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 been a couple of months since we bought our solar power system and we’ve noticed a big problem that seems to run across the DIY industry: the kits don’t have a built-in low voltage disconnect (LVD) for the AC part of the set up.

Solar kits run both AC and DC loads. The AC is the one you would use for your home. It’s strong enough to run the big appliances. The DC is stuff you run right off of your batteries like when you go camping.

With batteries, if you deplete them too much, they become damaged and their lifespan is shortened significantly.

Our solar power kit came with charge controllers that have a low voltage disconnect (LVD). It cuts the draw from the batteries at a certain voltage to protect the battery but ours only turns off the DC load – the part we don’t use.

The inverter that came with our solar kit turns off the load at 10.5 volts – way too late.

Because we thought everything was being monitored, our batteries ran well below fifty percent many times. We wonder if they’re ruined.

I bought a generic LVD from another company and installed it but it stopped working, possibly because it couldn’t handle the amount of amps going through it. I was warned that might happen.

We had to remove the relay so the inverter would work again but now we are back to square one. One option we have is to buy an inverter that is programmable but they’re super expensive.  We now have no way to monitor the batteries but we kind of don’t care. I’m tired of messing with this stuff for now. I need a break so we’re back to using the gas generators until everything is running smoothly.

Here’s another thing to be aware of if you live in an RV: when you’re adding up how many watts the various appliances use per hour, don’t forget  you’re charging the RV batteries also.

I had a ball trying to figure out how many watts it takes per hour to charge fifty percent of two batteries. I’d share the formula but I lost the paper with my notes on it.

The solar kits come with a battery thermometer that plugs into the charge controller. The temperature probe gets taped onto the side of the battery to let the charge controller know how much energy to use to charge the battery, depending on whether it’s super cold or hot. They’re not mandatory but they make charging more efficient.

There are a lot of variables that impact the functioning of a solar power system. If one part isn’t running or working well, there goes the whole thing until you track down the problem.

I believe a low voltage disconnect is the most important part by far. Batteries are expensive. Every DIY kid should have one built into the AC part of the system.

I love having solar but the truth is it’s been a huge pain in the but to set up properly.

This poem says it all:  Rant Poem On DIY Solar

 

Winter is Our Friend, Winter is Our Friend

Say it with me..

Our first winter here: It’s early morning. Snow is falling and the neighbor is texting to say she hopes the trailer doesn’t cave in.

I go out into the white with my pajamas still on under my coat, boots and gloves. With a huge groan, I wrestle the ladder around to the back of our makeshift shed that is topped only with tarps that are sagging under the load. I don’t want a cave in.

I climb up the ladder with a shovel and start to scoop and push snow off the side. At least the plastic is slippery and I can move some of the snow to the edge and off. One shovel at a time. I figure each push is a little less weight on the “roof”. The snow is heavy and the shovel is cumbersome to manipulate from the top of the ladder.

I’m bummed. The snow is oppressive to me right now. Not fun – like it used to be.

I feel resentful that I agreed to sell our home in the burbs to come out here and experience this. I did agree to it though. Maybe a reward is in our future, I think to myself. I often burst out in tears at this point, wanting to live somewhere else.

Deep down, I know this will pass – that there is meaning in everything. I know I’m learning and experiencing things in life that will be worth telling a story about someday – but this sucks. I’m breathing hard and I’m cold and miserable. I’m angry. I’m depressed. Once again, for the hundredth time, I feel resentment that I’m even here.

When I write, I usually don’t mention the emotional upheaval that truthfully underlies our story. We’ve argued and cried (mostly me) time and time again about our circumstances. I want to blame but I know I have no one to hold accountable but myself. I understand we decided as a family to come out here but this is really, really really hard.

But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

horese snow
Snow sculpture I made.

A hundred, not even a hundred years ago this is how people lived but they were used to it. We went in with a certain amount of naivety. I actually hate the term newbie but it fits. Live and learn.

Soon after this, me and my son went to live at an emergency shelter in town for three months while my husband stayed on the property with the cat. I didn’t even care about admitting defeat at that point. I was glad to be able to get away from the cold.

Although I grew up in Utah where the climate is very similar to that here, I’ve lived most of my adult life out of the snow belt. Western Washington, the Puget Sound region is where I’ve spent a majority of that time. It’s the rain belt; a place of moderate temperatures year round and lots of rain.

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

Now I’ve had a bowl-full and some. I’m satisfied. It’s not so fun anymore. As a matter of fact, it’ll soon be the only thing I get to eat every day.

