“Are You Sure That’s The Cat”?

One night when we were still living in our twenty foot travel trailer our cat jumped onto the top of our canvas canopy and collapsed it onto us as we lay in bed. As I was holding the animal up off of myself and screeching about the damned thing, my half asleep husband mumbled “are you sure that’s the cat”?

This story is similar.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard one of our two cats munching in our dining room and for some reason, I decided to get up. I stumbled out of bed, put my robe on and made my way out into the kitchen to see what was up or to get a snack or something.

We’d just installed a cat door so we wouldn’t have to let the felines in and out of the house fifty thousand times a day. It was great once we’d taught them the “ins and outs”. They could now come and go as they pleased at whatever time of day it was.

I sleepily shambled down the stairs and flipped on the light only to see a skunk in my RV. I can’t remember exactly what I shouted but the poor thing ran into a corner then out the “cat” door which was now officially a skunk door.

I sniffed and to my great relief, realized it hadn’t sprayed. I wondered if it was the same one I’d dumped out of a cage in the middle of the night a couple of months earlier.

What’s a good name for a skunk?

Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero

Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.

We are afraid of it as we’re unfamiliar with it’s inner workings and are concerned it may blow up at any moment. It’s not the heater’s fault nor that of anyone involved with it’s design or installation; they’re just suspicious-seeming by nature. It doesn’t help that we’re ignorant of such things despite over a year of living off-grid in an RV.

When we first got the thing, we full of ideas from an episode of Mythbusters we’d recently seen where all of the fail-safe measures were removed on some water heaters and the heat cranked up. The tanks became rockets, shooting hundreds of feet into the air, giving my husband and I pause as to what our own rocket/heater might be capable of. But let’s back up.

When we came by our fifth wheeler it had been gutted and refitted for use with city hookups such as electricity rather than for it’s original purpose of boon docking. The electric water heater that had been installed was gobbling our energy so we ordered a propane model. It arrived promptly and we managed to get it nestled into the side of our RV without much ado. We carefully hooked up the gas, checked for leaks and lit her up.

Everything went fine as we turned the bathtub spigot on and off to check the rising temperature but the water got hotter and hotter and stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing ignition, we turned it off and called it a night.

The next day we exchanged the old faucet for a new one and the water ran fine but continued to overheat. We shut it down for a second time to save our very lives lest we recreate that episode of Mythbusters.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

We needed a professional. Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

We gave them a call and explained the strange behavior of our water heater and made an appointment. Although they didn’t normally deal with RV type systems, they were willing to come take a look. We kept the unit shut off while we waited for our savior- his elevated status growing every day we went without the ability to shower.

Then the day arrived and “he” showed up. He didn’t have six-shooters on his side but he came with a notepad and a toolbox.  Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as the repairman stole sideways glances at the beast waiting silently in it’s hole on the side of the fifth wheel.

Finally, our man adjusted his collar and approached the offender with a swagger and a coolness that would make John Wayne jealous. He stared at his foe for a moment or two then reached out confidently and began to manipulate the dials with the authority of a….well…appliance repairman. We stood a good ways back and watched with mixed fear and excitement at the prospect of being able to resume our personal hygiene routines.

Then we heard it; the rocket-like flame of the gas feed shot to life as the man cocked his head and squinted suspiciously at the device while he made his final adjustments. With a satisfied nod he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

His words will haunt us forever; “I turned the heat down.”

 

 

 

The Wild West

This morning when I opened our front door, my eyes were greeted by a skunk rummaging through the bag of garbage we forgot to take to the enclosure rather than three inches of new snow but nevertheless, it’s a sure  sign we ain’t in Kansas anymore.

Our family moved from the “burbs” to the outlying areas of Stevens County Washington almost two years ago now. We didn’t plan it perfectly, maybe not even fully responsibly, but here we are still although I sometimes wonder if we did chew off more than we could handle.

The differences are cultural on top of pragmatic between the burbs and the country. Here there’s a palpable attitude of “buck up” although I often wonder if that’s really necessary. My preferred “trail mix” is not overly-done PC with some buck up added for good measure.

