Modern Day Pioneers

Simple daily tasks made complicated.

Clean clothes don’t come easily nor does most anything else when you live on raw land.  For everything it’s a process . A lot more of a process than just sticking the clothes into the washer and pushing a button.

Utilities are even more complicated. We have a solar, RV battery 12 volt, and gas generator system. Depends on what you want to do, how much electricity it’s going to take, the time of day, what’s broken, and what you happen to have on hand that day.

Want some coffee? If you’re like us and are out of propane in the dead of winter and need some caffeine, you’ll need either a blow torch or some firewood and fire building skills.

A bath? You want a bath? This is going to take some time. Put the pot on the stove and turn it on high and you’ll have your bath in about an hour. A shower? Maybe, if you can take one in less than five minutes and the generator has gas and the water pipes aren’t frozen. Oh, and if the trailer’s water tank is full enough after dishes.

But you need water for some of these things. That undertaking meant weeks of digging and breaking rock to get to it. We were so lucky to have natural springs on our property. Before the spring, we depended on city water and the neighbors.

All summer we drove our truck to the city water department to fill our 55 gallon drum every third day or so then one day in fall, the standpipe closed for the winter. Our neighbors came to the rescue for a few weeks and let us fill up at their outdoor faucet but it was incredibly laborious. Eventually we built a trench down the hill from our spring  to the hole we dug to act as a holding tank near our trailer. At that point we felt a new sense of independence and accomplishment. Surprisingly, the spring poured forth water all winter in plenty.

We still had to get the water into the trailer which we did by pumping it through a hose and adding a touch of bleach in the process. We used that water for dishes and showers while buying drinking water from the store.

As for the laundry, we’d have to decide whether or not we wanted to load everything up and drive into town to the laundry mat or just do it at the property. More often than not, we did it by hand at home.

If by hand, we’d first have to get the water into a tub or the bathtub, depending on whether or not it’s summer or winter. That involves (or involved as we’ve recently upgraded) using the water pump to move water from the holding tank/hole we dug in the ground. After filling up, we’d pile the clothes in and add the detergent. A clean plunger came in handy for sloshing the mix up. I’d then turn the container over to drain it and fill up again with fresh water for the rinse. The water would still be pretty much black but my standards were pretty low at that time.

For the wringing out, I’d drilled a bunch of holes in one of those Home Depot all purpose buckets and I’d put the clothes in, take my shoes off, and mash grapes; that is, climb on top and mush the water out of the holes with my feet. It worked relatively well. Then for the clothes line we’d strung up between two trees. There the clothes would most likely get rained on.

The clothes would be anything but soft by the time I took them down and into the trailer. They would be completely wrinkled, still stained, and crispy. But hey, they were mostly clean and better than they were before. They would then sit on the couch in our cramped trailer for another week before I grudgingly sorted through them and put them away.

Some things always remain the same whether or not you have a washer and dryer. Folding and hanging clothes and putting them away is death. You avoid it at all costs. I have a pile of laundry that’s been sitting around for a week as I’m typing this.

The shower/bath thing was difficult because the water heater on our original trailer is fucked up. I tried to fix it so many times but we’d have to time it once we activated it and then you’d have to be ready to jump into the shower at exactly 12 minutes in order to catch the window between the water being ice cold still and the water heater boiling over outside. It was almost a skill; timing a shower. The heater is still messed up but we have one that works in the new fifth wheel.

Now let’s get to electrical systems. We’re still tweaking our solar power system and may have already ruined our batteries by depleting them by more than 50 percent but we’re hoping not. We run on solar mainly at night and in the mornings at this point as we just don’t have enough panels to generate what we need. We ordered our third set of solar panels this morning and added a new controller to the existing 8 panels this afternoon. We still need to see how adding the new controller to the mix contributes tomorrow when the sun comes out again. We were running all 8 panels through one controller until we found out it was too small to handle the amps (or watts or volts or something like that).

At this point though, we can’t run our electric refrigerator on solar so we unplug it and try to stay out of the fridge until we start the generator. If it’s plugged in when we plug in the solar, we lose our internet. That’s where the protocol comes in. Many things we do here involve using a set order of tasks we have to follow in order for things to go smoothly.

