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. 🙂

 

 

 

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

Cats, Dogs, Citizens, And Politician Control

A social commentary on the lack of animal control in Stevens County and a shocking prevailing attitude.

My heart breaks when I look at the picture above of the feral cat we caught on our property night before last. Our goal was to take it in to animal control to have it fixed and/or relocated to a better environment such as a barn cat type of situation. Here, it is just hungry, cold and gets into fights with our fixed house cats.

We should have done our homework first. We didn’t expect there to be almost NO official animal control services set up for cats here in Stevens County WA. They have limited services for dogs but cats…forget it. Thank God there are some non profits in the area that are filling the vacuum though.

When I posted on a local page of Facebook about our dilemma, I learned a little about one prevailing attitude: dump ’em in another town or take care of things the…..you know…old fashioned way.  Hint hint.  Another person mentioned that they’d heard cats taste like chicken. I can’t figure out if that was a joke.

I did get a lot of caring and helpful responses to my post and we now have a quasi plan in place to recapture kitty, get him/her taken care of, and re-home it. We should have thought this out before we got ourselves a cage full of vicious! It’s gonna take something special to get that cat back in there!

Now what to use for that politician? Forgive me my attitude but I’m shocked this county is so poorly addressing this. I was told by a few people that feral and stray cats are a huge problem here. Obvious person says it’s because of the dearth of services.

Why? Could it be money? I’m not “buying” that one. Apathy? Is it cultural? Is one expected to just take care of the problem the old fashioned way…wink wink? Why hasn’t someone in the county government done something about this? I’d like to ask in person.

I looked up animal control in the Revised Code Washington (RCW) and in black and white there it was; there is NO requirement for a jurisdiction to have services set up. Wow. Animal control is kind of important; I would think in rural areas as much if not more than urban. After we caught kitty, we were surprised at the run around.

First thing we did was call animal control who referred us to a local animal sanctuary who are closed for a few days (just bad timing for us), and the Stevens County Sheriff who told us they don’t have any services and someone referred us to Spokane County’s SCRAPS program. We drove about 80 miles only to find out they didn’t accept out-of-county cats. That’s when I posted on Facebook on the way home.

We let kitty go for the time being and, thanks to the help of several people on Facebook, we have a rough plan in place to take care of wild cat; if some delicious tuna will get him back into that cage.

As for the politicians…..

Wood Gathering: A Poem

At night in the woods.

Disclaimer: This is kind of a cliché poem but I had fun writing it.

Air sharp as glass, ice scraping flesh

Breath escaping in frosty plumes

Feet frozen, struggling up hill to the place where the wood lies

Snow glows bluish, dark shapes fracturing it’s crust, frozen in escape

Stillness, snow holding tightly to all sound but the travelers

Constellations assume their poses, looking back through time with patient curiosity, eyes extinguished for millenia

Flashlights swing right to left and back, searching

Pausing, putting down the wood bag; catching breath

One stands watch while the other sets to work

Listening; sharp crack, blade falling

Wood rending under blows

Load bundled, nervous glances; fears better left unvoiced

Back to light, too far away

Not too quick, not wanting to look behind

Home close, steps quicken in urgency

Silent reassurances; nothing is there

A sound from the darkness, wood flung aside, clattering

All thoughts of fire forgotten

In flight, flashlights abandoned

Stairs, porch, door flung open, in

Dawn brings light, safety promised

Door opens, cautious glance

Long shadows cast by an early sun reveal clawed tracks in the snow

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A track my husband found right outside of our trailer last winter after hearing howls “like out of a movie” nearby.

Overwhelmed

Trying to keep up.

I feel so overwhelmed right now. We got our shed about a week ago and I expected to have it up in one day (see picture below for current status). There it sits. We’ve been working on it but there isn’t enough time in one day and dark hitting earlier hasn’t helped.

Our little matter with the neighbor over the cul de sac kind of derailed us for a day and a half. We left a succinct, firm letter for him and his wife on one of the fence posts he erected stating we had checked and confirmed that the land survey was correct and recorded and asked him to respect our private property signs going forward. He’d previously gone onto our property, past well marked posts, and spray painted the ground while he was planning his cul de sac. We weren’t too happy about that.