We aren’t super liberals nor super conservative. You wouldn’t catch me dead wearing Birkenstocks, wool socks and a denim skirt nor will you ever catch me posing with my latest kill. Each to their own with no judgement. We are in the middle on most things and for us, a moderate approach to life works.  We love this area and the people though, and are grateful for the breath of fresh air that is eastern Washington.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of listening to another of our neighbors taking target practice on the upper property. After a few hours of it, I decided to look up the laws of the state and county as it was close and a bit unnerving. It didn’t help that the title of the county’s official welcome pamphlet was The Wild West and had the same “get used to it” tone. Is it possible to live in the sticks without this?

State law clearly precludes any shooting within five hundred feet of a house or any structure and an earthen berm is required to absorb the impact of the projectiles. The neighbor was shooting from about three hundred and fifty feet with no berm.

Sigh. I decided if they make any habit of it, I’m on it. I’m not letting someone with little respect for other’s safety put me or my family at risk. Don’t get me wrong.  My husband loves firearms and I don’t really have an opinion except are you gonna shoot me on accident? They are shooting from the hillside where some dumbass almost shot one of us when we first moved in.

In the meantime, we are looking for property in the same area but with a much bigger buffer between ourselves and other humankind.

December In March

 

I wake up at three in the morning, open the door to the RV and what am I greeted by? Spring crocuses? Nope. The sound of songbirds (although not likely at this hour)? Nope.

Try a foot of new snow on the doorstep. It’s March for Godsake.

Did spring lose it’s way and pass our driveway by? Nope. I can see that the city down the hill is coated in fresh white. County too. As a matter of fact, BIG sections of the country are experiencing an identity crisis of seasons.

I don’t know if it’s global warming or the natural long-term patterns of a planet but the thermometer reads zero degrees and our pipes are frozen again. No water for coffee until we thaw them.

I’m tired of this. I’m whining at full volume and full speed ahead. No apologies here. You can tough it out all you want. I’m done.

Just when we thought we had this tiger by the tail, it’s whipped us. We managed to stay above twenty degrees for most of the winter until March. And more snow is forecast for Monday through Wednesday coming up.

The cats and I went to scrounge for some catnip in the Winter garden this morning but it’s just that……buried under four feet of snow. I dug a trench to the last remembered location of the wilted heap and began to dig. I knew I was getting close when the felines suddenly began to dig alongside me.

I scooped out a bit of the magical kitty herb and half trudged, half excavated my way back to the driveway, cats in trance behind me. I quickly dismissed a half-second thought of clearing the whole garden patch. Didn’t take too much effort.

The wilted mass that is catnip.

Water’s been mission impossible for the last week in the below normal temps. We’d drag the hoses inside, filling up our RV with loop after loop of frozen rubber while the ice inside melted, then drag the thousand feet of inevitably tangled anaconda-like mess outside only to have them freeze up again by the time we had them strung out and ready to siphon.

Although we’ve done our best to keep the pump and heated hose clear, the zero temps are still having their way with us.  No water until they thaw with the help of a small heater fan every morning.  The cold and snow have also been having their way with our driveway. Already got stuck and shook hands with a small tree last week due to worn tires.

Off to Walmart to have new tires put on so we can get back up our driveway.

At least they have coffee.

How Do I Write?

It’s 7:45 am in the morning and I’m sitting at my computer looking at the smudges all over the screen, wondering if that’s an extra period I’ve added or a speck of food. It’s a touch screen and the first time I cleaned it I had to wait twenty minutes for the commands I accidentally activated to process.

Imagine just finishing a blog post and the commands deleting the whole thing, writing an entire new post that was pure Shakespearian, and publishing it; all while you look on helplessly.

Or maybe my cat could walk across the keyboard and accomplish the same thing.

Our fifth wheel has about a foot of snow on the top and I’m wondering how my husband and I are going to shovel all it off. I hope the ceiling doesn’t cave in while I’m writing yet I’m choosing to sit down and blog rather than get out there with the heavy equipment and clean up literally tons of snow. Easy choice, actually.

