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.

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
As we pass by, the store beckons, lights winking brightly .
This year we don’t miss it; no not even slightly.

The Never Ending Repair Cycle

*Update at end.

I keep reminding myself I asked for this. I entered into this adventure willingly but I’m reminded daily that it comes with a price.

Living out here away from the cities and towns and utilities is very hard work. It’s exhausting and I’m pretty sure my blog will someday morph into “Stories Formerly From Off The Grid”. I’m up for that.

I’m also up in the middle of the night again unable to sleep. There’s either an air or water leak in our RV fresh water system and the pump keeps cycling on and off about three times a minute. It’s driving me nuts. I could go disconnect it but that would mean putting my sloggers on and going outside in the rain to disconnect the pump wires from the battery which might wake my husband.

We’ve tried to track down the cause and have repeatedly reinforced the heat hose going from the external water tank to the pump without success. I’ve listened carefully for the sound of running water inside the RV but haven’t heard anything. I’ve crept around the outside underneath of the trailer looking for drips but have only spotted a drip coming from one of the holding tanks.

My next step is to temporarily fashion an intake hose out of garden hose to replace the heat hose. If that stops the cycling of the pump, at least I’ll have isolated the cause. Then we’ll have to get the heat hose back on without issues – somehow.

On top of the leak problem, our furnace has decided to stop working. Sweeps of the online RV forums have given us some clues as to what might be amiss but now we’ll have to open an outside access panel that’s sealed tight with some kind of goo to access the fan reset switch, if there IS one. Sigh.

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But wait – there’s more! We accidentally put bad gas in the smaller of our two generators which effectively gummed it up. In an effort to fix it, I accidentally stripped a mechanism inside the carburetor so it’s JB Weld time. Hope that works. In the mean time we’re using the gas hog generator.

We tried to install a propane refrigerator to replace the electric one but after having it sit in the middle of our fifth wheel kitchen-hall-dining room for about a month while we tried to get the used gas model to actually work, it’s tucked back into it’s nook and suddenly I don’t mind that it’s responsible for about half of our energy consumption.

I’m ready for some amenities…and bed.

Update: We took the face off the water pump and lo and behold: there was a tiny pebble jammed in the intake valve causing it not to close all the way. It sure feels good to solve a problem and not have to listen to that confounded thing go off constantly!

Fixed the drain hose too. I forgot to mention that one. 🙂 Two jobs to go….

 

Featured Image by  Christopher Burns on Unsplash.

 

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.

 

Farm In Autumn

A Poem of Halloween At The Farm

Season of warm colors: red barns, flaxen sun, yellow and orange harvest compliment each other as the farm readies for the day.
Ripened squash scattered atop the mahogany soil, fields spreading flat as far as the eye can see.
Signs hung out inviting passersby to sample the offerings of a long summer’s bounty.
Smell of roasted corn drifts through the crisp air and cider is offered to visitors.
Rain boots of every color adorn feet, following the path of mud and straw to the corn maze.
Rustling groves of tall green stalks hide shady corridors that beckon those who dare to enter.
Wagons loaded with pumpkins are drawn to the scales, delighted children hugging them in anticipation.
As the day shifts light to dark, so to, does the tone and setting.
Country highways fill with bright lights as the brave make their way to the haunted farm.
Muddy parking lots fill quickly as souls bundled against the cold file through the gates.
Ghouls and evil clowns entertain those in line awaiting their fate.
Screams from within evoke nervous looks and giggles, exhalations silhouetted in the glare of lights.
Once in, the macabre awaits them in every dark corner, every hidden space as couples clutch each other in fear.
Witches, skeletons, mad surgeons and the walking dead long to possess their souls: struggling against chains, restrained by bars.
Out at the end to safety with smiles and relieved laughter.
Happy revelers depart for home intact.
Travelers gone, parking lots empty, the farmers set about harvesting the night crop.
In a windowless barn in a far corner of the property, they begin with the heads.

 

 

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.

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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.

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Try to beat this.

Here It Comes Again

Winter.

Forget fall. Autumn and spring seem fleeting in this part of the country. Blistering heat, wildfires, and drought suddenly give way to moderate temperatures with some  sprinkles. That lasts about a day and fall is done. The only other sure sign that the changing of the guard is occurring is junior’s empty bed. School has begun.