I wonder what he’s thinking right now? My husband and I have wondered whether he made a gargantuan mistake in his surveying or thought he’d just see if he could get by with us offering no resistance to his grand plans. That’s purely speculation but one thing isn’t; he never mentioned a word about moving his road onto our property in advance. That baffles us.

He was up here with his chainsaw today cutting down trees again but we couldn’t tell if he was cutting them down along the easement or further out on his property. It was a bit disconcerting to keep hearing the “thumps” as they came down. I might walk down the easement road a bit tonight and check.

We didn’t get the covenants from the recorder’s office the other day and are still not sure where we stand legally in the decision process about making changes to a shared easement. Common sense says that we should be consulted and have to agree to any such changes. Still waiting on the attorney. There was a conflict of interest and we were referred out to another attorney.  Tomorrow morning we go and comb over those covenants.

The neighbor said he was planning on adding a lane to the easement road and a lot of gravel to a steep portion to level it out. This is OK with us but we’re not OK with not being consulted.

We had wood delivered the other day and you’d think we never get visitors by the way we spent an hour showing the guys around the property and exchanged antique ax heads for cash off the delivery. Very nice guys. One of them also does handy work so we may have our guy to help with some work around here. The shed might be his first project if he’s game. We can do it ourselves but the time….

I insulated the battery bank tonight as the inverter wouldn’t turn on the past couple of nights in the cold. Some research told us that with the battery temperature sensors now in play, the charging voltage is probably way up and the inverter is most likely protecting itself from over powering. We’ll see if the insulation helps. I got a plastic container and we hefted the batteries and about two million wires and cables into it. It’s now lined on all sides with foam board insulation.

The fire wood is mostly stacked thanks to my husband and son. We’ve been trying to involve our son more in responsibilities around here for the benefits those things offer a young person; a sense of responsibility, confidence, ownership, a sense of independence, family time. 🙂

Work in progress photos:

It was time to refill the huge water tank we bought about a month ago but alas, the freeze sneaked up on us and the hoses froze with water in them. It took us about an hour yesterday to drag them all downhill from the spring and get them into the tub of hot water. After soaking them, my husband had to use the pump to force all the ice out of them. It was exhausting and we’re emptying them after use from now on.

I moved the ever growing pile of tools, fasteners, parts, and the propane fridge we got a month ago but still haven’t installed out of the trailer. We want to put all the extra stuff in the shed but it still needs to be built! Uhggg.

We need to clean up from all of  our projects too. It never ends around here.

I also have a million administrative type tasks to do. I’ve been grouchy from the sheer volume of things to do. I’m a list person and I decided to get this stuff out of my head where it’s a giant whirlpool of thoughts and feelings onto paper where I could organize them. I drew a big mind map on some card stock and filled it with every item to be done, along with every sub category attached to it until I’d gotten it all out.

The page looks like a mess unto itself but everything’s there in bubbles that I can look at and know I at least don’t have to keep trying to remember what needs to be done. It’s still a lot but I feel like I have a semi handle on it now.

At least the main mission of the week is handled. The most terrifying to our sense of peace; the issue of the cul de sac. We are so relieved and there will be fallout surrounding the dispute but it sure wasn’t our fault. We simply had to respond to this threat to our land and our peace of mind in an assertive way.

Tomorrow is Monday. Another week starts but for the most part, my husband and I look forward greatly to our future here and have a concrete list of goals to grow in every way.

Writing my blog helps me to just get it out when I feel overwhelmed (between appointments with my counselor). It’s nice to talk at people

It also helps me avoid the bubble list.

 

 

On The Brink

Our near death experience on the road last night.

We had our first snow yesterday. We were sitting in our truck ready to go to town and there they were; the first few flakes of the year.

Here it comes. Snowmaggedon. And slippery-as-hell roads.

The county and city road clearing crews are, for the most part, prepared but some things you just can’t fix…or can you?

We were headed back from town about 5:30pm last evening when we started up the main road that goes to our intersection. It’s a big loop and the side we were traversing was washed out completely about a year and a half ago so we’d always had to go the long way around to get to our turn near the washed out side.

It seemed like forever before the county finally got to work this summer and cleaned up the mess left by the washout, graded it and started the first portion of the paving. We were so happy! I can’t tell you how many times we turned the wrong way to go the long way to town before we remembered “our side” was now open. The new route saved us about five miles one way into town.

