Nothing’s Easy In The Snow

Snow……………two to three feet of it as far as the eye can see blankets the region we now live in. Fall inevitably forces residents here to go through their yearly rituals of preparing for months of it’s presence. After having moved here it’s evident that snow is met with a greatly different attitude based on the extent of it’s encroachment upon daily lives.

The other day, we had to exhume two hundred feet of category five Ethernet cable lying beneath it. The top foot or so was light and fluffy; freshly fallen; but the lower layers were solid ice, especially where it had been walked on repeatedly. Foot by foot, we had to shovel away the upper layer then carefully chip away at the ice with a pick ax in order to free the cable.

Nothing’s easy in the snow.

Walking, moving things, driving, it’s all a pain in the ass and we have to deal with it several months each year. We did, however, choose to move here partly because we disliked the constant grey and drizzle of the Puget Sound region surrounding Seattle.

Through out our childhoods, both my husband and I would pray for just an inch or two; please God, just an inch or two so school would be cancelled and everyone and their Aunt could go sledding and make snowmen. Now we just want it to go away.

Snow was a major event back where we lived. Highways would turn into skating rinks, school was cancelled, twenty four hour news coverage would detail every auto accident, every overly slick road in Seattle (very hilly), and reporters would be stationed throughout the region to give up-to-the-minute coverage of snowman-building and sledding activities.

Cul de sacs would become central meeting places or snowball fight war zones, depending. Snow was a happening; an event. It was cause for socializing. It brought people out of their houses to come together – back in western Washington.

Here, snow is simply a fact of life; something you deal with, not celebrate. Four wheel drive is mandatory, especially if you have unmaintained road which our almost half mile driveway is. We’ve had to get out and chop, shovel and dig our way through the last precipitous thirty feet of road after having bogged down in the drifts or having lost traction on the solid under-layer of solid ice.

Chopping wood is a two or three times daily task depending on our needs. It’s plain tiring.

Walking or wading through freshly fallen snow is laborious; even for the wildlife. Once a trail has been blazed, all the creatures take advantage of it.

Don’t leave that ax on the ground or you might not find it till Spring. Last year I lost a coffee pot lid and never found it. Our hatchet disappeared beneath the ice and we couldn’t find it for a good month. Bets were placed on it’s whereabouts among other items that had come up missing.

Here in western Washington snow is regarded as inevitable; something to be dealt with, not celebrated. The weather is met with a sense of resolve and a big sigh in knowing you’re going to have to have your driveway plowed again when you had it done two days before and the roofs are going to have to be cleared for the fifth time in a month.

With the advent of winter, it’s time to put the snow tires on and make sure you have a chord or two of wood for your fireplace. People adapt; socially and logistically to their climates. But still; nothing’s easy in the snow.

I want Spring.

 

The Hill Of Death Revisited

My husband and I went down the road again today that I wrote about in an earlier post. It’s steep and windy, has a very precipitous drop off and gets icy during the winter months; and there are no guard rails.

Originally we swore off of it but as the weather conditions improved, we began to use it again then they went back to bad and we found the road to be reasonably kept up sanding-wise.

Because of the expectations we’d built up, we decided to venture down the Hill Of Death again today, not expecting it to be the Hill Of Death but now it’s the Hill Of Death again in our eyes.

I started to record on my phone as we approached because the hill had become the subject of some contention amongst the community and I like to document things just in case.

Sure enough, we began to slide about halfway down and I had a heart attack. My husband remained remarkably calm. No, I wasn’t planning on sliding. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. No set up here.

I posted it to the local discussion/classifieds Facebook page calling for the installation of a guard rail and all hell broke lose. To my surprise, the video has been viewed over two thousand times since this morning (a lot for anything I’ve ever posted anywhere).

An almost cultural debate has arisen out of it. Some folks swear you should just stay home if you don’t know how to drive in the snow or don’t move to the country if you can’t stand the heat.  Others maintain the government has a duty to provide reasonably safe roadways to the public. I agree with the latter. BTW, two other people came dangerously close to sliding off the edge.

At the end of the day, no amount of local rhetoric about “staying home” is gonna keep an accident or death from happening due to the negligence of the party responsible for it’s maintenance. No amount of “buck-up” talk will prevent the issue from the inevitable reckoning that will take place within the justice system. And most importantly, no amount of “get some chains, idiot” talk is going to bring the dead back to life.

Decisions involving public safety on publicly maintained roads are rightfully made and administered by the government agencies responsible for them. In my humble opinion.

