Hermits

Hiding from the neighbors.

Today, my husband and I took turns peeking suspiciously out our closed curtains to see if the neighbors had fixed their broken-down truck which stood near the entrance to our property.

Neither of us wanted to go outside and expose ourselves to the perceived scrutiny of one of the men who stood around the vehicle with its lid propped open. You see, we’d had this place to ourselves until “they” moved in about a year ago and to this day, we are about as anti-social as they come.

Why didn’t they tow the truck the rest of the way up the hill to their property where all the tools were? Why leave the truck out in the “open” where we could watch every move they made? Didn’t it bother them? Is this a cultural thing?

I hope you get that I’m talking tongue-in-cheek

We understand the psychology of social anxiety. Some of us are more introverted than others and have the perception that we are different and might somehow be unliked by others; in this case – the locals.

We get that it’s our own insecurities and we joke about it freely.

The truth is, however, that we want to be left alone. We want our privacy and if a seven-foot tall fence was in our budget, you better believe we’d have one by now.

Human relationships are the most important part of life but every time our neighbor (Lawnmower Man) starts up his Sears Special, we find ourselves halfway hoping he’ll run over a really big branch that will stop the machine in its tracks – at least temporarily. Although I’ve chatted with him a few times, I’ve always left the conversation wanting to run away as fast as I can.

He has a lot of plans for his property but his property is smack next to ours and every time we hear the chainsaw start up, we cringe and hit the real estate ads. I want to be in control of when I socialize and watching my neighbor cut the grass right up to my property line thirty feet away every other day unnerves me.

We moved to the country for solitude.

Where we came from, our neighbor’s doorstep was two-hundred feet from our own and I was not allowed to plant a single bush for privacy because the HOA said we couldn’t.

One day I set up a carnival-like play area for my then youngster with bean bag throwing, an alien bubble-making tub, and other fun stuff. The power-hungry president of the HOA showed up on my doorstep to point out that the driveways were not designated for such use.

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I took the matter into my own hands and ended up uncovering so much corruption the whole organization had to be overturned.

This history is, in part, why we are so reclusive.

Hemmed in and getting panicky, we are carefully planning ahead to ensure we have a buffer around our new home when the time comes – lots of acreage surrounding ground zero – our front door.

This evening, we finally heard the thunderous rumbling of our neighbor’s V-8 and we rushed to the blackout curtains to take a peek. The hood was down – this was good. All tools were put away. Almost time to skulk out from beneath our rock and sprint to the car for the pop.

But alas, the man and his accomplices decided to gather around the truck to chew the straw for another hour.

Cornhole and the alien bubble-making booth will have to wait until tomorrow 🙂

 

Endcap Entertainment

Grocery store treasures and other games to keep the family busy.

Impulse-buy sports.

Since we can’t recreate away from home, our family’s been looking for new ways to keep busy here on our property. The only games we had were Uno and Pass The Pigs which were getting old.

Fortunately we have room outside to spread out so we looked for outdoor diversions.

A trip to the grocery store was the answer.

Bowling.

We found the giant bowling set in a display at the end of the Haircare isle. With fat, two-foot-tall plastic pins and a hollow ball, it is not to be confused with yard bowling.

It is an illegitimate game with implied rules and is guaranteed to be broken or forgotten about within twenty-four hours of purchase unless you consider the potential for creative destruction.

I couldn’t get the pins to stand up so I filled the bottoms with dirt making it impossible to knock them over with the shell that was the ball. After attempting to pack it, too, full of dirt with unsatisfactory results, I hung the pins from a tree and we threw rocks at them instead.

They’ve been sitting in the shed ever since except that I cut the bowling ball in half and used it for a smelting furnace mold.

Horseshoes – A short story.

My husband picked up the horseshoes game a few weeks ago and we set it up without reading the instructions as per protocol. We positioned the stakes as far apart as we figured we could throw then lobbed the shoes.

If not for the overhead screen of branches the game might have lasted.

All of the shoes, having been knocked off their trajectories, eventually ended up in the nearby bushes next to last-year’s lost cache of slingshot balls where they will remain until tick season is over.

Note to cat owners: Check the pits before gameplay.

Badminton – with an emphasis on bad.

Yesterday we picked up a badminton set, or rather, four racquets and eight shuttlecocks. Most of the family outdoor play equipment had sold out so there weren’t any full sets left on the shelf.

During the ten whole minutes we spent running around flailing at the birdie, we learned this sport is best played away from equipment, rocks and solar panels. My husband speculated that getting a net would also improve our game. Makes perfect sense.

