We left King County Washington; Destined for our new home on the range.
Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down A Dream played on the radio as the first hint of daylight tinted the eastern sky. We were driving a 1986 Ford F-250 my husband lovingly called Bridgette pulling a 2001 Jayco Light travel trailer with a very unhappy cat stowed inside. We were on the home stretch of Hwy 395 headed for Colville Washington.
That was two years ago today.
The space between that day and now has been packed with memories a person cannot make up; plenty of material for a blog. Survival trumped all else for the first year while we carved a place for ourselves amongst the Ponderosa Pines on the iron rich bedrock. Survival is still the main theme of daily life out here.
To be cliche, I have cried and I have laughed in almost equal measure during the past two years and things will continue to be tough until we finally build a real house. Water is coming from a spring we dug and we get our energy from two gas generators and a solar power system. I’ll be so glad when a glass of water and a shower non longer involve moving mountains.
We gained a new cat and relocated another feral one. We’ve learned a lot about setting up systems for every day needs and making them work. We put up a huge portable shed and half built another that’s coming down eventually. We’re still living in a fifth wheel but plan on building a small log home as soon as a deal we have in the works comes through.
I’m not looking forward to another winter of zero degree temps as the fall equinox approaches although we’ve kind of learned how to drive in the snow and have a fireplace to keep us warm.
We’ve learned to live with the wild life for the most part and our garden is two years old and full of half eaten tomatoes and squash. I’m growing a gigantic pumpkin that I’m proud of and we introduced morel mushroom spores to the side of our property where they were absent. We even discovered small amounts of fine gold after looking for two years.
Looking forward, we’re a lot wiser now but have an understanding that humility is a necessary state of mind out here. Never take anything for granted and never get over confident.
Perhaps most remarkable is that we’re even starting to get along with the neighbors. That’s true progress.
It’s 7:45 am in the morning and I’m sitting at my computer looking at the smudges all over the screen, wondering if that’s an extra period I’ve added or a speck of food. It’s a touch screen and the first time I cleaned it I had to wait twenty minutes for the commands I accidentally activated to process.
Imagine just finishing a blog post and the commands deleting the whole thing, writing an entire new post that was pure Shakespearian, and publishing it; all while you look on helplessly.
Or maybe my cat could walk across the keyboard and accomplish the same thing.
Our fifth wheel has about a foot of snow on the top and I’m wondering how my husband and I are going to shovel all it off. I hope the ceiling doesn’t cave in while I’m writing yet I’m choosing to sit down and blog rather than get out there with the heavy equipment and clean up literally tons of snow. Easy choice, actually.
I love to write but being just months in, it’s daunting. I’m trying to find my sea legs and thrashing about every time I get washed overboard, which happens a lot.
As I paddle around in circles, I’m realizing just how much I don’t know about writing. Did you know there are curly as opposed to straight quotation marks? And double and smart ones? I didn’t until yesterday when I downloaded a proofreader. I was having so much trouble finding a transition from one paragraph to another the other day I gave up and just wrote “segue” between the paragraphs.
Ever wonder if you’re the worst, least professional writer in existence? I do on a daily basis. I suspect I may not be the only one.
I ran the proofreading tool on my last blog post and I didn’t understand what the thing was telling me to correct. I feel like an amateur but I was buoyed by a blog post I read yesterday by The Art Of Blogging.
It featured a book by Stephen King on writing. I liked the part about failure the most. I feel much better knowing that is a part of the writing process and to expect it. If Stephen King failed and is still with us (boy is he ever), then I stand a chance.
I want to learn how to write better. I want to find my particular style. I want people to want to read my blog. Every once in a while I get frustrated and consider walking away but I immediately dismiss the thought because I love to write.
Most of all, I want to find my style. I currently rotate between what I call my boring style to humorous, then some poetry with weird subject matter, to super descriptive, and the emotional stuff. My favorite is the humorous.
I want to perfect the art of humorous writing more than any other style. I want to write like Jean Sheppard of A Christmas Story fame. That’s my biggest bestest aspiration. Funny words.
As far as cleaning up the roof of our RV, I’m already looking for a humorous angle.
If you’re looking for authoritative pieces on this and that you aren’t going to find it here. You see, I’m no authority on just about everything. What you’ll find on my blog is my personal experiences, thoughts on things, and some poetry with odd themes such as solar power set ups and Halloween.