When it snows for the first time each year, the first fifteen minutes of play time is soon over and you have 172,800 more minutes to try to get it out of your boots, car, half-mile of driveway, off of the top of your trailer (before it caves in), off the top of your shed, off your solar panels, and out of your life in general.

20200110_160520
Keeping the solar cleaned off.

The reality of snow is that it slows you down, gets dirty, is heavy, is cold, is wet, and rules your life for months at a time. But snow is also transforming. It muffles sound and brings soft silence. It is fun to play in and it’s just beautiful. That’s why I missed it so much all of those adult years.

I think our biggest problem last winter is that we couldn’t get out of it and get comfortable. We had to trek back and forth up and down our half-mile long driveway to and from our truck because the four-wheel drive broke and with that, the road was completely impassible from the first deep snow on.

mids

We made ruts with our feet as we trudged back and forth carrying groceries and hauling propane cylinders in the wagon we took the wheels off of to make into a sled. The deer and the other animals shared the trail with us. They’re not stupid.

Despite the challenges, I have no regrets about moving.

Thankfully, this winter we’re better prepared. I can now take hot baths when I get too cold and we have a fireplace to keep us toasty.

This year, I can look forward to winter days and nights tucked in safe, warm, and cozy while we watch the snow fall outside.

 

 

 

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.

What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter

It was cold and it was solid and it wasn’t letting our dishes go.

25231901698.pngIt lasted for months; the block of ice that held most of our dishes captive.

I remember the day I was able to wrest the last utensil free of the icy tomb that had encased our pans, forks, spoons, spatulas, glasses, bowls and plates – almost everything we ate off of – in one huge chunk of ice.

The Dishberg.

We had recently moved to eastern Washington and were living in a trailer on raw land when it happened. As we were settling in, we met our neighbors and stories were told of winters in eastern Washington – temperatures of minus forty-degrees with snow drifts up to the eaves of your house.

When we mentioned we were from west of the mountains, we got the all-knowing nod of someone who has just learned you are from The Coast and they must break the news to you of the impending doom that is winter in Stevens County.

Incidentally, you are from The Coast if you are from anywhere west of the Cascade mountain range. It doesn’t matter how far from the ocean you live; you are from The Coast and are referred to as a Coasty.

The stories were almost true. We weren’t prepared and me and our son went to live in an emergency shelter for three months while my husband stayed in our trailer with the cat.

Occasionally, I’d come to take a load of dishes to the shelter to wash because the trailer’s pipes were frozen. One day I piled them up in a large Tupperware container to get them  out of the way and put it outside.  For some reason, it sat there for a couple of days filling with water. Before long the whole container froze solid.

The mass was heavy and there was no breaking it up because there were plastic and glass items embedded in it. It sat for a couple of months before it finally began to thaw. I remember when it melted enough to break into smaller pieces I could bring inside and run hot water over and by the end of March, we finally had all of our dishes back.

Now if we could only find the coffee pot lid I lost in the snow in February.

 

 

 

Insulating For Snowmageddon

Better over than under done.

We’ve been debating over how to best insulate the travel trailers we’re living in.

The small trailer our son is living in is much easier because it’s small.  Our fifth wheel, however, is like a barn on wheels.  We’ll have to locate and seal all the cracks, skirt around the outside to keep wind from blowing through, and find a way to keep the “basement” warm (that’s what they call the lower storage compartment of a fifth wheel)

I’ve had my head crammed in the online RV forums and on Youtube for weeks trying to figure out the best way to do this. For skirting: foam board vs RV cloth skirting vs straw bales vs snap-on panels. For the basement where all of the water tanks and lines are, what kind of heater and where?

When I told someone what we were planning, they asked if we were anticipating minus forty-degree weather for weeks. I told them “yes, we were – and snow up to the roof”. No repeats of last winter when our trailer turned into an ice cube and half of us had to live in town.

Bubble wrap will go on the windows, the door needs to be sealed around the edges, and cupboard doors will get the treatment also. We have a digital thermometer to get readings on the surfaces to find air leaks through temperature changes.

Last year, I tried to use spray foam insulation on the bottom of the small trailer. It wouldn’t stick – accept on my hair. It works great for sealing up cracks and holes though. Insulated sleeves go around the water pipes and we’ll use regular house insulation to fill up some of the empty space in the basement. It’s super hard to get in to lay it out so I’m the one that goes in for those jobs.

As we over-prepare for freezing temperatures, I think about the story of The Ants and the Grasshopper. I want to play the role of the ants this time around.

No more calls from my husband saying “I’m stuck in the trailer. The door is frozen shut!”