When the generator goes on, remove the plug from the inverter, turn it off, unplug the fridge, plug in at the generator itself. Then you can do laundry and use the microwave. When that’s reversed, unplug the fridge and replug into the inverter. Make sure the laundry’s done and anything you want to microwave is done. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve turned off the generator only to realize we wanted to microwave something. We ordered a propane fridge today. Finally.

If the solar has flopped in the middle of the night and you want to use the internet and/or your computer needs juice, turn on the other inverter back by the RV batteries, and plug the modem into that extension cord.

Does this all sound exhausting? It is. Thank God things are improving day by day. I now have a washer/dryer in the fifth wheel along with a shower that works.

And we have hot water for the kitchen now! The repairman came today and turned the temperature dial to cooler. That was the only thing wrong with it!

Done.

The Great Outdoors: A People Magnet

Settling into our new life on the road and the people we met.

People are drawn to the woods.  People of all kinds.

I don’t know what it is exactly but it’s different for every person.

Some reasons people to go to the woods:

  • The simple beauty and serenity
  • A brisk 30 mile hike to some peak starting at 5am while training for the decathlon
  • To get stoned and totally enjoy nature
  • A place to forage for wild mushrooms to sell at the city market
  • To ditch and burn a stolen vehicle (I’ve seen that)
  • A place to get naked and go swimming or soak in a hot spring
  • To hide a body (Gary Ridgeway or Ted Bundy)
  • A place to live when you’re homeless
  • A place for target practice with your antique musket and your rifle
  • To take the dogs out for a nice romp
  • A simple camping trip or picnic
  • For gold prospecting or to hunt for gems

The point is, everyone has their own agenda. For us it was a mixture of some of the above (- body dumping, ditching stolen cars, getting naked outside – unless we are alone, and the decathlon thing), and it was a place to live for the summer between homes.

We had the trailer parked at the Taylor River campground along the Snoqualmie River for our first few weeks on the road. Wherever we parked the rig was our home for the months ahead. Once that home was even on the side of the road for two nights while we waited for our truck’s rear tires to be replaced.

We were just getting used to our nomadic life in the woods and to our RV. We’d also just bought our trailer and my son and I were both learning the routines and procedures related to living in a camper trailer. I was proud of how he’d picked up on things and was there to help with everything from leveling it, to lowering the pop-outs on each side. My husband would be joining us in a couple of weeks.

The first few days we lived like royalty on battery power and it was great. The third day, however, something in the trailer began to emit a long beep and we couldn’t figure out what it was. When the lights went out, we made a connection. Batteries.

I’d never actually lived in a recreational vehicle before. I don’t know what I was thinking when I didn’t give a second thought to where the power was coming from. We’d lived carefree on just battery power for that long (which, looking back on it, wasn’t so bad), before the batteries finally drained.

Not being experienced in such matters, I took them in and bought new batteries. I must have had some reason to believe they were bad and couldn’t be charged. I bought two new ones and from then on, planned on charging them with our truck. I wasn’t familiar with using a generator at that point although I bought a small one about a week later.

Lessons learned. I feel like half an expert now as opposed to then. So knowledgeable. I still have my head crammed into You tube or somewhere else on the internet almost every day learning how to do something for the first time.

At any rate, we were just settling in to our new routine when one day, I saw a limousine driving down the seriously pot-holed road. It was so bad there, you had to maneuver from side to side through the worst part in order to avoid bottoming out on the edge of an especially deep pothole.

I cringed as the long black vehicle approached the “hole” but to my surprise it glided through unscathed. It was the end of the navigable road however and it slowly pulled to a stop.

A stretch limousine fifteen miles down a narrow dirt road, forty five miles from the nearest city. Weird. I tried to look busy and watched out of the corners of my eyes.

It pulled over and a man got out, then another. The second man was dressed in what looked to me like yachting attire. The first man appeared to be his help of some sort. The man in the boat clothes just walked around for a few minutes and had a look around then they got back into the limo, turned around, and drove off, back up the road the way they came.

What?

Then one day the motor home pulled in.

It was kind of junky looking but nothing unusual for out there in the woods. Every kind of people came out here from the city folk with their Subarus to the teenagers from the burbs out for a wild night of partying and barfing by the campfire. Some people lived out here (like us) but I don’t think they had any choice. We saw people out there who were clearly living there. It felt sad to me.

The people in the motor home turned out to be colorful folk. It was an older gentleman, probably in his sixties, his wife, and their daughter and her boyfriend and kids. One dog too. I didn’t get the impression they were out for a weekend camping trip. The motor home had a definite lived-in look.