Still, it beats Yellow Jacket Tennis – What is Black and Yellow and Flies All Over?.

Wiffleball – AKA long distance running.

This was another endcap special at Safeway. They were on sale at two for the price of one so I grabbed two.

Play involves mostly running after the ball which inevitably ends up in the bushes next to the horseshoes and the slingshot balls.

If you have an overly enthusiastic five-year-old who thinks running after a ball is the next best thing to ice cream, you can save a lot of energy.

Cornhole – Beanbags gone professional.

Cornhole came home the same day as the badminton set. I’d never heard of it.

It’s beanbags – outdoor beanbags.

It may be a professional sport according to the words emblazoned on the panels with the holes in them. I’ll have to check Youtube to see if it’s true.

My husband says I’m a shark and that I should play professionally. I have a hard time believing that. Maybe the hopscotch I played as a kid is finally paying off.

Thankfully, beanbags don’t roll.

Next week we get a pool.

 

 

What Is Off-Grid?

Does it have to be an ideology or could it just be circumstantial?

When I first contemplated starting a blog about our adventures living off the beaten path, I considered calling it Stories From Almost Off The Grid.

To be honest, we didn’t originally choose a lifestyle of independence.

We kind of fell into it.

After we sold our house and hit the road looking for property, our priorities were nature and seclusion – not necessarily living off-grid. The stories naturally followed, however, and I started my blog with that theme.

I once posted on Facebook that we lived off-the-grid and the town troll suggested that I couldn’t be considered off-grid because I had the Internet. Another person once suggested the same applies because I have a phone.

Ridiculous.

One could argue till the end-of-time as to what qualifies as “true” off-the-grid status. It varies for everyone.

Our family happens to live this way for a lot of reasons but I feel the adaptations we’ve made and the hardships we’ve overcome help to define what it is to live off-grid. When we bought undeveloped land we had to change our paradigm and we had to get busy.

We installed a solar power system and dug a spring through breccia and bedrock with our own hands. We planted a garden and learned to install and repair our own appliances. Having to provide for ourselves taught us how to be more resourceful.

We like not having to pay someone else for our power although only through the summer (until we tweak our solar power system). My husband wants ducks and geese for their eggs. We want our own dog – not the neighbor’s. We’re planning on farming truffles but to pull it off we’re having to think outside the box because it’s too cold here.

We have been inspired.

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Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, this idea of living independently has caught on with us regardless of how we came into it. I believe that however or why a person comes to live off the beaten path isn’t so much the point – it’s the experience.

Besides, you can’t make this shit up. The stuff that has happened to us since we left the suburbs makes for one hell of a story.

 

 

Lawnmower Man

A poem about conquest.

He moved out to the country just to cut it down and tame it
Should have bought a condo and had someone else maintain it
With chainsaws, mowers, chippers, tillers, every shape and size
He’s here to stay he’s clearing the way it’s time to colonize
At six am we hear the roar he’s got the chipper chipping
Another tree he’s on a spree the landscape he is stripping
He has big plans with his bare hands he’ll mold it to his taste
A cul-de-sac and traffic lights not one inch left to waste
I wonder why he chose to live in natures splendid glory
The turkeys, deer, the wolves and cats this was their territory
When we arrived before his time ’twas tranquil and so soothing
Its time to go we like things slow we’re packing up and moving

We’re Human

We are the family with the un-mowed grass at the end of the block.

I’ve been comparing my blog with that of others who write about the subject of living off grid – perhaps unfairly. Most blogs offer accurate information and how-tos, informed by education and experience. People like blogs that offer useful information.

Mine is stories.

When we left our old world for our new, the adventures began and I felt compelled to record them, and maybe share them with others. I hope to turn our tales into a book.

Neither me nor my husband or super go-getters so almost nothing we do is top-notch although we try. We end up stumbling along in a human rather than super-human manner and the results of our efforts are often just-enough and not pleasing to the eye.

When I take pictures, I avoid the trashy looking parts of the property. My husband says I worry too much about appearances.

We do all of our own repairs so half of them don’t get done if we can’t find instructions of the internet. That would include our central heat which stopped working when we attempted to install a propane fridge which is now sitting in the shed getting dusty.

I built our generator shed out of pallets and it looks like shit. I also built all of the shelving in our shed from pallets. They aren’t Pinterest-worthy but they hold stuff.

Our garden fence was constructed from trees and old barbed-wire fencing left on the property seventy years ago. Our solar panels were mounted on plywood for the first six months we had them.

