The Long Long Long Driveway

7/10’s of a mile of hell.

It is a buffer between us and anyone who isn’t hell bent on visiting us.

The postal service won’t drive up after that one time they dared and left us a note saying “never again”.

The UPS driver delivers but only in summer. The first few times he drove up the easement, we could hear the overhanging branches scraping along the sheet metal shell of the box truck. He finally asked us to cut them back. We know he’s coming before we see him.

The route is dusty in the summer, clogged with heavy snow and slush in the winter and becomes a bog in the spring. It hasn’t been graded and graveled in God knows how long and has a very steep incline towards the end.

It is our driveway – 7/10’s of a mile of natural disaster area. It is our only way in and out and it is the bane of my existence. We have been within eyesight of our front door and had to abandon the vehicle with our groceries to go get the shovels and salt.

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When the thick layer of snow and ice begin to melt and the ground is still frozen, crevasses open up and torrents of water with no place to go converge to form streams in the ruts. When the ground thaws, driving through the mud displaces giant slabs of Play Doh-like ooze. On subsequent passes, we drive on the tops of those and squish them down until the road is finally flat and dry again. We lay down rocks in the worst places.

We had the gauntlet to ourselves until the neighbors moved in. One of them drives a little sedan that isn’t suited for the terrain. I occasionally see them use the straightaway to make a run for it, essentially hurtling themselves at the slope. I can hear the scraping of metal on bedrock as the car careens up the last fifty feet of so-called road and I wonder if their oil pan will survive.

A couple of weeks ago we spotted what is still left of the vehicle abandoned halfway up the grade, wheels frozen in knee deep mud. I don’t know how they got it out.

The sheriff once drove all the way up over an issue about a dog. We found part of a bumper near the gate the next day. The Washington State Patrol once stopped us because chunks of our driveway were calving off the underside of our car onto the freeway.

Someday we will have our little slice of heaven repaired. Until then, I shut my eyes tight and pray every time we back out of our parking spot.

A Belated Thanksgiving Poem For The New Year

I wrote this before Thanksgiving and never posted it. Why do I write poetry for the holidays? I don’t know.

Turkey Day

Turkey Day is on it’s way
My Mom is acting funny
She’s on the phone I heard her groan
While talking to Aunt Bunny
My cousins (there are six in all)
Are coming with Aunt Mazy
She’s bringing green bean salad
I heard Mom say that she’s lazy
For Uncle Fred it’s garlic bread
Enough to feed his four
My Mom’s now pacing, muttering
’bout locking the front door
Plasticwear and folding chairs
Cheap cups, spoons, forks and knives
Mom says no one does their share
The husbands or the wives
Grandma Grandpa on their way
I think it’s time we pray
Clean the couch now Dad’s a grouch
He says his hair’s gone grey
Uncle Ted and Aunty Jill
Are bringing their eight too
They have a dog, spike the eggnog
Tell Mom when she comes-to
Scour the basement and garage
We’ll put all the boys there
We need more room break out the broom
It’s time we said a prayer
God help us all – it’s Uncle Paul
We’ll put him in the attic
No sudden moves speak quietly
He’s prone to being erratic
As for my Mom
Let’s keep her calm
She’s on the verge of tears
Now dinner’s done
This battle’s won
Let’s give her three big cheers

Featured Photo by Ruth Caron on Unsplash
My own photo below as seen from our sliding door.
turkeys brown feathers

Another Walmart Christmas.

A somewhat dingy poem about Christmas. 🙂

Two weeks before Christmas we’re ready to shop.
Got a long list of items to buy in one stop.
By door number two looms a thirty foot tree.
They drag it out yearly for people to see.
Shopping carts strewn up to six blocks away.
The people with vests need a raise in their pay.
Inside is the usual yearly assortment.
Kitchenware, TVs, and glittery ornaments.
Electronic gadgets flying off of the shelves.
Specially homemade by Santa and elves.
Tired looking shoppers with dark sunken eyes.
Stuck in the gauntlet of last minute buys.
The checkout line shelves stocked with last minute gifts.
Checkers are pulling in double-time shifts
We drive past the store with its lights blinking brightly.
This year we don’t miss it; no not even slightly.