I’m the first one to admit I’m not perfect. I have a really bad anger problem along with depression and anxiety.
We don’t have our shit together by any stretch of the imagination but when we made the big move from our suburban home to a wildly different setting, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it. It was just too interesting.
We are, however, bumbling our way through this way of living. The bumbling part I hope, will make for some interesting reading.
We are self professed eccentrics; responsible people wannabes. We’re the folks who envy the people who seem to have their shit together. We are the ones who show up at the farmers market with a cute collection of things to sell only to discover the seller down the row has four times the inventory, professionally displayed with matching business cards (that really happened).
I’d like to think that we represent the archetypal underdog. That part of our collective consciousness that is in all of us that we hide from other’s view.
I hope that by being honest about ourselves and our mistakes, we can reassure others who suffer from less than perfect self esteem that it’s OK.
As a matter of fact, we like being a little off. Were intelligent and witty and we kind of revel in our offness. We are castaways on The Island Of Misfits. In a nut shell, we have low self esteem but we also think we’re pretty cool. Reconcile that.
As humans, I think we all struggle with the fact that we have aspects of ourselves we love and those we loath and they have to occupy the same space in our heads. Just stay on your own sides of the room.
So we’re not perfect, and we don’t have the picture perfect display. At the end of the day, you’ll find us using duct tape when we’re supposed to using electrical, and so on. Why? Because we either don’t want to do it the right way or we don’t know how.
Last week, our new neighbor of one whole month approached me in a very disconcerting way and asked me if I wanted to cut down our trees or have him do it so he could move a huge shared cul de sac thirty feet over and onto our property. He affected a totally casual attitude like this was a branch overhanging his side of the fence or something. It was as if he was trying to rush in and hit us shock and awe style. He didn’t approach us in advance.
We’ve all heard horror stories about property boundary disputes between neighbors and they are quite common. In this case, however, we think the neighbor’s behavior was slightly bizarre.
My husband and I discussed it at length and questioned whether his approach was appropriate and we thought about the implications going forward. We asked ourselves if we’d over reacted or perceived his motives wrongly. Should we be wary of this person? Does he have any other intentions? What kind of a person would act in this manner? Are we over analyzing?
Now notice what we’re doing psychologically in the above paragraph by questioning ourselves. That’s what manipulators count on and they use it to their advantage to do something called Gas Lighting. It’s the creation of self doubt in the target in an attempt to weaken their position and gain an advantage.
We’ve been doing a lot of research and have learned that manipulators take advantage of a person’s conscientiousness in order to cause them to question themselves and grow doubtful of their own judgment. The recommended reaction is to listen to your gut when dealing with people like this, don’t question yourself, and deal with them accordingly.
With that said, I believe it may be pertinent to our situation. I believe this guy thought we were naive and would be pushovers. We believe he would have gone ahead with his plans had we not stopped him; and gotten away with it.
We stopped him or at least placed an obstacle in his way for the time being. We’ve done our homework, gave him a written notice of trespass (he’d already gone onto our property and marked survey lines for his cul de sac with spray paint), told him we don’t want the cul de sac, and we saw an attorney to make sure we had a legal leg to stand on. We have a plan to deal with the situation as it evolves depending on what he does or doesn’t do and any conversations we might have in the future.
Yes, what happened is a big deal and we should be concerned. This is our property; our home.
We drove to Spokane yesterday for the consultation and everything went much as we thought it would. Here’s what happened: Our neighbor had done his own survey and discovered the existing easement road was fifteen feet to the side of where it is shown on the survey so he just decided he was going to move it to where it’s depicted. The road, however, has been in place for decades and would most likely be considered an implied easement and remain in place.
Things get a little dicy beyond that. The easement is also described as being in the location of an existing road in other parts of the same legal documents! There seems to be a contradiction in the legal paperwork necessitating a little extra examination in order for the attorneys to determine what the law would most likely favor.
The deed we signed is subject to an easement agreement going back to 2011 which is subject to another easement dated 1994. In order for the statute of limitations of at least twenty years of the implied easement use to take effect, we would have to “tack on” our own term of use to those in the past or we won’t make that twenty year statute.
Another point brought up by our attorneys is that the proposed change would be to our detriment and the neighbor’s benefit. We would be the only ones out of the three property owners subject to the easement to be affected negatively. I guess that also figures into the decision by the court, in our favor.