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We are experts at nothing but the journey seems to be what is worth writing about. I wonder how many people are like us – that just do their best which is far from perfect but they still live a rich life despite themselves.

Although we’ve struggled financially for the past two years, we haven’t been sitting around doing nothing. We were working on something that has finally come to fruition and the rewards are just beginning.

Now we can pay someone else to fix things or just buy new ones. We paid off our current property and are now in the market for a larger chunk of land with a house.

I’ve thrown some money at my blog hosting site and hope to reach more people in the coming months.

In the meantime, you won’t find hacks here – just stories of how we fudged this or that. I hope that revealing our humanity is enough to keep someone coming back.

 

 

 

Memorable Moments

Times we won’t forget since we moved.

Here is a list of some memorable moments we’ve had since we left “civilization” over two years ago:

  • Finding a man asleep in the back of his pickup truck minutes after a bear ransacked his belongings at his open tailgate – inches from his feet.
  • Driving with a twenty-five foot trailer behind me for the first time and coming to a halt at a bridge we weren’t sure was wide enough for us.
  • Shaking a skunk out of a cage at 2:30 in the morning.
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    A passerby.
  • Watching the solar eclipse on the beach of a river at a campground.
  • Coming home from work to the first snow we’d seen in years. Three feet of it.
  • Hitting the ground after a bullet ricocheted off a tree near us and yelling “there are people down here” when our neighbors almost shot us.
  • My husband walking out the door to our RV to see a bear about thirty feet away.
  • Finding a skunk in my kitchen in the middle of the night.
  • The night our cat jumped onto the canvass of our camper-trailer, collapsing it onto my head and my half-asleep husband mumbling “are you sure that’s the cat”?
  • Bambi
  • The night we packed our trailer to leave for our new home in eastern Washington in a monsoon then having the lights on the truck go out on the freeway.
  • Getting a flat tire while pulling our trailer out of the woods and living in it for two days on the outskirts of a residential area while we had the tires replaced.
  • Letting an extremely aggressive wildcat we’d caught out of a cage.
  • My husband listening to the bays of a wolf pack while he stayed in the trailer alone one night. We found tracks outside the trailer the next day.
  • Striking water under pressure and seeing it gush out of the ground while we were digging our spring deeper one summer. We’ve been set ever since.
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  • The family from hell we camped next too while on the road who got drunk every night and fought. It ended with half the crowd screeching away in a cloud of dust and spraying rocks one morning.
  • Driving down the highway as we neared our new home with Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream playing on the radio as the sun tipped the horizon to the east.
  • Runnin’ to a dead-end after we discovered the road to our property had been washed out and having to back the trailer into a dirt ravine to turn around.
  • Pulling up our driveway for the first time on the morning of September 18th, 2017.
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    Our latest four panels.

Outdoor Theater

The sky becomes a screen at night.

My husband loves to look at the heavens at night. He has a much better view now that we are away from the light pollution of the urban areas. The difference can be stunning.

Away from the cities, outside becomes like a darkened theater. The screen is the sky and it stretches from horizon to horizon.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve spotted strange lights, some of which have moved erratically then disappeared in the blink of an eye. Others have glided across the sky slowly only to blink out suddenly. UFOs have sometimes been linked to military bases and Fairchild AFB is near us. You never know.

Last year we spotted a very bright object in the southern part of the sky. It didn’t look “natural” so I got out my camera and recorded some video. It appeared every night for a couple of weeks before we lost interest.  Strange Bright Light Moving Across The Sky Near Colville, WA.   This year we realized it was just Venus after my husband checked a star chart.

The Milky Way is more visible in the country and my husband likes to point out the constellations and explain the origins of their names. The stars shine down on us with light that originated thousands of light years in the past and I wonder which of them might not even exist anymore.

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 A few weeks ago we spotted the perfectly lined-up Starlink satellites recently placed into orbit by SpaceX. I counted at least eight spaced equally apart as they traveled together across the sky.

Yesterday we had a Super Moon. That’s when the moon is closest to the earth and appears unusually large, especially when it’s close to the horizon. I made sure I got some shots with my camera.

During the day, we often get an airshow compliments of the pilots from the Air Force base. Once I looked up and saw what looked like a giant penis-shaped contrail in the sky. I later read that a pilot got into some trouble for that.

I say, let the flyboys and girls have a little bit of fun. They’ve earned it. 🙂

 

The Patriot

A suburban solution to a rural challenge.

I found it at a garage sale about a month ago. It cost us twenty dollars and is probably twenty years old. Its housing is made of ugly green plastic with Stars and Stripes and the word Patriot on its side.