The road is a fairly steep winding grade up the hillside with a VERY steep slope dropping off hundreds of feet to the bottom at a creek. A few months ago, someone stole a vehicle and rolled it over the edge where I can’t imagine what it looked like plummeting down the grade before it slammed into the bottom, leaving it smashed in the front, it’s doors wide open. They brought in one of those really big tow trucks and I imagine it must have taken a lot of power and cable to get that truck up and out of there.

Back to yesterday.

We began to ascend the road slowly and I cringed when I saw the shear delineation of wet road turn to obviously icy pavement and sure enough, as soon as we hit the icy part, we began to slide around.

I covered my eyes and my heart began to pound. My husband continued to maneuver the truck slowly up the grade but we lost traction one more time and started to slide toward the edge. I completely freaked out and just prayed we would stop before we went over.

It seemed like forever after we regained traction and SLOWLY crept up the remaining length of the road to the top.

I’ll never use that road again until spring or until they put guard rails up.

Wait, I forgot to mention…NO GUARD RAILS on this thing!

As we topped the hill, my husband pulled over to put the truck into four wheel drive and we noticed another vehicle across the street pulled over with a woman doing something outside. I’m not sure what she said but my husband told her what had happened and he said she had much the same experience going up just in front of us.

When we got home, I called the city not understanding it was a county matter. I wanted to warn someone right away of the treacherous condition of the road. Someone was bound to go over the edge sooner or later. I had my husband call 911 too as I was only able to leave a message.

I posted about our experience on Facebook and asked the question “does anyone else think this road should have a guard rail?”. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. The general sentiment of the conversation on Facebook was that the people wanted one but the engineer who designed the new road had left extra space as a shoulder on the drop off side to negate the necessity of having a guard rail.

Stupid!!!! Once you lose traction, your vehicle is going as far as it needs to to reach that edge and go on over; that buffer is only going to serve to give you a second or two more to contemplate your imminent death before over you go. Especially going downhill due to good ‘ol gravity. We were going UP the hill when we almost piled over that edge.

My son rides the school bus that way and I’m calling the school to warn them and urge them to change the route. In the meantime, we’re going to have to pick him up from school every day now and give him a ride home. That section of road is a death trap.

I wrote the county an email also. My husband and I will NOT be using that road until something is done. I don’t want to die any time soon. I just hope the county takes this situation seriously and either closes the road or puts in a guard rail before it’s too late.

If we want to plunge down a slope at breakneck speed, we want to be on a sled on our property.

 

HUGE Industry-Wide Problems With Solar

This and some other issues need to be addressed.

It’s taken a couple of months since we bought our first solar power system kit to realize where the problems lie and that one of them isn’t being addressed well enough yet. I can’t speak for systems that are professionally set up as I don’t have any knowledge about them. I’m talking about the ones you order and set up yourself.

The first problem is absolutely critical to the life and functioning of the battery array. The battery array stores all of that sunshine for your use.  Deep cycle batteries that are used in a battery bank must never be discharged below 50% or 12.1 volts as it can damage them and shorten their lifespan and storage capabilities. It can ruin them necessitating a replacement of the whole bank.

You need a way to monitor the voltage level of the batteries and way to shut off the power draw when they hit that 50% depleted level.

Important here is that solar power systems can run an AC or alternating current system (120 volts) and/or the DC or direct current system.  The DC is more of an auxiliary system.

If you live in an RV you have a DC system built in that runs the smaller appliances such as the lights and the water pump either off of the 12 volt house batteries or through a direct connection to a solar setup. The DC system is what you would use while out camping but RVs incorporate both a DC and an AC system for use if an outside source of power is available at a campground, for example. The AC is a 120 volt system that supplies power to larger appliances such as an air conditioner, a ceiling fan, washer and dryer etc.

Our main goal and most folks, I imagine, when buying a solar power system, is to run the BIG stuff with an option of also plugging in those smaller appliances.

When we bought our first set of solar panels, we saw that the control charger that came with the kit (the brains of a solar power system) could be programmed to disconnect the power draw from the batteries at whatever depletion level you set. By doing that, it would theoretically prevent the batteries from being discharged below the 50% (12.1 volt) level (recommended) thus preventing over discharge and the resulting damage to the batteries.

