Our first winter here: It’s early morning. 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 only with 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. 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 in our future, I think to myself. 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. I know I’m learning and experiencing things in life that will be worth telling a story about someday – but this 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 write, I usually don’t mention 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 decided as a family to come out here 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. We went in with a certain amount of naivety. I actually hate the term newbie but it fits. Live and learn.
Soon after this, 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 at that point. I was glad to be able to get away from the cold.
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 for snow every winter because I missed my childhood days of sledding and snowball fights. After we moved from Utah, snow became the little bit of cake mix left in the bowl you got to lick. There was never enough and you were always left wanting more.
Now I’ve had a bowl-full and some. I’m satisfied. 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 for the first time each year, the first fifteen minutes of play time is soon over and you have 172,800 more minutes to try to get it out of your boots, car, half-mile of driveway, off of the top of your trailer (before it caves in), off the top of your shed, off your solar panels, 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 because the four-wheel drive broke and with that, the road was completely impassible from the first deep snow on.
We made ruts with our feet as we trudged back and forth carrying groceries and hauling propane cylinders in the wagon we took the wheels off of to make into a sled. The deer and the other animals shared the trail with us. They’re not stupid.
Despite the challenges, I have no regrets about moving.
Thankfully, this winter we’re better prepared. I can now take hot baths when I get too cold and we have a fireplace to keep us toasty.
This year, I can look forward to winter days and nights tucked in safe, warm, and cozy while we watch the snow fall outside.
It’s a fifth wheel and being a recreational vehicle meant for travel on the road, every time you park it and unhitch, you have to level it; that is, try to distribute the weight of the rig as evenly as possible all around as well as getting it on an even plane.
If you don’t do it properly, everything will be slightly twisted and the doors and access panels will not open and shut.
It doesn’t help that one of our hydraulic landing jacks isn’t moving up or down. I think it’s a damaged sheer pin and I’m not sure we can fix it by ourselves.
We had to dig ruts in the uneven ground before we had the RV delivered to compensate. The ground slopes up quite a bit on the front end side so we’re having to dig an extra deep hole for the tripod that stabilizes the bedroom portion.
We almost had the most difficult portion in the front done when the jack broke. We could only adjust so far by digging so if you put a marble (or anything else that will roll) on the bathroom counter – off it goes towards the rear of the place.
I’ll try to get used to it but my internal level screams “off-kilter” whenever I walk through the bathroom.
I probably edit every one of my posts approximately 12 times – after I post it. And that’s after I’ve already proof read it a dozen times before I post.
I find typos, redundant words, misspellings, too-long paragraphs, points that could have been made better with fewer words, things I forgot to add to the post that I add later.
I imagine someone reading one of my posts as I’m furiously editing it and updating it 10 times in 5 minutes then refreshing their page and it being a completely different topic with completely different images.
Then I question how interesting the content really is. Yellow Jackets? Is that compelling in any way? There’s no call to action or effort to change the world with my words. Just a stupid joke (which I came up with by myself, thank you), and stories about our experiences with them. Is this subject even vaguely fascinating or entertaining?
Then there’s the speck on your computer screen that looks like a period and throws you off. Caution: Don’t ever try to clean your touch screen while it’s active. The series of commands you initiate by trying to wipe that chocolate off will take you places…..
I’ve also tried to edit when I’m on the published public page. I’m trying to click on it to edit it and it’s not working. Duh.
I end up going in circles editing. Write the post, proof read it, post it while somehow overlooking the obvious, reading it on the “visit site” link to see what it looks like to everyone else and finding more mistakes. Adding one missing letter and updating it then going back to the public site and finding something else.
I’m getting dizzy.
Then there’s the stats page. Don’t get me started on that. Being new to this blogging thing, any kind of activity there is totally exciting to me. That page is a regular stop in my obsessive travel back and forth on my blog.
I’m finding writing to be immensely enjoyable and a great outlet. I even get to use some artistic abilities which just makes it that more great! I do amateur photography but I’m not bad at it so I can always photograph my own visual content or scribble it on Paint. I just got my new camera in the mail yesterday and can’t wait to get out and use it. I haven’t had a decent camera since mine got stolen a couple of years ago.
Sometimes I start to wonder if I’m spending too much time blogging but screw that. I’ve found something that maybe I can build into a career with time. I just have to learn how to monetize it. I have a clear understanding that building any kind of business out of blogging may take years but the fun will carry me through. I’ve had a business before so I’m familiar with the realities and the hard work involved. Bottom line, time spent here is valuable to me in many ways and well worth it.
