The Definition of Perfect

What is perfect? What is perfection?

Is it doing the “right” thing?
Is it having clear goals and going to school to achieve them?
Is it working hard?
Is it being better at something than everyone else?

Or is perfection really embodied in imperfection?
Is it in being humble?
Is it in admitting you’re flawed?
Can perfection be found in the effort rather than the result?
Does it lie in one’s intentions rather than their consequences?

Society seems to run on a one-up one-down system. It tells us we are better than our fellows if we have more money and success or the opposite. It puts us in a position of being different rather than the same.

I believe real perfection is manifested in caring for our fellow man and puts us in a context of sameness: not better, not worse – just equal.

For the past couple of days I’ve been on a self-defeating bent about blogging. After doing a little research last night I came to the conclusion that everyone’s blogs were better written, more aesthetically pleasing, and contained more valuable content than mine.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who sees things from a different perspective than mine.

When I told him about my feelings this morning, he pointed out to me how interesting he thinks my quirkiness is: how my personal foibles make for interesting stories. He told me he thought my accounts of our misadventures and struggles reminds others they’re not alone.

He assured me that having a successful blog is about a lot more than having a professionally made logo or being meticulously organized. He said my stories are content that cannot be stolen or duplicated.

He likes my stick figure drawings.

Wisdom is difficult to argue with so given all of the above, I think I’ll pull myself up by my raggedy bootstraps and keep writing.

 

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 and its label displays the Stars and Stripes.

It’s name is Patriot and it’s a chainsaw that is different from a typical one: it’s electric.

After moving from the suburbs to the country a couple of years ago, we found ourselves lacking some skills most locals have like driving a tractor and wood harvesting. Everyone around here uses gas-powered chainsaws to do the rough work of cutting large timber down to manageable sizes.

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. As a result of our attitudes, we’ve been missing out on being able to utilize a massive amount of wood on our property

We had three huge trees cut down that have laid on a hillside for a couple of years. We previously hacked and sawed off all of the branches for burning. We used the bark but were left with lengths of timber so wide in diameter we could do nothing with them.

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.

The day we acquired our new best friend, 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.

We are now able to cut the giant trunks into manageable 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 now. I can slingshot and I can buck wood. I now feel I have earned the Carhartt jacket I bought recently.

Give us another year and you might not be able to distinguish us from the locals – except that we have an electric chainsaw. logs

Two Years Into Blogging

And counting.

I’m two years into blogging and I have a total of sixty-six followers.

Sixty-six.

I care and I don’t care.

care because I’m human and I have an ego. I want to be recognized and praised like most of us do. I haven’t yet reached that state of being where self-awareness and spiritual growth have rendered me immune to such needs.

I don’t care because I have discovered that I love to write. Whether or not I ever reach that tipping point where things take off, I’ll write for the rest of my life for the simple pleasure of it.

I still care whether or not my posts are well-written or entertaining. I’m still convinced I’m the worst writer on the planet but I have become immune to inaction for one reason:

Passion.

No one can stop me from feeling how I do about writing – not even myself.

I like the way I write and to compromise my style to satisfy someone else or worse – to not write at all – would be a terrible injustice to myself. Aside from room for improvement, I like my quirky poems about appliances, insects and dirt.  Ode To A Power Inverter

My eccentricity defines me.

Don’t get me wrong. I constantly strive to better my writing but I can’t wait for “perfect”.

Maybe my subject matter is boring. Maybe I’ll use the word “maybe” way too many times in one post. Maybe I’ll make dozens of grammatical mistakes. Maybe I’ll never hit that tipping point. Maybe I shouldn’t do ninety-percent of my editing after I’ve published a post.

Maybe – a lot of stuff.

The point is, after writing for two years, I’ve learned this about myself: I’ll be writing till I’m dead – even if I never make a dime or surpass sixty-six followers.

I write because I love to write. That’s all the reason I need.

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. 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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The Muddy Season

You people with your sidewalks and your manicured lawns – I envy you right now. We moved onto raw land on purpose but I didn’t anticipate having to wear sloggers just to get to the car. And no, that isn’t our pig in the featured photo. We don’t have a place for a pig yet.

