go into defeat mode wherein the survivors simply hang around the area, apparently knowing it’s all over.

The most fun technique for dealing with a hive was the BB gun attack. We would just shoot the hive until it was so riddled with holes it would just shred and finally fall down. That was my husband’s favorite. It was carried out at a safe distance, of course.

That wouldn’t work for other types of Apoidea from what we saw on the exterminator shows. Depending on the type of bee involved, the exterminator would sometimes have  to evacuate a two block radius before dealing with the hive. That’s how aggressive some types of bees are. My husband said those types have already begun to populate Washington state.

I spent a lot of time digging our spring deeper because of the declining water table and the yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, black headed whipper snappers or whatever you call them liked “the hole” as much or more as me. It was a primary water source during an especially dry summer. I was told by someone that their sting is more potent and that they’re meaner when water is scarce. Sounds believable to me.

I would climb down into the hole to dig and for the most part, they’d leave me alone and I them but sometimes I would get tired of them and bring my waffle iron sized swatter with me and whack the crap out of them until I reduced the immediate popularity of the hole for a minute or two.

It was fun to play yellow jacket batting practice too. It was hard to miss with the homemade swatter I made out of PVC pipe and a piece of loosely wired mesh I secured to the PVC pipe, which was the handle.

I would sometimes make a game out of standing by the trailer and swing at every one that would happen by. I counted upwards of a couple of hundred per session. I would use the back and forth maneuver, the backhand, and the close quarters anti yellow jacket ninja move if they entered my personal bubble. I suppose I’m lucky I didn’t get stung while engaging them. It was always when I was minding my own business that they got me.

I would sometimes go over to a swarm and swing away at them while they collected in larger numbers around something they deemed tasty in their twisted little yellow jacket heads. Like tuna juice.

God forbid you open a can of tuna in the trailer to make a sandwich. They would smell it from miles away it seemed and begin to swarm the door and vents, trying to get in. It was almost scary. I would have to eat inside also.

We used the tuna juice against them also. We bought a fly trap at the hardware store that had a one-way top. It came with fly bait but we put the top on an empty plastic gallon milk jug with the tuna juice inside and they went nuts trying to get in.

It was pretty gross actually; we’d watch the jug fill up with yellow/black buzzing bodies climbing over each other trying to get out. Baking in 95 degree plus weather. It was a grotesque genus Vespula fest. Better in than out.

It’s now officially fall and they are showing up in fewer and fewer numbers. I couldn’t find a live one to take a photo of so dead it is for the featured image.

Not sorry to see them go for the winter.

 

A Rhyme

Written after being left out to graze for too long.

Roses are red, violets are teal

You have a house, I have a fifth wheel

I shovel dirt while you mow your lawn

You go to bed late and I’m up before dawn

You have a garage, bathroom sinks and a pond

I have a spring, trees, the skies and beyond

And when it gets cold you can turn on the heat

Me, I just build a big fire and cook meat

Sometimes I admit that I wish I were you

But an off-the-grid woman I am through and through

 

That last line made me almost wretch but I couldn’t think of ANYTHING to rhyme with “you”.

 

 

 

I’ve Lost My Marbles

Cosmic meaning in slingshot balls.

Little white marbles. 400 of them. Just when I thought I was getting good at slingshot.

I figured I should find them before the first snow or before my husband gets his dream lawnmower next spring.

As I poked around through the brush and trees, I fell into a sort of trance or meditative state and started to see things differently. I saw symbolism in my search.

As I’ve mentioned, I suffer from depression and it’s been quite bad lately so I’ve used the opportunity to kind of try to let the negative feelings flow through me and out rather than sticking and hurting. It’s difficult but looking for the balls allows me to enter into a temporary state of mind where I can separate myself from the waves of emotion and observe almost from an outsider’s perspective.

While in this state of mind I begin to see patterns; messages, what have you, while I look for those hidden objects in the grass.

I understand this probably sounds a bit strange but even can see what my head is going about and in some way it’s profound. Interestingly enough, I feel as if I’m interacting with the balls in a small scale illustration of quantum theory and spirituality. I believe the two are one and the same although seemingly different. The post I wrote about nature and science refers to that.