My husband has seen my excitement while typing away and I read him every post I do. He is incredibly kind, patient, and supportive. I couldn’t ask for more. Besides, it keeps me happy and busy. Of course he’s happy for me. 🙂
I’m guessing my story is familiar to some of you. The obsessiveness, the jumping to see who liked something you wrote, the unending editing, the staring at the computer screen for hours but being quite content as you do so.
Got my ticket for the Merry-Go-Round. I pick the black horse.
I bet this page morphs 6 times in the next 10 minutes 🙂 6 and counting. 7.
The last people who lived on our property left in the late 1950’s.
We’ve narrowed the time down by going through their trash.
Back then, people who lived away from town dumped their garbage on their own property away from the house.
When we first found bottles laying on an embankment near our trailer, we excitedly set to work sifting through the dirt and piles of garbage. We pulled out bottles, cans, car parts, broken cookware, the first TV dinner trays, and other stuff dating to the early 1920’s.
We noted, through the artifacts we uncovered, the evolution of man’s refuse from heavy iron objects meant to last a lifetime to the beginning of the disposable age of cartridges filled with replaceable razor blades, the TV Dinner trays, and old tubes of toothpaste and Preparation H (hemorrhoids are nothing new, after all).
Holding someone else’s possessions in my hands after so many years left me wondering what their former owners were like. Of course they did dishes, cooked, cleaned, cried, laughed, drank, and read books……all of the things we do today but was the culture different? I’m sure their leisure time was spent much differently with the exception of some old standbys Endcap Entertainment.
The land passed through a succession of owners but no one saw fit to stay here for sixty years – to care about the place. It sat quietly waiting with only the deer, the ants, the trees, rocks, and soil to occupy it’s time.
But these family’s stories have been preserved, ironically, in the things they cared least about at the time they were left behind. An egg beater thrown near the base of a young tree is disappearing into decades of its growth.
Tin cans, rusted into scraps, litter the slope. Parts of machinery that held up better under the gentle onslaught of time, still insist they are useful.
Salad forks, spoons, lamp bases, marbles, and can openers lay encased in the dirt inches below the soil. Protected from the elements, souvenirs from Japan, a hand poured heart made of lead, vases and every other type of thing a family would use during the early to mid-twentieth century stayed behind when they moved. I wouldn’t think of taking my trash with me, either. 🙂
One day, I found a bracelet bearing the name Tommy Best, tossed down the hillside with the rest of the trash. Why, I wondered? I called him and asked: Blast From The Past.
With every mundane object or broken keepsake we unearthed, I wondered what the family might think of us happily digging up what they threw out after dinner one night in 1945?
Would the lady of the house mind that I polished up her can opener and was using it again for the first time in sixty years? I bet she wouldn’t.
I wouldn’t mind if I was a ghost.
PS As I was finishing the editing on this post, a cupboard door in my kitchen quietly opened by itself. I really wonder if they’re watching now.
Inspired when the inside of our trailer froze last year.
Cold By Linda Jordan
Stealing along a darkened road; it’s path crooked
Fleeting around trees, leaves shivering in its wake, grass frozen mid-bow in homage
Inspecting, watchful, it’s purpose clear
A lone traveler comes; hungry for warmth
A house in the darkness; to the porch, peeking into windows; a door ajar
Cold sees an opportunity
Leaning in like a party guest offering unwanted advice, seizing the moment to enter
Quickly occupying every nook and cranny; nesting, rooting,
Inching forward through every carelessly cracked window, down every open chimney flue
Seeping along the floor, hugging corners
Inspecting cupboards, trying on boots and gloves
Filling closets and testing bed sheets; searching
Halting in a darkened corner, cold utters a sigh; glittery breath frosting windows in the vacant night
Uninvited visitor, unwelcome guest in the quiet
Faintly, the sound of voices tug at the fringes of its weary consciousness;
Lights flicker on interrupting its blue reverie; the rising sound of laughter assaults it’s crude senses
Suddenly feeling exposed, resolve melting, Cold hurriedly gathers it’s things, shoulder’s its frosty rucksack, and dissolves into the baseboards and walls, hiding
Whispering down halls, tendrils collecting its belongings along the way, cold escapes out the door as a warm body enters, door shut rudely at it’s back
Indignant and disheveled, Cold collects itself, shrugs its pack into place, and starts once again down the road trailing winter behind it
A very confused Yellow Jacket. Get it “”Flies” all over”?
They hover outside your door and the second you open it, they ride the air current into your house. “They” are Yellow Jackets.
If one gets inside, you have to follow it around with a rolled up newspaper or other weapon of choice until you get it because if you don’t, it will wait for you – then – zap – then pain.
I got stung twice this summer and my husband once. His was worse because he was sleeping when I heard him groan in pain. It was really bad judging by his reaction.