I love to write but being just months in, it’s daunting. I’m trying to find my sea legs and thrashing about every time I get washed overboard, which happens a lot.

 As I  paddle around in circles, I’m realizing just how much I don’t  know about writing. Did you know there are curly as opposed to straight quotation marks? And double and smart ones? I didn’t until yesterday when I downloaded a proofreader. I was having so much trouble finding a transition from one paragraph to another the other day I gave up and just wrote “segue” between the paragraphs.

Ever wonder if you’re the worst, least professional writer in existence? I do on a daily basis. I  suspect I may not be the only one.

I ran the proofreading tool on my last blog post and I didn’t understand what the thing was telling me to correct. I feel like an amateur but I was buoyed by a blog post I read yesterday by The Art Of Blogging.

It featured a book by Stephen King on writing. I liked the part about failure the most. I feel much better knowing that is a part of the writing process and to expect it.  If Stephen King failed and is still with us (boy is he ever), then I stand a chance.

I want to learn how to write better. I want to find my particular style. I want people to want to read my blog. Every once in a while I get frustrated and consider walking away but I immediately dismiss the thought because I love to write.

Most of all, I want to find my style.  I currently rotate between what I call my boring style to humorous, then some poetry with weird subject matter, to super descriptive, and the emotional stuff.  My favorite is the humorous.

I want to perfect the art of humorous writing more than any other style. I want to write like Jean Sheppard of A Christmas Story fame. That’s my biggest bestest aspiration. Funny words.

As far as cleaning up the roof of our RV, I’m already looking for a humorous angle.

Tinkham Campground

We spent about four months on the road living in our 20′ Jayco Lite travel trailer after we sold our house in Snoqualmie Washington. We lived on the road for about four months, mostly in the Snoqualmie National Forest, while we looked for property. It was a memorable summer.

We spent the first month or so up the Middle Fork Road just outside North Bend but you’re supposed to only camp for two consecutive weeks at any time in the national forest so we were under pressure to keep moving. Still, the Sheriff did their jobs pretty well and it was tricky to keep two paces ahead of them. We were forest bandits.

We had to spend a week at the Summit At Snoqualmie Motel for awhile just to get out of the national forest for the prescribed time before we could go back. It cost us an arm and a leg but it was nice to be able to shower easily and be more comfortable.

We spent a couple of weeks at the Denny Creek campground near Snoqualmie Pass but it was under the control of Darth Dunder. He was an older gentleman who took his job way too seriously; and he was simply an asshole. I wrote about him in a previous post.

After spending a couple more weeks in another open camping area, we moved into Tinkham Campground for almost the last month on the road.

Tinkham was a breath of fresh air in that the hosts were super friendly and didn’t administer the camp like a internment facility. It was located about halfway between North Bend and the pass. As we were still “living” and working near our old home, we could still commute back and forth to Snoqualmie with relative ease. A quick drive up the forest service road to the freeway entrance and we could blast down I-90 in about twenty minutes. It was a beautiful commute.

We found an open spot on the river side of the campground with our own semi private trail to the river. I can’t remember if it was the north fork of the Snoqualmie or another river. Denny Creek fed into it just a mile or two up the road and was known for having gold.

We were at the river often to get water, prospect, or just to play around and throw rocks. The beach was extremely rocky and I noticed that someone had begun to build a trail of sorts from the tree line to the river’s edge. I seized upon the idea and spent many hours over the following weeks continuing with construction of the trail. I treated it like a patio. I would find the flattest rocks, dig shallow holes for them, put down the rock and fill in between them with sand. It looked pretty cool in the end.

Working on “my” trail became one of my favorite pastimes. It became somewhat symbolic to me. It was a contribution of sorts to those that would follow; an easier way to the water other than the ankle twisting journey one would normally have to take. It was an invitation of sorts to come and enjoy. It was a testament to the small dedication of one person to create something ordered out of chaotic jumble of stones lining the river. I hoped it would be enjoyed for months, maybe years ahead. I hoped other people would help to maintain it. I would like to go back and see if it’s still there.