One or more of them liked the bottle. Colorful became vivid when they drank. I don’t remember what it was about but the first time they had at it, they had at it. Yelling, throwing things, slamming things, and at some point, the younger couple got the boot. They sped off with their kids down the road.

That was the first time. It became a pattern. We began to dread the now expected daily skirmish. We moved to the other side of the road or across the bridge to get away from them. Then one day they were gone. Thank God. The quiet of the woods was now upon us again.

Back to the usual city dwellers with their pooches, Birkenstocks, and ergonomically designed hiking poles mixed in with the pickup truck driving, gun toting types and their lab/retriever/hound dogs.

The woods seem to be the great melting pot of society.

 

What We Do and Don’t Have In Common With Cousin Eddy

It’s scary to even think we have ANYTHING in common.

I’m lumping the do’s and don’ts together.

  • Neither me nor my husband have steel plates in our heads; yet.
  • We both live in trailers.
  • We don’t live on a former atomic testing site.
  • Our child isn’t in the sex trade to supplement our family income.
  • We don’t fry our food on the rocks (although we brewed coffee with a blowtorch once).
  • We have a sense of taste in clothing (although more often than not, we’re semi filthy from doing some sort of project or another on the property).
  • We don’t have a dog with a sinus infection but our cat slobbers profusely when petted.
  • We both quit toting a beer around in a beer holster a long time ago.
  • We sweat, but not as profusely as Cousin Eddy.
  • We have a sense of social awareness, unlike Cousin Eddy.
  • did ask the tour guide where the damn bathroom was when we visited Hoover Dam.
  • Our son hasn’t been kicked in the head by a mule; hopefully won’t ever be.
  • We have to empty the shitter on a regular basis, just not into the sewer.
  • Our son has a tongue.
  • We haven’t had a case of lip fungus in our family within recent memory.
  • We don’t have to deal with Mississippi Leg Hound Syndrome.
  • Our garden isn’t spitting out 50 pound tomatoes. The deer ate them all.
arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky
Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

The Great Leveling

Jammed door syndrome.

Our house is crooked. Rather, it isn’t level. 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 level.

Looking at the photo above, it looks terribly askew but that’s mostly optical illusion.

If you don’t do it properly, your doors and access panels will not open and shut properly due to the trailer not being squared and stresses being created in places where there is very little clearance for movable parts.

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’re capable of fixing it.

The location of the fifth wheel was pretty uneven in the first place so we dug ruts for the rear set of tires on the uphill side before it was pulled in. The ground also rises on the front end side of the trailer so we’re having to compensate for that too. It came with a tripod for that part of the fifth wheel that normally sits in the bed of the hauling truck. It’s to support that front section of the trailer to prevent it from the slight stresses that may lead to leaking from sagging, if ever so little.

We had to dig holes for the legs of this tripod just to get it to recess enough into the ground for the rest of the rig to be lowered onto it. We redid and redid it until it was far enough down but then the left front jack quit on us. Now we are stuck not being able to lower the front of the trailer to complete the leveling process.

We managed to get the side to side level by digging those wheel ruts deeper while we had the back jacked up then lowering the wheels into the recesses again.

I’m getting tired of everything rolling towards the back of the fifth wheel and the visual of the thing, especially when we’re inside, looking obviously sloped.

I’m thinking that the majority of the weight being on the 2 sets of 3 wheels on either side would naturally be the best configuration. It’s all of the other points of contact that are a pain in the butt to adjust.

I just had an idea. If we can temporarily get the weight off of that problem jack, we can dig under it and lower it just like we did the wheels.

Be right back.

Update: Going to go get a jack.

What My Fifth Wheel Looks Like To Me

A translation.

No, not a turkey. I am temporarily out of my own pictures pertaining to RV repair.

I didn’t know how to install a water pump so I went to see the local RV repairman last week. He’s probably been doing this for about 100 years now and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about customer service anymore. When I asked him about the wiring he said in an extremely tired and irritated voice while gesturing violently at the water pump I had in my hand “red is red and black is black”!

Well, I made this picture for him to translate to him what I saw. No, he hasn’t seen it nor will he ever. 🙂

wiring3

Out of the Pot and Into the Frying Pan

How we got here and what happened afterward.

The following stories chronicle our family’s journey from suburbia to the edge of the modern frontier where we settled on raw land a couple of years ago.