It took us this long and a conversation with the solar company we bought from to find out that the controller they sent only monitors and controls the DC or auxiliary system. The one we never used.

There was no way to program it to monitor and shut off the power draw being funneled through the primary AC system.  This particular charge controller was effectively useless to us in protecting our main power storage asset; our battery bank. I have no idea why it would have been designed this way. It makes absolutely NO sense!

The only way to prevent battery damage as we use the system, is to visually look at the voltage level display on the power inverter itself (the component that converts the 12 volt power from the battery bank to usable 120v energy) and turn it off/or unplug the extension cord to our trailer when the batteries get low on voltage. Stupid.

I had to search the internet for a special low-voltage disconnect relay that I bought from another company and I installed it. It worked for awhile then something happened and it started to shut down the inverter altogether and to this day, we can’t figure out why.

We had to remove the relay so the inverter would work again but now we are back to square one. We now have no way to watch the battery voltage levels but we kind of don’t care right now. I could press forward in getting the answers but for now, we’re back to using just two gas powered generators.

Inverters that are programmable to actually work properly with a solar setup are 700.00 and up. The rest (the ones that come with DIY solar panel kits) are preprogrammed to disconnect from the battery bank at 10.5 volts; after your batteries are already dead and/or damaged.

My understanding of why they are set to disconnect power at such a low voltage is to prevent the inverter from tripping off with a load spike when first plugged in. I can’t believe someone hasn’t come up with a work-around for this.

By the time we got a clue as to what was going on, we were worried about our batteries as we were having HUGE problems getting any kind of significant power out of each cycle (day of sunshine). Our batteries had been over depleted so many times by now they were almost surely damaged. We had them tested and although we believe their performance has somewhat been compromised, they are supposedly good.

Here’s another issue I noticed about the planning stage of going solar. This is specifically for those living in an RV.  Logically, you have to figure out how much power you’re using in order to estimate the size of the system you plan to purchase. I consulted website after website on how to do this. You make a list of appliances and the amps and/or watts each one uses, total it up, and size your setup accordingly.

We did this and still had a huge problem with a power drain that we couldn’t account for. We would plug in the solar at night, for example, and we would be lucky to make it through the entire night before the solar would shut down.

We came to suspect that our RV had some sort of parasitic drain so we flipped the breaker switches one by one while the solar was plugged in. We watched the voltage readout and noted the drain as we went from one to the other.

Finally we found the culprit: Our RV house battery recharging system. If you live in an RV, when you plug into an outside power source, your house battery charging system automatically kicks in and starts to charge your RV batteries. This turned out to be a HUGE extra energy user that not one website had mentioned. We were charging one set of batteries off of another set of batteries.

To make it worse, we discovered our house batteries were bad. We’ll replace them and either disconnect them from our RV charging system and charge and monitor them independently, install a separate charge controller for them, or just flip the breaker switch in our RV that controls the battery recharging system when we plug our solar into our RV.

The last issue was completely our own fault. Our batteries are getting cold with the onset of lowering temperatures. The charge control units came with temperature sensors that attach to the batteries and they send more power to them when recharging at low temperatures as needed. If it’s too warm, the sensors tell the charge control unit to send less power to recharge. It makes the charging system more efficient.

I attached the temperature sensors to the batteries yesterday and the bank is now charging faster and more completely.

I also found out that a Maximum Power Point Tracking or MPPT type of charge controller is more efficient than the ones we have (Pulse Width Modulation-PWM)  so I’m considering switching those out too.

The moral of this story is that a lot of factors contribute to how well or IF a solar power system works.  Added together, they can have a profound effect on performance. Solar power is a fantastic concept but until the industry makes these kits more failsafe, they’ll continue to be riddled with problems and users are going to keep going through batteries like disposable razors.

Believe it or not, we are still completely sold on solar energy. Our plan at this point is to double our panels and battery bank, switch to MPPT controllers, and invest in a programmable power inverter to preserve our battery array. This is going to take a little more cash so we’re waiting for the sun to come back out in the spring.

Until then, here’s a poem I wrote: Rant Poem On DIY Solar

 

Snow

More of our first winter in our new home.