On second thought, we do.

Our property remains absent of any real improvements to date (although the upcoming year should finally see some). Our easement was graveled sometime in the distant past but that is the only thing human hands have touched for the seventy years before we happened along.

Imagine plopping down somewhere in the woods to live. The walkways you create trample the grass down leaving only dirt, then mud, when it rains. Everywhere you drive, the same. Unless preventive measures are taken in the form of concrete, gravel and grass – mud is what happens.

The walk from the RV to the car is a study in zigzagging between patches of snow, marsh, and the boards we put down to prevent the loss of footwear. We meet in the war room to strategize before navigating the easement to the main road.  The Long Long Long Driveway

We’d never leave the place without four-wheel drive capabilities and the routes we walk are currently a morass of standing water interspersed with deep footprints. It’s almost spring and water from the melting snow is trapped on the surface by an underlayer of permafrost. It has nowhere to go and mixes with the trampled or driven-upon topsoil to create a real mess.

Last year we discovered that if we hammered holes through the icy layer in the most badly affected areas the water would drain. Where that doesn’t work we cover the goo with boards and fill it in with rocks. The place looks classy.

With improvements planned, this will hopefully be our last year of The Mud Season.

In the meantime, I put on my rain boots no matter the outfit. At least I fit in here in rural America.

Preparing For Coronavirus

I don’t scare easily. I try to assess situations like this and base my decisions on the facts rather than acquiesce to hysteria. This outbreak of coronavirus, however, is a little bit different.

I have asthma so I am one of those people with an underlying condition and am theoretically at higher risk for complications or death. I have significant problems breathing some mornings and a little bit of exacerbation would not be a good thing.

I’m glad we are out here away from town and not in close contact with other people. Our plan is to stay put for as long as possible when the crap hits the fan – which it will. I don’t know what the life cycle of this virus is so perhaps we aren’t being realistic. Still, minimizing our exposure to others seems prudent.

Today we stocked up on things that would help us stay comfortable for longer on our own. We grabbed a bunch of canned dinner-type items such as spaghetti and meatballs – things that provide protein but will keep indefinitely. A bag of potatoes and sweet potatoes seemed like a solid idea also.

We meant to buy some hand sanitizer but it was already sold out. Instead, we grabbed a few bottles of alcohol and some wipes so we could make our own version of sanitizing wipes – one for the car and one for home. The bleach is ready to go for surfaces.

My husband grabbed the extra gas cans and propane cylinders to fill up.  Other than that, I’m not sure what else we can do. Our solar isn’t running at full strength but we can run most of our appliances and charge our batteries during the day. Our battery bank was damaged by over-discharging last year and won’t hold a charge. Until we replace them, we can only use energy that is passing directly from the panels to our trailer by way of the batteries while the sun is out.

We have plenty of wood on the property for heat and if it came down to it, for cooking over a fire. We have an unlimited water supply.

I looked up some natural antivirals and none are proven to be effective in warding off this virus but no proof doesn’t mean they don’t work. There simply isn’t evidence either way so we eat lots of garlic and I add coconut oil to my coffee for now – just in case.

Our entire school district closed this morning and some individuals are awaiting test results. The high school our son attends is being sanitized. I hope he isn’t sick. We activated the sanitation protocol and I’m crossing my fingers.

If it wasn’t for my asthma, I wouldn’t put much thought into this but because I’m at a higher risk,  I’m ready to call the number that is listed in the local health department press release at the first sign of symptoms (should I come down with any).

Being able to sustain ourselves for a good month is reassuring to me. Could we outlast an outbreak though?

 

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.

Surviving Winter In An RV

How To Stay Warm

We currently live year round in a fifth wheel trailer. They are notoriously under-insulated for winter because they are just that: recreational vehicles designed mainly for summer camping. We have plans to build a real house but for now, staying comfortable in frigid weather requires a lot of effort.