From the first day on, I realized there was a lot to write about but being at the bottom of the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs delayed things a bit. I was too busy crying and trying to survive to write during that first year but here is our story; finally.

We are a married couple with a fifteen year old son and two cats. We were growing tired of the increasingly frenetic atmosphere of the Puget Sound region so we sold our house and headed east in search of wide open spaces more compatible with our nature. In the spring of 2017, we bought a twenty foot travel trailer and hit the road.

We camped in the national forest and anywhere else we were allowed for over three months as we cruised the real estate websites for property. In September we found a few acres of raw land in eastern Washington near the Idaho and Canadian borders that was just right. It was three miles away from the closest town and far far away from any major metropolitan area and came with no utilities.

Moving onto undeveloped land means you’re on your own. You are the engineer, construction worker and if something breaks, the repair person. Everything we used to take for granted has required forethought, planning and more often than not, exhausting physical labor in order to carry the project out.

For the first few months we got our water from the city standpipe but they close it in the winter. Luckily, we had discovered natural springs on our property which we dug by hand. For power we used a gas generator and installed solar.

We initially used WiFi for Internet but it became us vs the Google data pig.  The neighbors let us use their WiFi until we got into a fight and they changed their password.  We could only connect from my husband’s spot in our bed and only if it wasn’t raining. It eventually took downing three gargantuan trees to get Internet service to the property.

 Emotional and social adjustments were inevitable with such a big move.  Like the new extremes in the weather in eastern Washington as opposed to those of the moderate rain belt we moved from, the emotional highs and lows have been more extreme. Hotter summers and colder winters gave rise to newfound happiness and adventure which gave way to days and weeks of depression but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Our first weeks at our new home were fantastic. We were officially land owners and there was exploring to do but then winter came on fierce and with a seriousness that slapped all thoughts of anything but survival out of our consciousnesses. Our water pipes froze and our worldly possessions disappeared under three or four feet of snow. Some things we didn’t find until the spring melt.

Zero degree temperatures forced us to make the decision to relocate my son and I to an emergency shelter while my husband hunkered down at the property with our cats. Three months later, we moved back to the property and picked up where we left off; still struggling financially and with very little to work with.

Spring, then summer came with new challenges. We got a crash course on ticks and dealt with hordes of Yellow Jackets. The heat, and a continuing feeling of oppression made summer one of the longest I’ve ever experienced but we had things in the works.

We tilled rock-hard soil and planted a garden. We dug the spring and water delivery system. We used antiques we found buried on our land to construct things we needed such as the fence to our garden.  We did whatever we could to pass the time and keep our chins up.

Thank you to my husband for helping me to get through it all. When I was at my worst, he would hold my face in his hands, look at me and say “Good things Baby, good things”.

As fall arrived, our “eggs” began to hatch and we were finally able to make some huge changes to our living conditions and begin to build, literally and figuratively, the quality of our lives. We could stop trying to just survive and begin to live. 

We’ve accomplished a lot since fall. We now have a solar power system, generators, a large shed, an upgraded RV (we decided to put off building until spring), and other necessities. We have a fireplace to  sit by, a wood pile, larger propane tanks and other means for which to stay comfortable and dry for the winter. So far, so good as of January 2019.

We have lot’s of plans going forward. We are excited and ready.

I’ve edited this first post several times and didn’t want to give up my original bullet list outline so though it may be a little redundant, here it is:

  • We are a husband and wife with a teenager who sold their house in western Washington and moved to eastern Washington.
  • We have two cats and want a dog but not before we put up a fence.
  • We are not perfect. Far from it.
  • We don’t care that we are not perfect and we are known to swear but we are nice people (although one neighbor said we are evil).
  • We sold our house in May 2017
  • We lived in a trailer all summer while we looked for property
  • We found property we liked. It “spoke to” my husband 🙂
  • We moved onto the property and continued to live in the trailer
  • We had a major reality check as fall progressed
  • We weren’t very well prepared financially and some things happened that made it worse but things are better now 🙂
  • We made the best of things but winter sucked
  • Summer then sucked
  • Fall is here and we’re doing WAY better but some things still suck but most things DON’T suck anymore

I love humor and aspire to write in the style of Jean Sheppard of A Christmas Story fame. I’ve thrown in some of my weird poetry and hope you’ll enjoy the stories that follow.