Winter is winter here in eastern Washington but snow deserves it’s own mention. It’s a category unto itself.

Snow is beautiful. It transforms your world. What was your environment becomes, with the gentle application of this “makeup”, a whole new world. It’s a sort of makeover of your surroundings.

Like foundation, it smooths out wrinkles and covers blemishes. It makes whole and new again, that which was dingy, gaudy, ugly, and trashy looking;  soft and smooth like whipped cream still in the bowl before you dig the spoon in.

For us, it came early last year. And suddenly. I think it was before Thanksgiving. Sometime in October even? It wasn’t much. About 4 or 5 inches but it was a harbinger of what was to come.

I know I talk about winter here like it’s the end-all-be-all of events but to us, that’s not too far off the mark. That’s because we’re “coasters”; people from the other side of the mountains, near the Seattle area.

They have four seasons there; more rain, less rain, a little sun, and moderate rain. It’s pretty gloomy there in the Pacific Northwest rain belt. It doesn’t get really cold and snow is news there when it happens. Everyone goes out to build snowmen and sled. It receives continues coverage, schools close, and Seattle freaks out. Then it’s gone as fast as it came. That’s what we’re used to.

Here, it’s just another day to walk out to 3 new feet of snow in the morning and people know to make extra time to de-ice their windshields and shovel snow out of their carports in the mornings. People use quads with snow shovels to quickly deal with the problem. Dogs run around madly barking and trying to bite the wheels while their owners expertly maneuver their machines back and forth pushing the white stuff neatly into piles off to the sides. Some people in the outskirts with long roads for driveways sometimes hire others to do the work. There’s plenty of employment in snow removal during the winters here.

We couldn’t afford to hire someone to keep our driveway clear last winter nor did we have the equipment to do it ourselves. It’s almost a half mile from the road to our parking spots on our property up on a hill. We parked our truck at the gate leading to the larger parcel of property that had been divided into four (one of which is ours), and walked, slogged, groped, slid, and clawed our way up the slope to get home. We took the wheels off of our wagon and turned it into a sled to transport groceries and 55 gallon propane bottles back and forth.

We made a sort of game trail that the wildlife would commandeer in their wanderings; a trough through the 2 or more feet of slippery cold matter. We would hike on without stopping, past the neighbor’s house until we got out of sight behind the tree line before stopping to rest.  The last leg was the steepest part . The road arced up at too-steep an angle as our cold and laboring lungs kicked into overdrive in the frigid air.

Finally, the home stretch; our feet frozen, legs tired, breath rushing out and in as we would round the corner and into our property; our trailer and shed silently waiting for us in the dark. It was a test of our wills dealing with the mighty weight of the winter snows.

The first real snow came in mid-December. My husband had just started a job and I went to pick him up as the snow fell. By the time we got home that evening, our property was covered in about 2 and a half feet of new snow.

Everything looked as if it had been topped with marsh mellow cream dumped from a heavenly pot. Our shed, the trailer; nothing was recognizable anymore. Small objects looked as if dollops had been dabbed on them as a finishing touch for dessert time.

We set to work carving trails outlining our routine trajectories about the premises and pushed and pulled the heavy stuff from off our trailer roof. We had to climb a ladder to  scoop and shove the snow into large mounds around it’s perimeter.

Life became a lot more difficult once the snow came. The temperatures dipped into the teens and then into the single digits from there on out. As we were ill prepared for the realities of the weather in our new home, I began to entertain the idea of moving into an emergency shelter for the winter with our son. My husband would have to stay behind with the cat.

It was a difficult decision but ultimately a necessary one. Our family was separated for 3 months. Of course I saw my husband nearly every day but it wasn’t the same and we had but a short time together Christmas day.

As spring neared, we moved back to the property and readjusted to life in the bitter cold as it was still a month or so away. It was with mixed feelings that we left the warm confines of the shelter in town and moved back to the “frontier”. We were happy to be back together though. That was most important.

Our water pipes were still frozen and our RV batteries had suffered from the cold. At that time we didn’t have the money to really do a lot in maintenance. The water pipes would shatter if we tried to repair them because of the cold so we made do with workarounds.