One gentleman replied to my post on Facebook with the reply “it’s Winter”. That sums it up, I guess. I wrote a poem in response:

Winter the disqualifier

Why sand roads or put out fires

For that matter who needs seatbelts

Hunker down wait till the sleet melts

Groceries gas are overrated

Don’t complain or you’ll be hated

It’s winter that makes perfect sense

Fits most every circumstance

If you’re not a seasoned expert

It’s on you deserve what you get

Having standards is for sissies

Center lines, stop lights are prissy

We don’t need no traffic laws

Cause we have hydraulic jaws

Summer fall just pick a season

Don’t need logic or good reason

It’s wintertime yup that explains it

No one should have to maintain it

I believe in common sense

Use your brain in self defense

But we don’t all drive the same

Let’s be clear on who’s to blame

It’s winter – lower expectations

Don’t deserve safe transportation

Its winter after all why bother

That guy who died he ain’t my father

Crash and burn on your own time

Just don’t do it on my dime

If you die don’t take me with you

Safety for the whole’s no issue

Dog eat dog philosophy

Winter means its you not me

Public safety how absurd

No one cares be rest assured

Wait that guardrail they left out

Car went over hit my house

Now who pays who is at fault

Wish they’d sanded put down salt

Suddenly its now my problem

County pay my bills all of ’em

Gubment should have done much more

Car parts on my kitchen floor

Group responsibility

Applies to you but not to me

Its winter that is my excuse

Backfired badly now I lose

 

 

 

Cats, Dogs, Citizens, And Politician Control

A social commentary on the lack of animal control in Stevens County and a shocking prevailing attitude.

My heart breaks when I look at the picture above of the feral cat we caught on our property night before last. Our goal was to take it in to animal control to have it fixed and/or relocated to a better environment such as a barn cat type of situation. Here, it is just hungry, cold and gets into fights with our fixed house cats.

We should have done our homework first. We didn’t expect there to be almost NO official animal control services set up for cats here in Stevens County WA. They have limited services for dogs but cats…forget it. Thank God there are some non profits in the area that are filling the vacuum though.

When I posted on a local page of Facebook about our dilemma, I learned a little about one prevailing attitude: dump ’em in another town or take care of things the…..you know…old fashioned way.  Hint hint.  Another person mentioned that they’d heard cats taste like chicken. I can’t figure out if that was a joke.

I did get a lot of caring and helpful responses to my post and we now have a quasi plan in place to recapture kitty, get him/her taken care of, and re-home it. We should have thought this out before we got ourselves a cage full of vicious! It’s gonna take something special to get that cat back in there!

Now what to use for that politician? Forgive me my attitude but I’m shocked this county is so poorly addressing this. I was told by a few people that feral and stray cats are a huge problem here. Obvious person says it’s because of the dearth of services.

Why? Could it be money? I’m not “buying” that one. Apathy? Is it cultural? Is one expected to just take care of the problem the old fashioned way…wink wink? Why hasn’t someone in the county government done something about this? I’d like to ask in person.

I looked up animal control in the Revised Code Washington (RCW) and in black and white there it was; there is NO requirement for a jurisdiction to have services set up. Wow. Animal control is kind of important; I would think in rural areas as much if not more than urban. After we caught kitty, we were surprised at the run around.

First thing we did was call animal control who referred us to a local animal sanctuary who are closed for a few days (just bad timing for us), and the Stevens County Sheriff who told us they don’t have any services and someone referred us to Spokane County’s SCRAPS program. We drove about 80 miles only to find out they didn’t accept out-of-county cats. That’s when I posted on Facebook on the way home.

We let kitty go for the time being and, thanks to the help of several people on Facebook, we have a rough plan in place to take care of wild cat; if some delicious tuna will get him back into that cage.

As for the politicians…..

Wood Gathering: A Poem

At night in the woods.

Disclaimer: This is kind of a cliché poem but I had fun writing it.

Air sharp as glass, ice scraping flesh

Breath escaping in frosty plumes

Feet frozen, struggling up hill to the place where the wood lies

Snow glows bluish, dark shapes fracturing it’s crust, frozen in escape

Stillness, snow holding tightly to all sound but the travelers

Constellations assume their poses, looking back through time with patient curiosity, eyes extinguished for millenia

Flashlights swing right to left and back, searching

Pausing, putting down the wood bag; catching breath

One stands watch while the other sets to work

Listening; sharp crack, blade falling

Wood rending under blows

Load bundled, nervous glances; fears better left unvoiced

Back to light, too far away

Not too quick, not wanting to look behind

Home close, steps quicken in urgency

Silent reassurances; nothing is there

A sound from the darkness, wood flung aside, clattering

All thoughts of fire forgotten

In flight, flashlights abandoned

Stairs, porch, door flung open, in

Dawn brings light, safety promised

Door opens, cautious glance

Long shadows cast by an early sun reveal clawed tracks in the snow

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A track my husband found right outside of our trailer last winter after hearing howls “like out of a movie” nearby.