Happy Thanksgiving?

As I write this, I have squash in the oven baking for pie. Yesterday my husband and I picked up a turkey, whipped cream and the other usual Thanksgiving accompaniments. We had just returned from town when I realized I had overlooked Thanksgiving altogether so we turned around and went back to the store to buy the supplies.

I wondered why customers weren’t fighting for the last turkey, why people weren’t wishing each other Happy Thanksgiving and I wondered how I had let the day slip my own mind. Thank goodness I’d caught myself.

Early this morning I began to take pictures for the blog as I began meal preparations. Our son loves pumpkin pie and I was making it from scratch for the first time ever but with the Delicata squash we’d grown over the summer. We had about fifteen gourds left that had been sitting on a side table for over a month and this was my opportunity to finally use them. Delicata pie.

I had a basic menu in mind and we were going to keep things simple (with the exception of the pie) . Things were going smoothly but something seemed off: plentiful turkeys at Safeway, no holiday salutations, my own uncharacteristic oversight. With a growing feeling of confusion, I checked the calendar.

Thanksgiving is next week. We eat anyway.

 

My Junk

Our property, no matter how hard we try, is very rough looking around the edges. Development will come later than we originally anticipated. We expect things to change within the next year and a half but for now the place looks junky.

We try our best to keep things organized but it’s difficult to make rust, metal, tarps and trailers appear attractive. Our newer neighbors are building around us and I’m thinking a tarp along the property line with a picture of a house might be a nice touch-  or a gigantic f**k you. Just kidding 🙂 My husband insists it doesn’t look that bad and points out other people’s yards while we’re out to make me feel better. It’s rural America after all.

My quest for gold has given rise to a new especially trashy looking collection of buckets, dirt piles, mud piles, pots and pans, holes in the ground and a plethora of tools for metallurgy that lay strewn about outside our shed. Ironic how something so stunning may potentially be the byproduct of such a mess.

I have a large Tupperware container full of useful stuff. It’s all attached together and when I grab something, everything comes out at the same time:  brackets, screens, parts of tools I’ve dismantled to make “better” versions of the old, hooks, buckets, parts of old stoves and a set of unused clothes pins we bought on the road a couple of summers ago.

ovens
Two of my homemade furnaces made of clay and old parts.

Being on a budget, I have to make due with what we have and the farmer’s dump on the hillside has been the go-to place for everything from mangled but still usable rusty tools to household appliances and parts to old vehicles. I figure the original users would appreciate me resurrecting them. I have harvested screen, fencing, bones (not human), marbles, two can openers, assorted remnants of seventy year old kitchenware and numerous other items. There is even a pair of egg beaters fused with a tree.

The other day I got distracted on my way to repair the water line in the trailer when I veered toward the hillside. My son came home from school in time to see me wandering away from the dump with an armful of tools for the pipe repair (which I never put down), part of a shovel, part of a leftover wheel from a child’s wagon, a long sharp object, an old tractor carburetor, and a candle holder. This stuff comes in handy.

I left the mangled bird cage behind; this time.

beaters
Try to beat this.

Ant Invasion – A Poem

One, two, three…..thousands…

Crawling on my countertop
Sugar ants they just won’t stop
From the ground they formed a line
Up the stairs they climbed and climbed
In the door across the floor
Saw them, freaked, and slammed my door
Didn’t work they went beneath
Thousands marching past my feet
Mix the borax, sugar, water
Ant buffet go get the swatter
On the glasses plates and pans
Swarming on my noodles, cans
Every bit of food’s a target
Vacuum over under carpet
Vinegar is my new friend
Bring their ant trail to an end
In the bedroom gone too far
Me and them it’s time to spar
To the store for some more bait
Set it out and sit and wait
Bare no grudge against the mass
But it’s them who did trespass
They’re a part of nature’s order
But my doorjamb is their border

“Are You Sure That’s The Cat”?

