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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Progress

I needed a taste of the carrot.

I’m up early again but at least not 4:00am. The solar went out again but that’s because we ran the fridge for several hours yesterday. That’s a first in the great solar power experiment.

The best thing so far about today is that it’s noticeably warmer in here this morning. Progress!

Here’s what we accomplished over the last couple of days:

  • Pulled and repaired our fresh water tank.
  • Tried an on-demand hot water system-jury’s out.
  • Skirted the small trailer with foam board.
  • Insulated small trailer’s water pipes on bottom of rig.
  • Insulated various areas in the small trailer with the regular fiberglass insulation.
  • Put foam board insulation on the outer bottom of the slide-out.
  • Put bubble wrap on the window of the pull-out.
  • Put leftover insulation on the floor of the basement to the fifth wheel.
  • Picked up door insulating kits for both trailers. Will install today.
  • Came up with an idea to secure the solar panels and picked up half the parts; forgot half the parts.
  • Had a family skirmish about everyone taking this seriously.
  • Finally found hot pads for the household.

This could be a full time job. I feel like I eat, breath, smell, taste; do nothing but think about what’s next on the getting-ready-for-winter checklist. The daily trip to the Do-It Center for weather stripping, Great Stuff foam insulation, that tin foil looking stuff with bubbles, bubble wrap, screws, bolts, wire, gas fittings, water hose and fittings, duct tape, tools for the job, a candy bar. The candy is to get me through the damned job.

But it’s all paying off.

I walk the line mentally in wondering if I’m too obsessed with this stuff but I consistently come to the conclusion that I’m not over estimating what we need to do before winter hits. We had frost on the inside of the small trailer we were crammed in last winter. The cat’s water dish froze every day; inside. We didn’t have running water for months. My son and I went to live in an emergency shelter in town for 3 months.

I believe my thinking and actions are quite reasonable.

We make the daily, sometimes more than once a day pilgrimage to the Do-It Center here in Colville and the folks there are getting to know our story pretty well. There’s one particular young man who’m I’ve talked to more in depth because he seems genuinely  interested in what we’re doing. I told him I started a blog after he mentioned we inspired him with our determination. I told him to just not do what we do.

Shout out to the guy at The Do-It Center (just in case he actually reads this)! Like I’m some special person who’s opinion counts. 🙂

BTW, we looked for someone to do most of this work because it’s so overwhelming but didn’t get any takers. The guy who ranted at me over the water pump does RVs by trade but I didn’t want his help after that little incident.

I really want to make coffee right now but that would involve putting on a coat and walking to the top of the property to get the siphon going from the spring to our RV. How bad do you want that cup of coffee Linda? I ran out of water while testing the hot water on demand system last night. I didn’t get to rinse the conditioner from my hair. Actually, it’s really soft and silky this morning. I kind of like that.

I’ve been reading some of the blogs from those that have followed me (I’m now following them in return) and am gaining more knowledge about how this blogging thing works. BTW “blog” and “blogging” keep coming up as misspelled on my computer. Funny.

They say to join groups among your niche on Facebook. I might be burning some bridges here but the ones I requested to join had these super strict rules about not posting links. You have to answer the moderator questions and I just sort of put answers like “sure”, and “can I post links to my blog? If not, let’s pass”. I got a sort of snobbish vibe. I can pass on those if it’s going to be so touchy-feely strict.

I think the need for coffee is stronger than my desire to not set foot outside my front door. Gotta go put my snowsuit on. Exaggerating.