The great solar eclipse happened while we were there. When the event happened, the shadows deepened in a surreal fashion. The light dimmed, and we headed to the beach, me with my camera, my husband with three pairs of sunglasses, to view what we could of the show.

I wanted to capture the eclipse on camera but although I could see the shadow of the moon creeping across the face of the sun, I couldn’t capture it on film. We all ended up taking turns putting on the multiple pairs of sunglasses to see what we could. It turned out to be anti climactic but was memorable all the same.

We went prospecting up at Denny Creek but had the usual bad luck in finding any gold. With the weeks I spent prospecting there, I realized just how difficult gold really is to find. Being so heavy, it sinks down to the bottom of the gravel and sand and you have to be experienced and have the right equipment in order to recover anything. Lessons learned though. Sometimes it’s learning how not to do something that teaches you how to do something. The process of elimination.

We were able to pull off more than the usually prescribed two weeks stay because the season was coming to a close for the winter and the hosts, being an older couple, were quite open to the idea of having us clean up the firepits. We worked over the course of about three days to finish all fifty or so campsites.

We found the property we were looking for and the negotiations finally went through in the last couple of weeks of September 2017. Winter was approaching and we now had somewhere to go. Somewhere to call home. It was time to go.

On the evening of September 17th of the year 2017, we loaded up the trailer and hitched it up to the truck in the pouring rain. We pulled out of our spot and stopped on our way out to say goodbye and say thank you to our hosts.

We pulled onto I-90 knowing western Washington was now behind us, most likely for the remainder of our lives but a new adventure awaited us ahead.

 

I’m No Authority

What you WON’T find here.

If you’re looking for authoritative pieces on this and that you aren’t going to find it here. You see, I’m no authority on just about everything. What you’ll find on my blog is my personal experiences, thoughts on things, and some poetry with odd themes such as solar power set ups and Halloween.

I’m the first one to admit I’m not perfect. I have a really bad anger problem along with depression and anxiety.

We don’t have our shit together by any stretch of the imagination but when we made the big move from our suburban home to a wildly different setting, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about it. It was just too interesting.

We are, however, bumbling our way through this way of living. The bumbling part I hope, will make for some interesting reading.

We are self professed eccentrics; responsible people wannabes. We’re the folks who envy the people who seem to have their shit together. We are the ones who show up at the farmers market with a cute collection of things to sell only to discover the seller down the row has four times the inventory, professionally displayed with matching business cards (that really happened).

I’d like to think that we represent the archetypal underdog. That part of our collective consciousness that is in all of us that we hide from other’s view.

I hope that by being honest about ourselves and our mistakes, we can reassure others who suffer from less than perfect self esteem that it’s OK.

As a matter of fact, we like being a little off. Were intelligent and witty and we kind of revel in our offness. We are castaways on The Island Of Misfits. In a nut shell, we have low self esteem but we also think we’re pretty cool. Reconcile that.

As humans, I think we all struggle with the fact that we have aspects of ourselves we love and those we loath and they have to occupy the same space in our heads. Just stay on your own sides of the room.

So we’re not perfect, and we don’t have the picture perfect display. At the end of the day, you’ll find us using duct tape when we’re supposed to using electrical, and so on. Why? Because we either don’t want to do it the right way or we don’t know how.

From Our Old To Our New

Reflections.

When we sold our house on the other side of the state, we had no idea where we would be landing in the state of Washington or possibly Idaho or Montana. Personally, I didn’t want to move too far from our old home because of the ties. Friends and family and a fierce resistance to change make me like a limpet: I find a place to stick to and I stick to it.

When my husband and son first mentioned the idea of moving I had a tiny panic attack. We’d lived in our house in Snoqualmie for eleven years and in Snoqualmie in general, for about twenty seven. The idea of leaving it all behind and starting out fresh brought a strong fear of the unknown to me that went beyond uncomfortable. I needed time to digest the idea.