I made use of the snow and molded sculptures of horses and random shapes. We made a sledding hill and managed to go through 3 sleds before we were done. 28782839_10215212625886030_9067324957184229376_n28378448_10215122778759908_4329071851874784719_n

The snows eventually melted as we shoveled at the driveway little by little, our pathway being the last to melt. All of those trips back and forth had compacted the ruts into thick long slabs of ice.  Then the day came that we were finally able to get our truck to the top. It was a day of turning the corner into spring.

On one sunny afternoon, it really hit me that it was mostly over. We had made it through our first winter and the snow. Sure we had stayed at a shelter but as a family, we had made it through something we were told horror stories about. And now it was almost behind us.

Spring lay ahead. And plans for our first garden on our very own property.

 

 

 

Winter is Our Friend, Winter is Our Friend

Say it with me..

6 am or so. 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 by only 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. Very little money and little means to live comfortably at this time in our lives. 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 somehow coming down the pike for all this. 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. That I’m learning and experiencing things in life that will be worth telling a story about sometime in the future but it 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 say last winter sucked for us, I mean it really did. Writing this blog, I tend to skip past a lot of 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 have made our decisions to come out here together 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 dammit. We went in with a certain amount of naivety. I actually hate the term newbie but it fits. You learn as you go or from watching Youtube.

Ultimately, we discussed it and 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 by that point. I was glad to be able to get away from the cold and I had a bigger responsibility to our son to provide a warm place for him.

When I think back on all of that last winter, the feeling that I’m going into overkill on winterizing dissolves.

Every day we do a little more to prepare. We finally got Bridgette the truck out of the shop so we can bring up supplies to put a real roof on the shed. We have the tools now that we need to do the jobs. We have the means we didn’t have last year and that’s liberating. I have an all too good understanding now of what’s in store and I’m taking this all very seriously.

We’re looking for a more efficient heating system for the fifth wheel that accounts for keeping the basement area warm enough to prevent freezing of the water pipes and drains. We laid down insulation, if haphazardly, in the basement and added insulated sheeting to the access panels, along with doors, windows, etc.

Today we bought a 350 gallon water tank for storage outside our trailer. We’re exploring ideas on how to keep it from freezing. I found a heat hose that came with the RV. I gotta figure out how it’s used or if it will apply to this situation. We’re talking about heat blankets or some other means of keeping the water in the tank from freezing.

I bought a full body Ted (the movie) sleep suit to keep me warm in the mornings. It has a hat with ears and a logo from the movie (which I’ve never seen, thank God), which I’m going to remove before I puke, but the suit looks soft and warm. That’s for the cold mornings inside when I first get up to blog. 🙂

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 and pray for snow every winter because I missed my childhood days of sledding, snowball fights; the usual stuff.  After we moved from Utah, snow became the little bit of cake mix left in the bowl you got to lick. There was never quite enough and you were always left wanting more.

Now I’ve had the whole bowl full of cake mix and I don’t want to eat anymore. 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 only sporadically, it melts pretty quickly and you get to go back to what you were doing until next time. But in the snow belt, it’s here to stay for months at a time. You can’t get away from it.

That first 15 minutes of play time is soon over and you have 172,800 more minutes to try to get it out of your boots, car, carport,  half mile of driveway, off your windshield, off of the top of your trailer, off the top of your shed, off your solar panels, off of your sidewalk (if you have one), 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. The road was completely impassible from the first deep snow on.

We wore ruts in it with our feet that became the last portion to melt come spring because of the compaction. We had good truck tires and four wheel drive initially but we didn’t put weight into the back and we had transmission problems later in the season.

Now that we have neighbors moving into the upper lot next to us, we’re hoping they’ll have the equipment to do the plowing. We’d be happy to take turns, we just don’t have the plow.

Ultimately, I have no regrets about moving. This is a dream come true for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  The same for snow. I just want to be comfortable and be able to function during the worst of the winter months. I can now take my favorite hot baths when I get too cold. We’ve made sure things are in place for those types of comforts. We’re even considering the possibility of putting in a wood stove which I dismissed at first but am now reconsidering.

I want to enjoy winter days and nights all tucked in safe, warm and cozy while we watch the snow fall outside.

Next winter, I want to be watching the snow fall from the window of a log cabin.

 

 

Cold

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

horese snow
A snow sculpture I did last year. The picture at the top is also a snow sculpture I did and enhanced with Photoshop.