We were instructed to ask our neighbor for a professional survey first, see if he could produce one and go from there but I realized after we left the attorney’s office that the current one seems to be accurate with the exception of the location of the road.
We’ve decided to just watch and wait at this point then take action as need be with another trip to Spokane if things start to go sideways. We were told that it would save everyone a lot of money to just negotiate rather than go through litigation. We could even propose a sum for the use of our property as an option. Not sure we want to do that but it’s nice to know that’s a possibility.
We hope the neighbor doesn’t pursue construction of his behemoth of a turnaround but his personality as evidenced by his actions so far concerns us. We could have lived without this threat to our home and peace of mind. It could go either way although most likely ours.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself exactly why I started a blog. Just a searching query of myself to help define my position as a blogger and to clarify present and future goals. This is what I came up with:
I love to write
I feel compelled to write
I want to chronicle my life’s history and events for my future progeny and anyone else who might give a shit
My life has been very interesting and quirky and I want to share that with others
I need a job
It’s the perfect way to avoid folding my laundry and doing other things I don’t want to do but should do
I love humor and want to make others laugh in the hopes of becoming popular (to be cross referenced to the “popular” bullet item down the list
I hope to make money eventually (refer back to the “I need a job”) bullet
I’m an artist and I want to also share that with people on a totally unrelated blog
I’ve been told I should write a book God knows how many times so this is my compromise
I want to connect to others in my predicament….er, life situation so I don’t feel so alone
I want to be popular (who doesn’t?).
I want to be very honest about my life, myself and my problems in the hopes of making others realize it’s OK to be flawed=human
It’s good therapy because I suffer from depression and “getting it out” helps and writing distracts my mind
I like to write poetry. Never thought I’d see the day
Sometimes living off the grid can be lonely and this is my way of connecting outside of my world
Touching base on a few things. Humor: I like to try to emulate the guy who wrote A Christmas Story. The way the story is narrated in that movie is hilarious. And it’s a classic. That type of storytelling resonates with me. Taking every day events and describing them in comedic terms. I’m going for that sort of approach in my more humorous posts. I don’t know if I’m being successful.
Honesty: I’ve been in jail, but not for long but I wrote that poem about my stay at the Issaquah Hilton (as it’s affectionately called) while I was there. That was one way I coped during my five day stint.
That’s an example of just being straight forward with people about my life. I’ve learned from past experience that honesty tends to help people feel more comfortable in opening up. A means to connect in our humanness. Kind of like swearing (in my case) immediately tells you a person is cool. I believe most of us tend to hide those skeleton in the closet aspects of our lives. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I think it must be a relief to some to just be able to talk about it. I really hope that being honest with (most) of my life will help others to be more “OK” with themselves.
Story telling. Boy do I have some whoppers! I used to live next to Sonny Bono in Palm Springs. I was walking a dog one day when she got bit by a rattlesnake at Sonny’s front gate and I had to take care of her nine puppies while she successfully recovered at the vet. That was a few weeks before our house burned to the ground.
That’s just one example of what I have to tell. The unbelievability factor is strong with this one. I’ve debated with broadening the scope of my blog because I have so many stories not just off the grid but from my life. Still considering.
I started out with a little traffic with my blog and then it tanked. Of course I asked myself what happened and have been reading the “how to get more traffic” and doing some research. I need to promote. Been busy; working on that one. I made a “Stories” Facebook page. I need to learn more about the advertising thing. I don’t want to turn people off with a bunch of ads on my blog but that’s the way things are. Ads make money for people including myself.
I looked at some other homesteading/off-grid blogs to see what others are writing. I think I’m hoping to set myself apart with the eccentricity. Off-grid stories with a twisted. 🙂
I come up with all sorts of random thoughts throughout the day that I think will make good topics. I know a little bit about writing but I mostly write based on my experience as a reader. That and just throwing whatever is on my mind as it flows into my posts.
Well, I’m yawning again. Time to go back to bed. I woke up super early when I heard a sound outside. We never knew what was out there at any given moment while we slumbered – until recently.
We got a super cheap but really cool surveillance system the other day. We want to keep and eye on what kinds of wildlife are active around here, including Asshole, our cat. Or what was getting into the occasional bag of garbage we carelessly left outside the front door at night. Last night we saw a stray cat come around on the surveillance monitor after we went to bed. It played with Asshole! We never would have guessed.