Overwhelmed

Trying to keep up.

I feel so overwhelmed right now. We got our shed about a week ago and I expected to have it up in one day (see picture below for current status). There it sits. We’ve been working on it but there isn’t enough time in one day and dark hitting earlier hasn’t helped.

Our little matter with the neighbor over the cul de sac kind of derailed us for a day and a half. We left a succinct, firm letter for him and his wife on one of the fence posts he erected stating we had checked and confirmed that the land survey was correct and recorded and asked him to respect our private property signs going forward. He’d previously gone onto our property, past well marked posts, and spray painted the ground while he was planning his cul de sac. We weren’t too happy about that.

I wonder what he’s thinking right now? My husband and I have wondered whether he made a gargantuan mistake in his surveying or thought he’d just see if he could get by with us offering no resistance to his grand plans. That’s purely speculation but one thing isn’t; he never mentioned a word about moving his road onto our property in advance. That baffles us.

He was up here with his chainsaw today cutting down trees again but we couldn’t tell if he was cutting them down along the easement or further out on his property. It was a bit disconcerting to keep hearing the “thumps” as they came down. I might walk down the easement road a bit tonight and check.

We didn’t get the covenants from the recorder’s office the other day and are still not sure where we stand legally in the decision process about making changes to a shared easement. Common sense says that we should be consulted and have to agree to any such changes. Still waiting on the attorney. There was a conflict of interest and we were referred out to another attorney.  Tomorrow morning we go and comb over those covenants.

The neighbor said he was planning on adding a lane to the easement road and a lot of gravel to a steep portion to level it out. This is OK with us but we’re not OK with not being consulted.

We had wood delivered the other day and you’d think we never get visitors by the way we spent an hour showing the guys around the property and exchanged antique ax heads for cash off the delivery. Very nice guys. One of them also does handy work so we may have our guy to help with some work around here. The shed might be his first project if he’s game. We can do it ourselves but the time….

I insulated the battery bank tonight as the inverter wouldn’t turn on the past couple of nights in the cold. Some research told us that with the battery temperature sensors now in play, the charging voltage is probably way up and the inverter is most likely protecting itself from over powering. We’ll see if the insulation helps. I got a plastic container and we hefted the batteries and about two million wires and cables into it. It’s now lined on all sides with foam board insulation.

The fire wood is mostly stacked thanks to my husband and son. We’ve been trying to involve our son more in responsibilities around here for the benefits those things offer a young person; a sense of responsibility, confidence, ownership, a sense of independence, family time. 🙂

Work in progress photos:

It was time to refill the huge water tank we bought about a month ago but alas, the freeze sneaked up on us and the hoses froze with water in them. It took us about an hour yesterday to drag them all downhill from the spring and get them into the tub of hot water. After soaking them, my husband had to use the pump to force all the ice out of them. It was exhausting and we’re emptying them after use from now on.

I moved the ever growing pile of tools, fasteners, parts, and the propane fridge we got a month ago but still haven’t installed out of the trailer. We want to put all the extra stuff in the shed but it still needs to be built! Uhggg.

We need to clean up from all of  our projects too. It never ends around here.

I also have a million administrative type tasks to do. I’ve been grouchy from the sheer volume of things to do. I’m a list person and I decided to get this stuff out of my head where it’s a giant whirlpool of thoughts and feelings onto paper where I could organize them. I drew a big mind map on some card stock and filled it with every item to be done, along with every sub category attached to it until I’d gotten it all out.

The page looks like a mess unto itself but everything’s there in bubbles that I can look at and know I at least don’t have to keep trying to remember what needs to be done. It’s still a lot but I feel like I have a semi handle on it now.

At least the main mission of the week is handled. The most terrifying to our sense of peace; the issue of the cul de sac. We are so relieved and there will be fallout surrounding the dispute but it sure wasn’t our fault. We simply had to respond to this threat to our land and our peace of mind in an assertive way.

Tomorrow is Monday. Another week starts but for the most part, my husband and I look forward greatly to our future here and have a concrete list of goals to grow in every way.

Writing my blog helps me to just get it out when I feel overwhelmed (between appointments with my counselor). It’s nice to talk at people

It also helps me avoid the bubble list.

 

 

On The Brink

Our near death experience on the road last night.

We had our first snow yesterday. We were sitting in our truck ready to go to town and there they were; the first few flakes of the year.

Here it comes. Snowmaggedon. And slippery-as-hell roads.

The county and city road clearing crews are, for the most part, prepared but some things you just can’t fix…or can you?

We were headed back from town about 5:30pm last evening when we started up the main road that goes to our intersection. It’s a big loop and the side we were traversing was washed out completely about a year and a half ago so we’d always had to go the long way around to get to our turn near the washed out side.