What if math is beautiful?

I believe meaning in general, the “answers”; truth, is encoded into symbolism; as it is with spirituality and religion. Tonight as I wandered around I let thoughts and feelings flow through me as unaltered as possible and here are some things I thought about:

What if the balls as a collective represented spiritual truth? Then these were my observations:

  • They are ironically easier to find in the darkness rather than the light
  • The harder you look for them the more they sometimes elude you
  • Sometimes they are right at your feet and you miss them
  • Sometimes you miss them the first time then see them when looking from a different perspective
  • Some become ground into the dirt by carelessness but they still remain visible if you look closely enough
  • They are all around you but you don’t always see them
  • They seem to appear magically in front of you with the right frame of mind
  • Just when you think you’ve found them all there are always more
  • Although they seem lost forever, they are there, somewhere. Or are they?
  • They are there when observed and gone when not
  • They are more visible with an open mind
  • Some travel farther than others
  • Picking them out of the pine needles can hurt
  • They may become buried under snow but they will always be revealed with the melt
  • They will most certainly fuck up your husband’s lawnmower next spring if you don’t find them.

Do you think I’m crazy? 🙂

The Man, the Bear and the Truck

If that man had woken up…..

The bear had been seen along a forest service road on the south side of I-90 close to Snoqualmie Pass. Warning signs were posted throughout the area warning campers.

We were camping off that road ourselves during the summer of 2017 while we looked for land to call our new home. We were living in the little trailer we’d bought after selling our house in the city of Snoqualmie (not to be confused with the pass)

My husband and I were taking this road back to camp when we spotted a truck parked just off the road with the tailgate down. No one was in sight and a bear was ransacking the occupant’s camp circle at the end of the open tailgate.

Since we didn’t see anyone we were worried about the owner of the vehicle. We pulled over and the bear took off. I very carefully crept up to the truck hoping I wasn’t about to see a blood bath. I got close enough to peak into the back and into the shell.

There was a man asleep but very much alive in the back! His feet had been mere inches away from where the bear had been destroying his goods. I woke him up and told him what had happened.  Can you imagine if he had woken up? No where to go as there was a canopy on the bed. How lucky was this guy?

Our family has camped in the Snoqualmie National Forest for over 20 years and have indeed run into a bear who repeatedly came in to our campsite to raid our supplies; even after the first encounter after which we stored our food in our car.

The morning after we put most of our food elsewhere, we still had some canned goods in our campsite. The bear came and bit into a can of spaghettios and sucked all of the juice out of it through the tooth holes. They’re not stupid when it comes to goodies. We reported the bear to Fish and Game and I believe they may have relocated it.

Bear will do anything to get at food; even inside a car. I heard a story recently about a bear who ransacked a guy’s rental vehicle. I mean trashed it after he’d been warned not to store food inside.

We now carry bear spray wherever we go for protection from cougar also. There was a recent story about two men who were mountain biking near North Bend, not far from where we used to camp regularly. They were attacked by a cougar, one of them ran, and he was killed by the animal. This was just months ago.

Cougar Attack

We now live in an area where we never know what might come up to our door step. We live in their space now. A neighbor had a bear attack her dog in their carport a few years ago.

The lesson to all this? Bear will search and destroy to get to your food.  We don’t go into the woods any more without a can of bear spray. If those cyclists had been carrying some, the end of that story would most likely have been different.

 

Writing and The Faucet

More than just a faucet.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

― Louis L’Amour

Yeah, only in my case, you have to dig the damned well, install a water filter and about 500 feet of hose, put the hose in the trailer water input pipe (it puts the water in the trailer or it doesn’t get the coffee), turn off the water pump that you realized has been on all night pumping air, make the coffee after you get enough water in the tank to make it, check on said status of water refill, run in and check on coffee making status, run up to the top of the property again to “turn off” the water (pull the hose out of the spring), run down again and turn the coffee to low for perking, turn on the generator sometime during all of this, plug in the fridge because it was turned off when plugged into the solar, and then you can sit down and have the f******cking coffee.

Shit.

Thank you for the quote irevuo.