What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter

It was cold and it was solid and it wasn’t letting our dishes go.

25231901698.pngIt lasted for months; the block of ice that held most of our dishes captive.

I remember the day I was able to wrest the last utensil free of the icy tomb that had encased our pans, forks, spoons, spatulas, glasses, bowls and plates – almost everything we ate off of – in one huge chunk of ice.

The Dishberg.

We had recently moved to eastern Washington and were living in a trailer on raw land when it happened. As we were settling in, we met our neighbors and stories were told of winters in eastern Washington – temperatures of minus forty-degrees with snow drifts up to the eaves of your house.

When we mentioned we were from west of the mountains, we got the all-knowing nod of someone who has just learned you are from The Coast and they must break the news to you of the impending doom that is winter in Stevens County.

Incidentally, you are from The Coast if you are from anywhere west of the Cascade mountain range. It doesn’t matter how far from the ocean you live; you are from The Coast and are referred to as a Coasty.

The stories were almost true. We weren’t prepared and me and our son went to live in an emergency shelter for three months while my husband stayed in our trailer with the cat.

Occasionally, I’d come to take a load of dishes to the shelter to wash because the trailer’s pipes were frozen. One day I piled them up in a large Tupperware container to get themย  out of the way and put it outside.ย  For some reason, it sat there for a couple of days filling with water. Before long the whole container froze solid.

The mass was heavy and there was no breaking it up because there were plastic and glass items embedded in it. It sat for a couple of months before it finally began to thaw. I remember when it melted enough to break into smaller pieces I could bring inside and run hot water over and by the end of March, we finally had all of our dishes back.

Now if we could only find the coffee pot lid I lost in the snow in February.

 

 

 

Insulating For Snowmageddon

Better over than under done.

We’ve been debating over how to best insulate the travel trailers we’re living in.

The small trailer our son is living in is much easier because it’s small.ย  Our fifth wheel, however, is like a barn on wheels.ย  We’ll have to locate and seal all the cracks, skirt around the outside to keep wind from blowing through, and find a way to keep the “basement” warm (that’s what they call the lower storage compartment of a fifth wheel)

I’ve had my head crammed in the online RV forums and on Youtube for weeks trying to figure out the best way to do this. For skirting: foam board vs RV cloth skirting vs straw bales vs snap-on panels. For the basement where all of the water tanks and lines are, what kind of heater and where?

When I told someone what we were planning, they asked if we were anticipating minus forty-degree weather for weeks. I told them “yes, we were – and snow up to the roof”. No repeats of last winter when our trailer turned into an ice cube and half of us had to live in town.

Bubble wrap will go on the windows, the door needs to be sealed around the edges, and cupboard doors will get the treatment also. We have a digital thermometer to get readings on the surfaces to find air leaks through temperature changes.

Last year, I tried to use spray foam insulation on the bottom of the small trailer. It wouldn’t stick – accept on my hair. It works great for sealing up cracks and holes though. Insulated sleeves go around the water pipes and we’ll use regular house insulation to fill up some of the empty space in the basement. It’s super hard to get in to lay it out so I’m the one that goes in for those jobs.

As we over-prepare for freezing temperatures, I think about the story of The Ants and the Grasshopper. I want to play the role of the ants this time around.

No more calls from my husband saying “I’m stuck in the trailer. The door is frozen shut!”

 

Goose On The Loose 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. We had to drive past Honkers to get to our gate and he started to intercept our truck. We had to start figuring in extra time when we left to get past him. He came to know us and the sound of our truck and we were soon obligated to stop and say hello to him.

Sometimes my husband would have to get out and he and the goose would waddle up the dirt road together (the goose would waddle – not my husband). They looked adorable together.

Then one winter day, me and my husband were frantically trying to push our truck up the slick road during a snow storm when Honkers meandered out after us. We were dismayed to see him but we had our hands too full to usher him back home.

We thought he would have the sense to turn around and go back – but he didn’t.

We haven’t seen him since.

We’d like to think that Honkers found some other geese to fly away with but no one really knows.

We miss you Honkers ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Out of the Pot and Into the Frying Pan

How we came to live in the wild (three-and-a-half miles from the nearest town).

Introduction

When I was a child, I would stand on the side porch of our suburban home and look down the hill past the developments to the expanses of farmland that stretched out beyond. I wished I could be there where I could be with the animals and roam.

My Aunt would occasionally throw us into the back of her station wagon and haul us off to go for a hike, explore a mine, or go camping. These adventures instilled in me a love of nature.

I went on to spend most of my life living in the suburbs, the idea of having a home in the mountains or country always in the back of my mind.

Then I met a person who shared my dreams – my husband. Together we made  them come true.

  Following are the stories of my family’s journey from a temperate place of perpetual rain, manicured lawns and HOA’s to a land of baking summers, frigid winters, wild animals, wild neighbors, a driveway from hell – and the best adventures of our lives.

 After we sold our house in suburbia in the Spring of 2017 and pulled onto the road towing our twenty foot travel trailer, we didn’t know where we would end up by the end of that summer but we figured (rightly) that adventure awaited us on the open road and beyond.