It seemed like forever before the county finally got to work this summer and cleaned up the mess left by the washout, graded it and started the first portion of the paving. We were so happy! I can’t tell you how many times we turned the wrong way to go the long way to town before we remembered “our side” was now open. The new route saved us about five miles one way into town.

The road is a fairly steep winding grade up the hillside with a VERY steep slope dropping off hundreds of feet to the bottom at a creek. A few months ago, someone stole a vehicle and rolled it over the edge where I can’t imagine what it looked like plummeting down the grade before it slammed into the bottom, leaving it smashed in the front, it’s doors wide open. They brought in one of those really big tow trucks and I imagine it must have taken a lot of power and cable to get that truck up and out of there.

Back to yesterday.

We began to ascend the road slowly and I cringed when I saw the shear delineation of wet road turn to obviously icy pavement and sure enough, as soon as we hit the icy part, we began to slide around.

I covered my eyes and my heart began to pound. My husband continued to maneuver the truck slowly up the grade but we lost traction one more time and started to slide toward the edge. I completely freaked out and just prayed we would stop before we went over.

It seemed like forever after we regained traction and SLOWLY crept up the remaining length of the road to the top.

I’ll never use that road again until spring or until they put guard rails up.

Wait, I forgot to mention…NO GUARD RAILS on this thing!

As we topped the hill, my husband pulled over to put the truck into four wheel drive and we noticed another vehicle across the street pulled over with a woman doing something outside. I’m not sure what she said but my husband told her what had happened and he said she had much the same experience going up just in front of us.

When we got home, I called the city not understanding it was a county matter. I wanted to warn someone right away of the treacherous condition of the road. Someone was bound to go over the edge sooner or later. I had my husband call 911 too as I was only able to leave a message.

I posted about our experience on Facebook and asked the question “does anyone else think this road should have a guard rail?”. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. The general sentiment of the conversation on Facebook was that the people wanted one but the engineer who designed the new road had left extra space as a shoulder on the drop off side to negate the necessity of having a guard rail.

Stupid!!!! Once you lose traction, your vehicle is going as far as it needs to to reach that edge and go on over; that buffer is only going to serve to give you a second or two more to contemplate your imminent death before over you go. Especially going downhill due to good ‘ol gravity. We were going UP the hill when we almost piled over that edge.

My son rides the school bus that way and I’m calling the school to warn them and urge them to change the route. In the meantime, we’re going to have to pick him up from school every day now and give him a ride home. That section of road is a death trap.

I wrote the county an email also. My husband and I will NOT be using that road until something is done. I don’t want to die any time soon. I just hope the county takes this situation seriously and either closes the road or puts in a guard rail before it’s too late.

If we want to plunge down a slope at breakneck speed, we want to be on a sled on our property.

 

Snow

More of our first winter in our new home.

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. 28782839_10215212625886030_9067324957184229376_n28378448_10215122778759908_4329071851874784719_n

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.

 

 

 

Goose On The Lose On Gold Creek Loop

Honkers

Posted To Local Facebook Group on Febrary 3rd, 2018……

“Goose on the loose on Gold Creek Loop.

Neighbors big white goose followed me and my husband up Gold Creek Loop about a mile from Corbett Creek road couple of weeks ago. He’s missing now. We thought he’d have the sense to return the whole half a block home but no, he seems to have upped and runned. We couldn’t turn back at the time and feel terrible. He might come to the name “Honkers” or message me if you know any thing.”

We met Honkers the first week after we moved in. He was a hefty white domestic goose with a lot of character. He seemed quirky like us and we quickly “adopted” him as the security system and gate guard.

He belonged to the neighbors who lived on the road going onto our property. You had to drive past their house on a common road to get to our gate. Honkers had a penchant for cutting us off while driving by and we had to start figuring in extra time when we left for the battle to pass. He came to know us and the sound of our truck and we were soon obligated to stop and say hi to him and a quick pet.

We were told by his owner that he had survived an attack by a predator and being hit by the owner’s vehicle. He would waddle up the dirt road next to my husband and they looked adorable together. I regret I can’t seem to find any pictures or videos of them.

Then one winter day, me and my husband were frantically trying to get our truck out of the long driveway, around the corner, and up the hill of the main road during a snow storm when Honkers waddled out. We were extremely stressed out and taking turns pushing the truck up the slick road but seeing Honkers was both funny and dismaying at the same time. He needed to go back.

By the time we got the truck to the top of the hill and hopped in, we didn’t have time to have one of us hop out and usher the goose back to the driveway just down the road. We thought he would have the sense to just turn around and go back home but he didn’t.

We’d like to think that Honkers found some other geese to fly away with but no one really knows as we never saw him again after that day. Miss you Honkers 🙂

Next: The Spring