As Winter cannonballs itself onto the scene, it gives me the impression of being alive.  It’s a supernatural being that changes not only the landscape but your frame of mind. For us, living in the rough, winter grabs hold of your thought processes and emotions and dominates. You can’t not think about it as you have to rearrange your entire life around it. It won’t be ignored.

The first year we were here Winter seemed to wage a battle against us. Being invasive by nature, it crept into our trailer and froze our water pipes as I systematically hunted down each draft and cold spot and crammed whatever material I could find into crevices and holes.

Since we couldn’t wash our dishes inside due to the frozen pipes, I piled them all in a big tub to take to the shelter we were temporarily staying in to wash. They were forgotten and the whole lot froze into a huge dishburg that didn’t thaw until spring What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter.

One morning I was inspired to write a poem when I noticed frost creeping up the inside trim of the door: Cold. Giving it a name and acknowledging it as a sentient being helped me to deal with it.

Cold

 I’m not looking forward to all of the work ahead of us.  The what-ifs have begun to play over and over in my mind: What if the car gets stuck again. What if the water pipes freeze. What if we run out of wood. What if.

I compiled a never ending to-do list last week. Everything from insulating the windows and doors, skirt the RV, take down the tent we never used after I set it up last summer, hang all of the extension cords, chop and stockpile the wood. Today we bought an ax to dispatch the trees on the hillside for firewood. I personally don’t like chainsaws due to lack of experience and being from King County.

I try to temper my snowmageddon anxiety by reminding myself that if the car gets stuck we have shovels, portable pads to place under the tires for traction, and salt. We developed a protocol for dealing with the rest of the issues like keeping the hoses in the basement of the fifth wheel between uses. We run a heater fan in that space 24/7 to keep those and the water pipes thawed.

I buffer my anxiety with thoughts of sledding, creating snow sculptures and of course, Christmas. I’m not sure the thought scale is even but we asked for this. We wanted four seasons and we got two and two quarters. It’s better than the 365 days of rain in the Puget Sound region we left behind.

Writing also helps stave off winter worries. I’m looking forward to sitting by the crackling fireplace making blog posts while I thaw out. The construction of the fireplace is the single best improvement we made regarding winter and it has a story of it’s own.

Two Years Ago Today

We left King County Washington; Destined for our new home on the range.

Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down  A Dream played on the radio as the first hint of daylight tinted the eastern sky. We were driving a 1986 Ford F-250 my husband lovingly called Bridgette pulling a 2001 Jayco Light travel trailer with a very unhappy cat stowed inside. We were on the home stretch of Hwy 395 headed for Colville Washington.

That was two years ago today.

The space between that day and now has been packed with memories a person cannot make up; plenty of material for a blog. Survival trumped all else for the first year while we carved a place for ourselves amongst the Ponderosa Pines on the iron rich bedrock.  Survival is still the main theme of daily life out here.

To be cliche, I have cried and I have laughed in almost equal measure during the past two years and things will continue to be tough until we finally build a real house. Water is coming from a spring we dug and we get our energy from two gas generators and a solar power system. I’ll be so glad when a glass of water and a shower non longer involve moving mountains.

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 We gained a new cat and relocated another feral one. We’ve learned a lot about setting up systems for every day needs and making them work. We put up a huge portable shed and half built another that’s coming down eventually. We’re still living in a fifth wheel but plan on building a small log home as soon as a deal we have in the works comes through.

I’m not looking forward to another winter of zero degree temps as the fall equinox approaches although we’ve kind of learned how to drive in the snow and have a fireplace to keep us warm.

We’ve learned to live with the wild life for the most part and our garden is two years old and full of half eaten tomatoes and squash. I’m  growing a gigantic pumpkin that I’m proud of and we introduced morel mushroom spores to the side of our property where they were absent. We even discovered small amounts of fine gold after looking for two years.

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 Looking forward, we’re  a lot wiser now but have an understanding that humility is a necessary state of mind out here. Never take anything for granted and never get over confident.

Perhaps most remarkable is that we’re even starting to get along with the neighbors. That’s true progress.