For anyone, the idea of moving can be incredibly overwhelming because of the logistics alone. The emotional and sociological impacts only quadruple the anxiety. I was looking at selling a perfectly good home (like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute) only the parachute didn’t really exist. My family was my only safety net to cling to amidst the chaos of change.

Logistically, there’s the selling of the home, packing everything you own (which is more than you think), finding a new place and moving all of your stuff there. Emotionally, you have to say goodbye to friends and family.  Schools are changed. You worry about the effect it’s going to have on your child. Luckily, our son was on board which made things a lot easier in the guilt department.

As I said, we didn’t know where we would end up when we made the big decision nor did we know if we would buy land with a house or just land. We didn’t specifically think “we want to live off grid” at any given time. That was an aspect of the move that evolved over time. We did know we loved the outdoors and wanted something away from town; something with trees and acreage.

We spent about four months living in the little travel trailer we’d bought as a temporary home while we looked for property.  We looked just over the pass near Cle Elum and Ellensburg, Washington and we explored properties further east and north of where I preferred to locate. As the summer progressed and we visited various prospects, it became apparent to me that I might have to accept the idea of moving much farther east than I’d originally preferred. I would just have to adapt.

After a very long drive to see our future home one day in August the decision was finally made. We would be situated in Stevens county in eastern Washington about seventy miles south of the Canadian border and about the same to Idaho.  It’s beautiful here and there are seasons, unlike the Puget Sound region from whence we came. The property fit our criteria perfectly so we made the offer and went into a holding pattern until things were finalized in mid-September of 2017.

On September 17th, on an especially rainy night at Snoqualmie Pass where we were camping, we packed up and headed east.

The property was raw land and we knew we would be facing major challenges and expenses in making it our home but we were excited about our new lives and felt we were ready to face things head on. Reality did kick our asses, especially our first winter here but we’re still in the game and loving it.

Living off-grid isn’t just living; it’s an interactive adventure. You are directly involved with the quality of your life and the daily activities you perform to make things work.  You have to be hearty and somewhat physically fit to live off grid as the work is hard. If I was a princess type, I wouldn’t survive a day out here but I wouldn’t be here if I was a princess.

When I get stressed out physically or emotionally, I feel overwhelmed and the constant tasks of every day living get to me. I feel frustrated and ask myself “what was I thinking?” but then I walk outside one morning to see turkeys crossing the property or a skunk trotting away from the bag of garbage we accidentally left out the night before. I see trees, mountains, hillsides, other wild animals. We have our spring and our garden.

It comes at a price and it is a life of extremes but that suits our personalities. Our new home reminds us we’re alive.

We have our new paradise and I’m great with it. 🙂

 

 

 

Christmas At Walmart

The Experience.

My husband and I spend a lot of time at our local Walmart. It’s almost a joke between us. Nothing against the brand but frankly we associate it with tackiness. Still, here we are again; the goal of the day: Christmas shopping.

My husband always parks in the outskirts of the parking lot because our truck is big. This somehow makes sense to him. He points out the other trucks and large vehicles as he edges slowly into a moorage slip.

During the mile-long walk across the parking lot and having lost me, he’ll call back “Hurry up Babe” while he strides ahead on his six foot plus frame with me taking four steps to his one (imagine a centipede), trying to keep up.

Which door to go into is usually our next big decision after how far away to park. The Lawn and Garden (Holiday supplies in the winter), the Home and Pharmacy, or the Groceries. God forbid we forget to pick a landmark so we can navigate our way back to where we docked  parked. If we lose our bearings, we may end up wandering the parking lot in humiation with a fully loaded cart looking for our vehicle.  Yesterday our landmark was the giant inflatable Christmas tree. Last week, it was the kayaks on display out front.