There are wolves in the area too that left paw prints in the snow last winter around our trailer. We’re hoping to get those on surveillance too and post it on Youtube and make a million bucks. 🙂
Tonight I’m listening to classical music, cooking a nice dinner of stuffed pork chops and glazed carrots and feeling content. Sometimes the music is more towards Alice In Chains and such, depending on my mood. Tonight my mood is one of absolute peace.
I haven’t felt this still inside since we first set foot on our property. It is now my time.
Today we got some fantastic financial news. The stage is now set for investments, prosperity, security, and a good life. Finally. I can sit here and the weight of the world is off my shoulders. A year of incredible struggle has gone by. A year of patience and challenge almost unlike any I’ve ever faced.
I didn’t do it without many, many tears. Countless times I would lay in bed crying and try to be positive. Day after day, month after month of delays. One after the other; dragging by. Finding things to do that were lifting and occupying. Things that would help the clock tick a little bit faster.
We worked hard. But the time still dragged on.
My husband had a way of reassuring me when the going would get the toughest. He would hold my face in his hands and tell me over and over again: “Good things Baby, good things.” I would look at him and to try believe.
Today. It was the day and I’m so grateful there are no words. The close of not only one chapter in our lives but the opening of a whole new book. A blank page? I think not. The chapters are already outlined, the premise of the novel planned.
Time to start writing.
Update: Our water heater is now working. The repairman came and turned the temperature dial to cooler. It was turned up too high. We didn’t realize the dial turned that far.
Winter is winter here in eastern Washington but snow deserves it’s own mention. It’s a category unto itself.
Snow is beautiful. It transforms your world. What was your environment becomes, with the gentle application of this “makeup”, a whole new world. It’s a sort of makeover of your surroundings.
Like foundation, it smooths out wrinkles and covers blemishes. It makes whole and new again, that which was dingy, gaudy, ugly, and trashy looking; soft and smooth like whipped cream still in the bowl before you dig the spoon in.
For us, it came early last year. And suddenly. I think it was before Thanksgiving. Sometime in October even? It wasn’t much. About 4 or 5 inches but it was a harbinger of what was to come.
I know I talk about winter here like it’s the end-all-be-all of events but to us, that’s not too far off the mark. That’s because we’re “coasters”; people from the other side of the mountains, near the Seattle area.
They have four seasons there; more rain, less rain, a little sun, and moderate rain. It’s pretty gloomy there in the Pacific Northwest rain belt. It doesn’t get really cold and snow is news there when it happens. Everyone goes out to build snowmen and sled. It receives continues coverage, schools close, and Seattle freaks out. Then it’s gone as fast as it came. That’s what we’re used to.
Here, it’s just another day to walk out to 3 new feet of snow in the morning and people know to make extra time to de-ice their windshields and shovel snow out of their carports in the mornings. People use quads with snow shovels to quickly deal with the problem. Dogs run around madly barking and trying to bite the wheels while their owners expertly maneuver their machines back and forth pushing the white stuff neatly into piles off to the sides. Some people in the outskirts with long roads for driveways sometimes hire others to do the work. There’s plenty of employment in snow removal during the winters here.
We couldn’t afford to hire someone to keep our driveway clear last winter nor did we have the equipment to do it ourselves. It’s almost a half mile from the road to our parking spots on our property up on a hill. We parked our truck at the gate leading to the larger parcel of property that had been divided into four (one of which is ours), and walked, slogged, groped, slid, and clawed our way up the slope to get home. We took the wheels off of our wagon and turned it into a sled to transport groceries and 55 gallon propane bottles back and forth.
We made a sort of game trail that the wildlife would commandeer in their wanderings; a trough through the 2 or more feet of slippery cold matter. We would hike on without stopping, past the neighbor’s house until we got out of sight behind the tree line before stopping to rest. The last leg was the steepest part . The road arced up at too-steep an angle as our cold and laboring lungs kicked into overdrive in the frigid air.
Finally, the home stretch; our feet frozen, legs tired, breath rushing out and in as we would round the corner and into our property; our trailer and shed silently waiting for us in the dark. It was a test of our wills dealing with the mighty weight of the winter snows.
The first real snow came in mid-December. My husband had just started a job and I went to pick him up as the snow fell. By the time we got home that evening, our property was covered in about 2 and a half feet of new snow.
Everything looked as if it had been topped with marsh mellow cream dumped from a heavenly pot. Our shed, the trailer; nothing was recognizable anymore. Small objects looked as if dollops had been dabbed on them as a finishing touch for dessert time.