One night when we were still living in our twenty foot travel trailer our cat jumped onto the top of our canvas canopy and collapsed it onto us as we lay in bed. As I was holding the animal up off of myself and screeching about the damned thing, my half asleep husband mumbled “are you sure that’s the cat”?

This story is similar.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard one of our two cats munching in our dining room and for some reason, I decided to get up. I stumbled out of bed, put my robe on and made my way out into the kitchen to see what was up or to get a snack or something.

We’d just installed a cat door so we wouldn’t have to let the felines in and out of the house fifty thousand times a day. It was great once we’d taught them the “ins and outs”. They could now come and go as they pleased at whatever time of day it was.

I sleepily shambled down the stairs and flipped on the light only to see a skunk in my RV. I can’t remember exactly what I shouted but the poor thing ran into a corner then out the “cat” door which was now officially a skunk door.

I sniffed and to my great relief, realized it hadn’t sprayed. I wondered if it was the same one I’d dumped out of a cage in the middle of the night a couple of months earlier.

What’s a good name for a skunk?

The Small Small Trailer

An essay in inadequacy.

I’ve been wanting to write more about the vehicle that was our home for over a year after we sold our house back west as it deserves honorable mention. We’ll never forget the time we spent safely tucked behind it’s half-inch walls. The trailer is a 20′ Jayco Lite with canvas pullouts on each end. It was designed as a camper trailer … the kind you take the family for a weekend campout in, not live in for a year. That was not our plan, I assure you.. it just happened as some things do.

When I spotted it in an ad, I was sucked in by the extra amenities and the price. Plenty of room for the job as I saw it at the time. It came with a TV, radio, almost a wood stove (renovations had been started for the project), an air conditioner, central heating and something else so appealing I’ve forgotten what it was. It also came with a badly rotted floor which I didn’t know about at the time. The rest was standard.

We spent a summer living in the thing expecting to find a property with a house. We didn’t, and ended up tubed in for a year too long. The single table inside was only big enough for my son and his computer so I spent a lot of time doing whatever in our bunk at the rear or in the shed we half-built. My husband even moved his TV and Xbox outside during the summer. Just too cramped.

The sink was too small, the bathroom was too small and the hot water heater was glitchy and it became an art form to pull a shower off in the approximately six minutes available if the water didn’t boil over first. The pipes froze solid during the winter and imagine doing dishes outside in zero degree weather at a makeshift table. It happened.

We managed to break not one but two windows and had to tape them up and when the freezing temperatures hit, we had a major problem on our hands what with the canvas walls of the pullouts. We were clearly unprepared. That seems to be the story of our lives.

We ended up putting rigid sheet insulation and plywood around the walls and over the roofs of the pullouts but zero degrees doesn’t care. The rain had a tendency of finding a way through all the tarp we put over it too. Wet mattress pads, sheets and pillows were the order of the day. I don’t know how we survived but we did.

Some time during the summer the rotten floor made itself apparent and we crawled under the contraption to shore up the floor with two by fours to prevent a “yard sale” while driving down the freeway at sixty-five miles an hour.

There isn’t much between the outdoors and the humans either in a canvas pullout. One night the roof caved in on my face. I could feel paws on top of me as my husband half slept. When I screeched at the cat, he said “are you sure it’s the cat?” Helpful. One night shortly after we’d set up camp on our new property, we heard something that sounded big scrape up against a trash barrel outside just feet from our heads. My husband continued to take the outside position in the bed.

Last fall we got a fifth wheel for a temporary upgrade, not knowing for sure when we’d be able to build a real house but our fifteen year old insisted that he didn’t want to see the Jayco go to waste. He’s a teenager and still occupies it’s space.