Once in the store, the shopping cart vetting process begins with a ten foot test drive. Results are categorized on the following brokenness scale: The Drifter (self explanatory), The Harmonic Resonator (the one that alternates every twenty or so wheel revolutions between a powerful bolt-loosening vibration and a Cadillac-like glide), and The Quitter, AKA Old Ironsides (the one that lost the jousting match with a vehicle). There is a rare exception: The Miracle (this is your lucky day. This one’s straight off the truck from the factory).

Any leftover debris in the cart from a previous user is grounds for immediate disqualification and referral to the CDC. 🙂

I usually have my list ready to go and we set off, me leading the way. First through the Home section, then onto the Toys/Sporting Goods, past Auto and Hardware, looping back to Crafts and Bedding, gliding past clothing and shoes before reaching Electronics and pausing at the conveniently located bathrooms at the back of the store. Rushing through stationary and pets and into the Groceries with my husband, pushing whatever the cart of the day is. Now it’s HIS turn to keep up.

Zigzagging back and forth through the dairy and deli, breakfast and baking goods are but a blur. Gaining our second wind, we skillfully maneuver our increasingly difficult-to-steer barge now loaded with five hundred pounds of Walmart through the morass.

Lamps, rugs, electronics, cat food, and groceries are causing our cart to teeter dangerously on corners so we pull over to adjust the load for more ballast. It occurs to us that maybe we should have gone with shopping cart option number five; the military grade Hammerhead. With it’s semi tank-like build and roomy interior, we’d be set but that would have required a side trip to the Holiday section too far off course.

By now it takes a good push to get the carriage up to speed but soon we’re out-pacing octogenarians and the not-so-intense shoppers as we skirt the meats, frozen foods, and produce, then radio ahead for the tug boats. Eyes scanning for the checkout with the fastest line, we see them; the only other people in the entire store who get that this is a competition. Our mental calculations put us at the check stand at EXACTLY the same moment as them. This may be a dead heat. Increasing our speed by three knots we manage to pull ahead by a nose and the line is ours.

Checkout is an art form. I usually predict the total as me and my husband team up to move the inventory from the cart to the conveyor belt. Heavy items first by category (household before food stuffs), then boxed goods and finally, bakery – the delicate stuff. If you want to eat something on the way home, it gets its own bag that goes on top of everything else. I process and bag while my hubby handles the transaction. We make an excellent shopping team and quite often, my prediction of the total is only dollars off. 🙂

Finally, past the pay portal, shopping cart neatly packed according to weight and type of product, we nose out and merge into outgoing traffic, slowly accelerating to cruising speed.

Then it hits: we forgot the Christmas stuff. We bought everything BUT Christmas. Five hundred pounds of NOT Christmas and there is no slowing the shopping cart now. Might as well be the Titanic. If we’d only made that trip to the seasonal section for the Hammerhead…… But it’s too late to change course as we are swept towards the exit in the current.

As we glide past the smiling greeters on the way out the door in the Christmas regatta, (the only vessel not decked out), we maintain our heading and decide to hit the local shops on the way home. It evens out in the end. 🙂

Nine Lives Before Christmas

A catastrophe.

Nine lives before Christmas and in the RV, two felines were climbing up my Christmas tree

The lights and the baubles I’d hung up with care, strewn wall to wall not a single one spared

Shredded remains of my prized Christmas cactus, total destruction they’ve had lots of practice

They found the pine cones left a trail of debris, nothing was spared in the wake of their spree

Forget wrapping presents dispense with the bows, the effort is useless the gifts they’ll expose

I tried hanging garland, Oh what was I thinking, my light strings are broken they’re no longer blinking

cat ornament

I chased them outside tried to clear out my head, they came back in soaking wet jumped on my bed

What if St. Nick dares to come bearing gifts, they’ll ambush his sleigh from behind the snow drifts

Busting cat Kung Fu they’ll knock him out cold, one tailbone broken a fright to behold

Flat on his back splayed out under the trees, cookies and milk won’t fix his injuries

Journey cut short by two renegade cats, no toys for the children no balls and no bats

Packages strewn from his sleigh to the house, next year he’s packing a catnip stuffed mousecriminals