Here’s our story.

……………………….

The Road

We are a married couple with a sixteen-year-old son and two cats. We want a dog but for now we have the neighbor’s six or seven.

Life in the Puget Sound region where we were living was getting frenetic and overcrowded so we sold our house in the spring of 2017, bought a travel trailer, and hit the road. We felt squeezed out like too much jelly on a sandwich so we set out to find a new slice of paradise in the rural regions of Washington state.

The national forest and anywhere else we were allowed to camp became our home for three months as we cruised the real estate websites for property. In September we found a few acres of land near the Idaho and Canadian borders in eastern Washington that was just right.

It was three and a half miles from the nearest Walmart and tucked into the foothills of the Huckleberry Mountain Range. At the time, there was one neighbor nearby with nothing else between us and the surrounding mountains. The property was undeveloped and had been unoccupied for seventy years.

Settling In

Moving onto raw land means you’re on your own. You become the engineer, contractor, electrician, and if something breaks, repairman for everything you depend on to live. We had to figure some things out.

At first, we got our water from the city standpipe then found out they close it in the winter. Luckily, by that time, we’d discovered natural springs on our property. For power we used a gas generator.  The following autumn, we installed solar and it’s been a love/hate relationship ever since.

We initially used a WiFi hotspot for the Internet but it became us vs the Google data pig.  The neighbors let us use their connection until we got into a fight and they changed their password.

We could only get online from my husband’s spot in our bed anyway, and only if it wasn’t raining. We eventually had three huge trees cut down to get a line of sight to a tower for Internet.

A person once suggested that having an Internet connection kicked us out of the category of being off-the-grid. Another made the absurd observation that having a phone did the same. Living off-grid is different for everyone and involves varying degrees of disconnectedness and choices of survival strategies and tools.

Attempting to put this flailing mess of variables into one neat box just doesn’t work. We don’t depend on the city for power but we sure as heck depended on the manufacturer of the solar panels and the generator. Get the point? ๐Ÿ™‚

A New Way Of Life

In addition to the logistics of setting up “shop”, we had to adjust to a different mindset. Hardiness is respected in these parts and the local government pamphlet opens with the words “Welcome to the Wild West” and urges the reader to “get used to it”.

We were fresh from a lifetime of living in the suburbs and afraid to touch a gas-powered chainsaw let alone make a go of living amongst the trees and the turkeys. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into but we were too excited to be new landowners to let any reservations get in our way.

Our First Year

After the honeymoon period, winter barreled in with a seriousness that slapped all thoughts of anything but survival out of our consciousnesses. The neighbors had warned us of sub-zero temperatures and snow drifts as high as the eves on a house. It wasn’t far from the truth.

The weather turned cold and wet and we found ourselves ill-prepared for reality. Our water pipes froze and our worldly possessions disappeared under three feet of snow. Some things we didn’t find until spring.

As the temperatures plummeted toward zero, my son and I went to stay in an emergency shelter while my husband hunkered down at the property with our cats. I worried constantly about him but we visited often. I would take dishes back with me to the shelter to clean and straighten things out while I was there.

Three months later we moved back while it was still frigid. We were low on money and propane. Keeping warm was a challenge with frost and ice gaining a foothold inside our trailer by the day.

I would grab whatever I could find and obsessively fill small crevices and holes where cold air was entering to cut the chill. Our central heating system was inefficient so we used a small indoor heater to keep us comfortable until spring.

We sometimes cooked or made coffee over a fire. I would hunch over my homemade rocket stove in the cold and wet while my husband built his pit fire. I remember feeling miserable and hopeless as I struggled to get the stove lit in the freezing rain and snow.

The harsh winter had taken a toll and my outlook had become very bleak like the weather.  There would be many challenges ahead before the days began to warm.

Spring, then summer arrived and we discovered a billion new bug species. I took up slingshot while trying to shoot down yellow jacket nests and we discovered ticks, or rather – they discovered us.  Ticks and Sticks.

The grass grew up to our waists with stickers everywhere. They would lodge themselves into our clothes and our cats fur like tiny barbed arrows and we had to push them through rather than pull them back out or risk destroying the cloth in the process. We had to carefully cut them out of the cats fur when it got badly matted (better to have a veterinarian do this).

Sweltering heat made that summer one of the longest I’ve ever experienced but we had things in the works.

We tilled rock-hard soil and planted a garden using old barbed-wire left behind on the property for a fence. We put a handle on a pickax head we found and used it to chip away at the bedrock underlying the spring. I cleaned up a seventy-year-old can opener when ours broke and it worked fine.

We did whatever we could to pass the time and keep our chins up.

Thank you to my husband for helping me to get through it all. When I was at my worst, he would hold my face in his hands, look at me and say “Good things Baby, good things”.

Moving Forward

It’s a year later and we have the solar power system, generators, a large shed, and a nicer RV (until we finally build a home). We have a fireplace to warm ourselves by and we have each other.

The following stories and poems aren’t meant to show others how to live off-grid as we still don’t know how but welcome and enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