We were quite happy to say goodbye and move next door forty feet away. At least we no longer have to worry about Mr. Foot reaching his hand under the canvas wall and making away with my husband.

 

Marshmellows and Coffee

Five a.m. and I’m on my third marshmallow with the coffee brewing. Off to a good start.  Not the best food choice but I seem to be doing well enough for my age. Years of exercise.

We decided to roast marshmellows for Easter this year. Twenty minutes family time is what we managed to squeeze out of the teenager. Incineration was the preferred cooking method. Who doesn’t like a carbonized shell with a gooey dirt magnet underneath?  I couldn’t whittle my stick thin enough so every time I tried to force a mellow onto it, about ninety percent of it would be displaced, leaving nothing but shreds.  Surprisingly, our son suggested we roast again the next day.

Dusting off the lawn chair.

Speaking of food choices, my husband will eat anything.  He finds tortillas especially useful and would put a trout on one only he doesn’t like fish.  Yesterday, I saw him crammed into the pantry from the waist up, looking for a snack. Later I caught him ladling the last night’s hamburger gravy into a sourdough bun he’d hollowed out. Not so bad except he was eating it cold. I’m grateful he recently discovered cooking with Chef Ramsey.

We always have sweets around but so too do we have fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s tick season so we keep the garlic out on a cutting board. Every day we slice it up and eat it on bits of cheese or tomato to help it go down. Garlic can make you nauseous if taken alone. My husband and I smell but that’s the point. Thankfully, we cancel each other out.

We could eat healthier and exercise more but our coffee and marshmellows aren’t going anywhere.

 

Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero

Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.

We are afraid of it as we’re unfamiliar with it’s inner workings and are concerned it may blow up at any moment. It’s not the heater’s fault nor that of anyone involved with it’s design or installation; they’re just suspicious-seeming by nature. It doesn’t help that we’re ignorant of such things despite over a year of living off-grid in an RV.

When we first got the thing, we were full of ideas from an episode of Mythbusters we’d recently seen where all of the fail-safe measures were removed on some water heaters and the heat cranked up. The tanks became rockets, shooting hundreds of feet into the air, giving my husband and I pause as to what our own rocket/heater might be capable of. But let’s back up.

When we came by our fifth wheeler it had been gutted and refitted for use with city hookups such as electricity rather than for it’s original purpose of boon docking. The electric water heater that had been installed was gobbling our energy so we ordered a propane model. It arrived promptly and we managed to get it nestled into the side of our RV without much ado. We carefully hooked up the gas, checked for leaks and lit her up.

Everything went fine as we turned the bathtub spigot on and off to check the rising temperature but the water got hotter and hotter and stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing ignition, we turned it off and called it a night.

The next day we exchanged the old faucet for a new one and the water ran fine but continued to overheat. We shut it down for a second time to save our very lives lest we recreate that episode of Mythbusters.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

We needed a professional. Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

We gave them a call and explained the strange behavior of our water heater and made an appointment. Although they didn’t normally deal with RV type systems, they were willing to come take a look. We kept the unit shut off while we waited for our savior- his elevated status growing every day we went without the ability to shower.

Then the day arrived and “he” showed up. He didn’t have six-shooters on his side but he came with a notepad and a toolbox.  Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as the repairman stole sideways glances at the beast waiting silently in it’s hole on the side of the fifth wheel.

Finally, our man adjusted his collar and approached the offender with a swagger and a coolness that would make John Wayne jealous. He stared at his foe for a moment or two then reached out confidently and began to manipulate the dials with the authority of a….well…appliance repairman. We stood a good ways back and watched with mixed fear and excitement at the prospect of being able to resume our personal hygiene routines.

Then we heard it; the rocket-like flame of the gas feed shot to life as the man cocked his head and squinted suspiciously at the device while he made his final adjustments. With a satisfied nod he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

His words will haunt us forever; “I turned the heat down.”