Ode To A Power Inverter

The usual disclaimer that I love my solar power system but my power inverter seems to have fallen victim to either myself or the elements and it just makes for good material. The metering is confusing so I’ve underlined the syllables you put emphasis on.

You once sat so proud upon the top shelf of the rack

Your spot above the batteries the leader of the pack

Then one fateful rainy night I went out to go ground you

I raised the lid and God forbid a drop of water found you

I flipped your switch there was a glitch as I dealt the death blow

That was the end can’t comprehend Be missed more than you know

You failed the test you weren’t the best now all I have is scrap

To Amazon where you belong you sorry piece of crap

I bid adieu I feel for you it just might be my fault

Made a mistake you I did break was a form of assault

Now I’m stuck and out of luck no microwave, TV

Back to the gen where I began for electricity

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…..

Moving Into The New Shed

Not us; our stuff.

Looking across our property at nighttime through the mist of a very low lying cloud is the beckoning rectangular shaped glow that is our near-assembled ShelterLogic 12′ X 30′ snow-load rated shed. Almost a month after receiving it, we’re down to the last touches. Important touches like installing the anchors that will keep it from blowing away. It’s supposed to take three people about 3.5 hours to assemble. It took me, my husband and son a month.

The instruction book was all in pictures but we can’t seem to read pictures any better than written instructions. Our main strategy was to jump as far ahead as possible before making a crucial mistake then backing up to where we left off on the instructions. Fourth time’s a charm. We ended up two washers short out of all of the hardware. Not too bad.

shed instructions

We’ve needed a real shed for a year. Our old “shed” is constructed of pallets with a huge billboard tarp for a roof. Whenever it snowed or rained, the pockets of tarp in between the latticework of various sized pieces of lumber we put up for a roof would sag heavily with either water, snow, or ice.

We would have to push the water up and out to drain them individually, making sure we or anything important was out of the way first as water cascaded onto the muddy floor in torrents.

We’ve been moving our “stuff” in for a few days and hope to see a vast improvement in the appearance of our property as we shift and sift through piles we’ve made. Antiques we’ve found on the property, bikes, cleaning supplies, tools… all of it goes in and suddenly I’m thinking we should have gotten a bigger shed.

In addition to storage, we’ll be using it for hanging out in, miscellaneous projects, and for my art. It’ll be freezing in the winter but we’ll stick a propane heater in there and hopefully keep the edge off a bit with the ends closed.

Here are some pictures. Still getting things arranged.

DSCN1259

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.

Attorneys, Unsocial Norms and a Cul De Sac

Last week, our new neighbor of one whole month approached me in a very disconcerting way and asked me if 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.

Confusing!

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.

Time and human psychology will tell.

 

 

Rant Poem On DIY Solar

A venting I must go

Bought a freakin’ solar kit

Thought it’d really be a hit

Catch the sun rays from the sky

Found out different tell you why

First you have to wire it right

Clamp them hard and do it tight

If you don’t they break in two

When you strike them with your shoe

Get it all set up and goin’

Plug it in and nothin’s showin’

Check it all with a volt meter

Skip a wire and you’re a cheater

And when you still don’t get power

Throw a wrench go take a shower

Next day when you’re at it still

Find out your controller’s ill

Then redo it put together

Hope that rain’s not in the weather

Find out that your cable’s wrong

Wow this’ now taking too long

All I want is my TV

Tools all over skinned my knee

Cables came redid them all

Will my power come on at all

No of course not that’s too easy

Batteries fried and I’m uneasy

Check the RV for the problem

Breakers sockets test all of ’em

Turns out that we’ll be just fine

Only use it at night time

What to do now what is next

Send the comp’ny email text

Hit the troubleshooting checklist

At the bottom and now I’m pissed

What the fuck did I do wrong

That I can’t turn my lights on

Feel so mad like I’ve been jerked

Bought a gas gen cause it works!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Cul De Sac From Hell

How to be a bad neighbor,

Update at bottom!

It’s 4:50 am and I’m still freaking out.

I went out to pick up a package from Fed Ex yesterday and the gentleman who is our newest neighbor, (now officially a tyrant) comes up to me and begins to describe to me the cul de sac he is planning on building…..50 feet over our property line!

He had the balls to act like it was nothing and even asked me if I wanted to chop down OUR trees on OUR property for the project or whether we wanted him to just do it. He said he’d had the area re-surveyed or did it himself and that the REAL point where all of our properties converged was at the corner post to our driveway, effectively making the supposed true location 50 feet into our property!

I entered a complete state of shock and disbelief and my mind just froze. I had the wherewithal to tell him to please don’t move ahead until I had looked into the property lines and talked to my husband.

We were in the process of putting up our new shed and I went and told him immediately. He wasn’t happy either.

Our mood quickly evolved from shock into rage that this person had supposedly relocated the boundary lines and planned this huge project which would effectively move the turnaround at the end of our mutually shared easement road onto our property and the 50 feet away from the where the road is currently located.

The presumptuousness is appalling. The nerve of someone moving in and arbitrarily planning a huge project that would obviously have a profound impact on our right to the peaceful enjoyment of our property and our privacy without so much as a word to us beforehand.

I’m in the process of writing him an official nastygram announcing our discontent about the situation and ordering him to stay off of our property until we can sort this out legally.

In a few hours we’re going to the court house to establish the location of the property lines as recorded and get  his name so we can talk to a real estate attorney.

We hope and pray that we didn’t miss something or didn’t use enough due diligence when we bought our property but according to the amateur measurements we made we may be in trouble.

Our deed states that we are subject to a 30 foot wide road for ingress and egress (which is already there). The problem is, it may be in the wrong place.

The survey map shows where the road is supposed to be only it’s not. It’s incredibly misleading but this guy did his due diligence and found the fault. Now he wants to move the whole cul de sac over in our direction.

We are waiting on a call from a real estate attorney and are hoping we can fight this with some sort of prior use argument. We’ve been using the existing road and turnaround for over a year and the road has been in the same place since forever.

We have a LOT to sort out here and we need to stop this guy until we do.

The uncertainties are what are bothering us most. In the meantime, he’d better stay off of our property and halt his plans for the super freeway through our beloved property. It might as well be a freeway.

Wish us luck.

UPDATE: We remeasured from a couple of different points on our property and the easement after reviewing the physical description again and finding our previous mistakes and everything adds up perfectly now in our favor! Still crossing fingers.

 

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.