We broke the central heater in our fifth wheel when we tried to install a propane fridge a couple of months ago (don’t ask) so we’re left with space heaters and the fireplace we installed last year to keep warm.

Earlier this month, an arctic front dipped into the northern United States from Canada. Next thing you know, it’s zero degrees and our pipes are freezing despite our anti-freezing protocol.

The area under and near the front of a fifth wheel is often referred to as “the basement”. It took me a while to figure that one out when I couldn’t find the stairs going down (ha ha). It’s the compartment where all of the water tanks, the pump, and the water pipes reside. You have to keep the vulnerable complex of Pex pipes that wind throughout from freezing. Most people add extra insulation and incorporate some sort of auxiliary heating system. The central heating ducts go into this compartment in our “home” but that’s out for now.

We put a couple of small desk-sized heater fans near the water pump and we use a heat hose to go between our 400 gallon external water tank and the trailer to keep the lines clear. Unless it’s ten degrees below. In that case, we have to remove the heat hose and bring it inside to thaw before hooking it back up. Coffee water comes from dipping the pot directly into the tank on those mornings.

We also leave the cupboard doors open between the living space and the basement to equalize the temperatures. It’s all about strategy out here. Thick dark curtains and/or shrink-wrapped plastic on windows help cut drafts.

Skirting is a standard protection used to keep wind out and stabilize the air temperature beneath a trailer. It’s a barrier running the circumference of the rig from the ground to the body. Everything from expensive kits to straw bails can be used for the purpose.

We installed a fireplace last year. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. We used the correct components and installed it to the letter of the instructions for safety. We got a fan that is activated by the heat on top of the fireplace which blows air throughout the living space quite effectively. A bellows is mandatory for getting fires started.

We couldn’t afford a cord of wood this winter so we’ve been harvesting it from around the property. Storms have brought branches down and there are three huge trees laying on a hillside that we had to have felled in order to get an internet signal. Those have provided us with a seemingly endless supply of wood but the work: chopping, cutting, sawing the stuff to fit the fireplace – its exhausting.

We also pick up wood pallets from around town when we go down the hill. Most of them fit comfortably into the back of our SUV and they are free and plentiful.

The first thing I do every cold morning is make the fire in the fireplace and it’s the last thing I do at night. Keeping warm is so much work. I’m glad we are on our way towards spring and summer so I can complain about the heat.

A Beautiful Pain In The Ass

Winter is making up for lost time.

After missing its first cue and being upstaged by warm, wet conditions, it has rushed the stage and stolen the show. Determined to make an impression, it has commanded our attention to the tune of four feet of snow in as many days.

With the advent of the first falling flakes,there was the mad dash to move anything smallish undercover lest we not see it until spring. Electrical cords, water hoses, tools, small animals such as cats; everything in danger of disappearing for months went into the RV or shed. We learned the hard way our first winter here.

Our almost mile of easement has gratefully been plowed several times over by the neighbors with another methodically mowing the drifts with his newly purchased Sears snow blower.

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Me? I’m out there with our trusty Walmart Backbreaker Deluxe hand-powered snow shovel with an ergonomically designed handle that only allows you to throw snow to the left comfortably.

Roofs, panels; anything prone to collapse from a snow load ( which means everything), we’ve cleared off multiple times. I’ve seen enough collapsed structures around to motivate me to keep on top of this chore.

Our SUV is older and used and is a supreme mountain goat. Although every drive to town is a nail biter to me, she’s carried us steadfastly and surely every time.

Speaking of the car, a sizable branch, overloaded with the weight of snow came down off a tree right onto her windshield the other day. Could easily have cracked the glass but didn’t. The culprit was promptly dispatched into bite-sized pieces for our fireplace.

The heavy snowfall clung to the trees bringing them down everywhere in the region. It made our last drive home from town nerve wracking and kept the utility companies busy with downed lines and evergreens. Snowplowing is a thriving industry in this part of the country also.

Despite all the difficulties caused by the heavy dump, the winter storms of the past week have left a magical white wonderland behind. This place is beautiful in the winter.

As far as theatrical metaphors go, I’m keeping that stage hook close by.