What a rude awakening.
The Yellow Jackets were rampant this summer. When we went to get spray, the store shelves were empty. Apparently the scourge was worse than usual this year – perhaps due to the heat and shortage of water.
To keep them at bay, we set out various DIY and store-bought traps.
One deterrent is to make a fake hive and hang it up. Those didn’t seem to work but most of the water bait traps worked fairly well. Yellow Jackets love meat – especially hot dogs. We’d place one in a shallow tub surrounded by soapy water and the bees would land in the water and die quickly because of the dish soap.
We found some hives in the trees around our property and used a garden insecticide type sprayer filled with water and soap to soak the nests and kill the colonies. It worked really well but of course you have to keep your distance.
We had fun shooting down a nest that was too close to the trailer with a BB gun. By the time it fell, it was nothing but shreds of nest material. I began to shoot rocks at it with a sling shot. I still shoot marbles today but with a can for a target.
I spent a lot of time digging our spring deeper because of the declining water table and the yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, black headed whipper snappers or whatever you call them liked “the hole” as much as me. It was a primary water source for everyone during an especially dry summer and the competition was fierce.
For the most part, we shared the space in peace but every once in a while I would grab my homemade oversized swatter and smack them all down so I could dig for a few minutes without having to have eyes in the back of my head.
I also invented a game I’ll call Yellow Jacket Tennis.
Game play consisted of smacking them out of mid-air with the swatter. I used a combination of golf, baseball, volleyball and martial arts maneuvers. I was bored.
God forbid you open a can of tuna in the trailer to make a sandwich. They would smell it from miles away and swarm the door and vents, trying to get in. It was almost scary. I would have to eat inside.
We used the tuna juice against them also. A store bought one-way lid on top of a gallon milk jug served as a yellow jacket mosh pit. Dozens would fight each other to get inside only to find there was no exit. We’d watch the jug fill up with buzzing bodies with morbid fascination.
Thank goodness the cooler days are here and I haven’t seen one in a while. I won’t miss them or the games.
Time to put away my Whackajacket 2000 till next summer.
Our neighbors are jackasses. I’m not mentioning any names but a jackass is a jackass is a jackass.
We were working with a non-profit that wanted to build a home for a veteran with a child (I’m a veteran) but when we found out it would cost 22,000.00 to run utilities up our driveway, we were forced to call the project off as it had now become an unviable endeavor. The only work-around was an easement on the Jackasses property that would have been a fraction of the cost and the Jackasses knew it. It would have been located underground and well away from the part of their property they actively used.
When I told her the project was off, the Jackette told me “I have lots of friends who live in trailers and they do just fine”. She also told us to stop relying on handouts (we would pay off the home as part of the agreement with the non-nonprofit).
This actually happened. And it gets better: they started to build a monstrous shop and garage right within sight of our trailer as this was happening. We got to watch them build their behemoth from our 20′ abode on wheels.
We understand they’re not obligated to provide access for an easement but they’re still jackasses because it wouldn’t have affected them in the least.
BTW, these people had plans on putting a fence up and forcing us to pay for half. A phone call to an attorney clarified that we are under no legal obligation to pay for half a property line fence. So sorry Mr. and Mrs. Jackass. I let them know we’d be happy to pay for half a fence in exchange for the utility easement. Haven’t heard from them since.
An example of what to do even when you don’t get along: We accidentally got a neighbor’s paycheck in our mail box and rather than send it back to the post office, we immediately brought their mail to them because people depend on their paychecks arriving in a timely manner. We don’t get along with those neighbors either but that’s what you do. It’s a matter of honor in my opinion.
We don’t hate all of our neighbors. We just got the lucky role of the die. We have a full understanding that we have to live with these people for god knows how long. We’re not dumb, but if you knew about the dogs on one neighbors side, and the trucks revving at all hours of the day …..we’ve gone out of our way to just let it slide and get along. No drama. But some things you simply can’t ignore; like when they almost shoot you.
We hadn’t been here but a month or so when me and my husband were standing outside when someone from up on a hill began to shoot. That happens around here but then my husband heard a bullet ricochet off of one our trees. He said so and I hit the ground and yelled “there are people down here!” at the top of my lungs. The shots ceased and we heard a truck start up at the neighbor’s property and roar off. We didn’t call the sheriff as we believed they got the point.
I’m a little disappointed we don’t get along better. Generally we always have had good relationships with our neighbors in the past. We’ve had neighbors who are still very dear friends. I’ve considered maybe it’s somehow our fault but no, we really had to put up personal boundaries on both sides.
I just wish the nice older couple that lived on the hill when we moved here hadn’t sold. They were awesome and nice, and quiet.