It’s an electric chain saw. Had I known such a thing existed, I wouldn’t have squandered two years of wood-cutting.

Everyone around here uses gas-powered chainsaws to cut timber down for firewood. I won’t ever use one because they seem too dangerous. Whether or not that’s true I’ve made up my mind. My husband seems neutral. Either way, we have some wood cutting to catch up on now that we’re not afraid of removing a limb while we’re removing a limb.

We had three huge trees cut down that have been laying on our hillside for a couple of years. We hacked and sawed off all of the branches and removed the bark for firewood but we couldn’t cut the giant trunks. They were just too big.

Enter the Patriot. the patriot

It probably has half the power of a gas chainsaw but that’s what makes it so great: less probability of bouncing off a knot and wreaking havoc with the human body. I feel I can use this thing safely.

The day we acquired our new gadget, I ran a couple of extension cords down the hillside and commenced to “bucking” one of the humongous logs. To my surprise, the chainsaw works really well for being electric.

Now we can cut the giant trunks into small sections that my husband splits into firewood. All of that wood that’s been sitting around taunting us is now thinking twice.ax1

I feel accomplished. I can slingshot and I can buck lumber. I feel I have earned the Carhartt jacket I bought last week.

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Blast From The Past

About a year ago, I found a broken and rusty bracelet in the farmer’s dump on our hillside. It’s embossed with a boy’s name.

Bottles and jars are cool to find intact but whenever I’ve uncovered something personal, it’s always gotten me to thinking about the person to whom it belonged to and what life was like when they lived here so long ago.

Our property had not been occupied since about 1957 until we moved in. Back then, people threw their trash in dumps right on their land. Their trash is now my fascination – but back to that bracelet.

I wondered who this kid was and I figured there was a chance he might still be alive so I looked through the list of previous owners and did some additional detective work on the Internet and found him! He is 80 years old and still lives in the state.

I prepared a script before I dialed his number and he actually answered the phone. I felt a bit awkward but I asked him if he had lived where we are now and he confirmed it. I told him we had bought his family’s old property and I explained how I’d sifted through the old garbage heap on the hillside and found many items that were most likely deposited there by his family.

I told him about the bracelet with his name on it and asked him if he remembered it. He hadn’t, to my slight disappointment, but he was friendly and open to conversation.

I described the horseshoes, TV dinner containers, bottles, toys, and marbles we’d unearthed and questioned him as to whether or not he remembered them. He mentioned he had two older brothers who might have been the marble’s owners.

I told him I was using what may have been his Mother’s can openers and how what might have been her egg beaters were now growing into the side of a tree. He laughed and told me he was nine when his family moved here.

The call was very pleasant although, for him, it had come out of the blue. I said goodbye and thanked him for his time. Although he didn’t recall everything, I’m hoping he’d hung up the phone with some old memories rekindled.

It felt nice to make a connection with someone who had shared the history of this property with us. It once was his own.

I forgot to ask him if they had a well and where it was located. The privy too. Those are supposed to be treasure troves!

Wild Turkey Anyone?

My husband calls them The Horde.

They are the collection of wild turkeys that cruise the area searching for food and doing whatever else turkeys do. They seem to live in loose groups and there’s no shortage of them here in eastern Washington.

We often wake up in the morning to the sounds of hungry fowl outside our windows. They surround the RV (have you seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds?) making their expectations plain – it’s breakfast time.

My husband knows his job: He roles out of bed, throws on some clothes, grabs the thirty-pound bag of food with the cup and steps outside to feed “his” flock. They chitter, pip, pop, peep and sometimes gobble loudly in unison while they skirmish over the offerings.

They nip at each other, driving away their competitors for every bit of seed. Some are scraggly, some look a little sick and it makes me sad. Nature is nature though. I throw food to the ones who look like they need it the most. The rest look pretty healthy aside from the wind-tunnel look.

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We started feeding them a couple of months ago. When we pull into our driveway they make a bee-line to our RV. Most are hens but the males are standing out this time of year.

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It’s the beginning of the mating season and the Toms are dressing up in full window display. To make themselves look most presentable to the females, they “fluff up” with an audible swish of their feathers. Their heads flush with color and somehow they manage to cause their plumage to stand upright.

They angle their tale swag from side to side, as if tuning in a radar array. They tuck their chins in and glide across the ground as if on wheels. Or they stand stock still while the hens ignore them. Somehow, despite the rejection, little hordes inevitably appear in the following weeks. We call them gobblets.
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