We set to work carving trails outlining our routine trajectories about the premises and pushed and pulled the heavy stuff from off our trailer roof. We had to climb a ladder to scoop and shove the snow into large mounds around it’s perimeter.
Life became a lot more difficult once the snow came. The temperatures dipped into the teens and then into the single digits from there on out. As we were ill prepared for the realities of the weather in our new home, I began to entertain the idea of moving into an emergency shelter for the winter with our son. My husband would have to stay behind with the cat.
It was a difficult decision but ultimately a necessary one. Our family was separated for 3 months. Of course I saw my husband nearly every day but it wasn’t the same and we had but a short time together Christmas day.
As spring neared, we moved back to the property and readjusted to life in the bitter cold as it was still a month or so away. It was with mixed feelings that we left the warm confines of the shelter in town and moved back to the “frontier”. We were happy to be back together though. That was most important.
Our water pipes were still frozen and our RV batteries had suffered from the cold. At that time we didn’t have the money to really do a lot in maintenance. The water pipes would shatter if we tried to repair them because of the cold so we made do with workarounds.
I made use of the snow and molded sculptures of horses and random shapes. We made a sledding hill and managed to go through 3 sleds before we were done.
The snows eventually melted as we shoveled at the driveway little by little, our pathway being the last to melt. All of those trips back and forth had compacted the ruts into thick long slabs of ice. Then the day came that we were finally able to get our truck to the top. It was a day of turning the corner into spring.
On one sunny afternoon, it really hit me that it was mostly over. We had made it through our first winter and the snow. Sure we had stayed at a shelter but as a family, we had made it through something we were told horror stories about. And now it was almost behind us.
Spring lay ahead. And plans for our first garden on our very own property.
As you may have heard, we’re not too fond of our neighbors on both sides. We try not to be negative; to dwell on it. People are people. Everyone has their side of the story but some people really have some traits that are just unpleasant if not a bad influence on one’s life and it’s just good to steer clear for one’s own protection.
This particular neighbor on one side is one of those.
When we first moved here, relations were as usual when you’re first getting to know someone then little things happen that kind of make you raise your eyebrows to yourself and that little red flag goes up. But, in all fairness, you let it go until it becomes a pattern. These things take time to play out but at a certain point, you come to a realization that you just don’t like the person and more than that, they may be really bringing you down.
This particular neighbor is one of those.
I’m being discreet and no names will ever be mentioned but this is all a part of our lives and so bears some talking about. Besides, my husband and I have an interesting way of dealing with our feelings towards this person.
We call it therapy. I hope we don’t come across as cruel people but we’ve been playing a sort of “what if” game. We really get a kick out of coming up with hilarious scenarios of Dennis The Menace type moments with this person.
We make up stories and they’re so visual and comedic, that we absolutely bust up laughing and it makes our days go better. We don’t ever really mean any harm. It’s purely the visual aspect of our stories that make us laugh so hard. It’s a harmless way of dealing with our very real feelings of anger surrounding our past dealings with this person.
I’ll give you an example. I’m very much into sling shot and getting fairly good at it. I can now hit a tin can hanging from a tree from about 40 feet about one in 4 times.
I had a vision one afternoon recently of our neighbor going outside to pick up her newspaper and one of my balls zinging out of control, rocketing over the property line and hitting her square between the eyes. Her eyes go crossed and, just like in the movies, she goes over backward, straight as a telephone poll.
Am I sick to be thinking about or laughing at this? I did start to crack up uncontrollably and my husband asked what was so funny. I explained it to him and he joined in the laughter. We’ve come up with several other scenarios with much the same outcome. It just feels good to us. It makes us laugh about something that has been very unpleasant to deal with over the past year.
I questioned whether or not to write about this but I swear to you we’re nice people and not too mentally disturbed. Just eccentric.
I once wrote a very comical but nasty song about someone I greatly disliked. Someone who was disrespectful to myself and most of the people she dealt with. My counselor said it was a healthy way to deal with negative feelings. I believe it’s a sort of variation of the everyone’s naked in the room thing or “imagine your worst enemy with a clown nose on” thing.
I wouldn’t be talking about this at all except that we’re having so much damned fun with it. You should hear the stories my husband has come up with. Imagine a slingshot ball made of ice going through her living room window and all havoc ensues. Think Christmas Vacation and the icicle scene. That’s the kind of stuff we come up with.