Our first winter here: It’s early morning. Snow is falling and the neighbor is texting to say she hopes the trailer doesn’t cave in.
I go out into the white with my pajamas still on under my coat, boots and gloves. With a huge groan, I wrestle the ladder around to the back of our makeshift shed that is topped only with tarps that are sagging under the load. I don’t want a cave in.
I climb up the ladder with a shovel and start to scoop and push snow off the side. At least the plastic is slippery and I can move some of the snow to the edge and off. One shovel at a time. I figure each push is a little less weight on the “roof”. The snow is heavy and the shovel is cumbersome to manipulate from the top of the ladder.
I’m bummed. The snow is oppressive to me right now. Not fun – like it used to be.
I feel resentful that I agreed to sell our home in the burbs to come out here and experience this. I did agree to it though. Maybe a reward is in our future, I think to myself. I often burst out in tears at this point, wanting to live somewhere else.
Deep down, I know this will pass – that there is meaning in everything. I know I’m learning and experiencing things in life that will be worth telling a story about someday – but this sucks. I’m breathing hard and I’m cold and miserable. I’m angry. I’m depressed. Once again, for the hundredth time, I feel resentment that I’m even here.
When I write, I usually don’t mention the emotional upheaval that truthfully underlies our story. We’ve argued and cried (mostly me) time and time again about our circumstances. I want to blame but I know I have no one to hold accountable but myself. I understand we decided as a family to come out here but this is really, really really hard.
But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
A hundred, not even a hundred years ago this is how people lived but they were used to it. We went in with a certain amount of naivety. I actually hate the term newbie but it fits. Live and learn.
Soon after this, me and my son went to live at an emergency shelter in town for three months while my husband stayed on the property with the cat. I didn’t even care about admitting defeat at that point. I was glad to be able to get away from the cold.
Although I grew up in Utah where the climate is very similar to that here, I’ve lived most of my adult life out of the snow belt. Western Washington, the Puget Sound region is where I’ve spent a majority of that time. It’s the rain belt; a place of moderate temperatures year round and lots of rain.
I used to pray for snow every winter because I missed my childhood days of sledding and snowball fights. After we moved from Utah, snow became the little bit of cake mix left in the bowl you got to lick. There was never enough and you were always left wanting more.
Now I’ve had a bowl-full and some. I’m satisfied. It’s not so fun anymore. As a matter of fact, it’ll soon be the only thing I get to eat every day.
When it snows for the first time each year, the first fifteen minutes of play time is soon over and you have 172,800 more minutes to try to get it out of your boots, car, half-mile of driveway, off of the top of your trailer (before it caves in), off the top of your shed, off your solar panels, and out of your life in general.
The reality of snow is that it slows you down, gets dirty, is heavy, is cold, is wet, and rules your life for months at a time. But snow is also transforming. It muffles sound and brings soft silence. It is fun to play in and it’s just beautiful. That’s why I missed it so much all of those adult years.
I think our biggest problem last winter is that we couldn’t get out of it and get comfortable. We had to trek back and forth up and down our half-mile long driveway to and from our truck because the four-wheel drive broke and with that, the road was completely impassible from the first deep snow on.
We made ruts with our feet as we trudged back and forth carrying groceries and hauling propane cylinders in the wagon we took the wheels off of to make into a sled. The deer and the other animals shared the trail with us. They’re not stupid.
Despite the challenges, I have no regrets about moving.
Thankfully, this winter we’re better prepared. I can now take hot baths when I get too cold and we have a fireplace to keep us toasty.
This year, I can look forward to winter days and nights tucked in safe, warm, and cozy while we watch the snow fall outside.
It’s a fifth wheel and being a recreational vehicle meant for travel on the road, every time you park it and unhitch, you have to level it; that is, try to distribute the weight of the rig as evenly as possible all around as well as getting it on an even plane.
If you don’t do it properly, everything will be slightly twisted and the doors and access panels will not open and shut.
It doesn’t help that one of our hydraulic landing jacks isn’t moving up or down. I think it’s a damaged sheer pin and I’m not sure we can fix it by ourselves.
We had to dig ruts in the uneven ground before we had the RV delivered to compensate. The ground slopes up quite a bit on the front end side so we’re having to dig an extra deep hole for the tripod that stabilizes the bedroom portion.
We almost had the most difficult portion in the front done when the jack broke. We could only adjust so far by digging so if you put a marble (or anything else that will roll) on the bathroom counter – off it goes towards the rear of the place.
I’ll try to get used to it but my internal level screams “off-kilter” whenever I walk through the bathroom.
The last people who lived on our property left in the late 1950’s.
We’ve narrowed the time down by going through their trash.
Back then, people who lived away from town dumped their garbage on their own property away from the house.
When we first found bottles laying on an embankment near our trailer, we excitedly set to work sifting through the dirt and piles of garbage. We pulled out bottles, cans, car parts, broken cookware, the first TV dinner trays, and other stuff dating to the early 1920’s.
We noted, through the artifacts we uncovered, the evolution of man’s refuse from heavy iron objects meant to last a lifetime to the beginning of the disposable age of cartridges filled with replaceable razor blades, the TV Dinner trays, and old tubes of toothpaste and Preparation H (hemorrhoids are nothing new, after all).
Holding someone else’s possessions in my hands after so many years left me wondering what their former owners were like. Of course they did dishes, cooked, cleaned, cried, laughed, drank, and read books……all of the things we do today but was the culture different? I’m sure their leisure time was spent much differently with the exception of some old standbys Endcap Entertainment.
The land passed through a succession of owners but no one saw fit to stay here for sixty years – to care about the place. It sat quietly waiting with only the deer, the ants, the trees, rocks, and soil to occupy it’s time.
But these family’s stories have been preserved, ironically, in the things they cared least about at the time they were left behind. An egg beater thrown near the base of a young tree is disappearing into decades of its growth.
Tin cans, rusted into scraps, litter the slope. Parts of machinery that held up better under the gentle onslaught of time, still insist they are useful.
Salad forks, spoons, lamp bases, marbles, and can openers lay encased in the dirt inches below the soil. Protected from the elements, souvenirs from Japan, a hand poured heart made of lead, vases and every other type of thing a family would use during the early to mid-twentieth century stayed behind when they moved. I wouldn’t think of taking my trash with me, either. 🙂
One day, I found a bracelet bearing the name Tommy Best, tossed down the hillside with the rest of the trash. Why, I wondered? I called him and asked: Blast From The Past.
With every mundane object or broken keepsake we unearthed, I wondered what the family might think of us happily digging up what they threw out after dinner one night in 1945?
Would the lady of the house mind that I polished up her can opener and was using it again for the first time in sixty years? I bet she wouldn’t.
I wouldn’t mind if I was a ghost.
PS As I was finishing the editing on this post, a cupboard door in my kitchen quietly opened by itself. I really wonder if they’re watching now.
Inspired when the inside of our trailer froze last year.
Cold By Linda Jordan
Stealing along a darkened road; it’s path crooked
Fleeting around trees, leaves shivering in its wake, grass frozen mid-bow in homage
Inspecting, watchful, it’s purpose clear
A lone traveler comes; hungry for warmth
A house in the darkness; to the porch, peeking into windows; a door ajar
Cold sees an opportunity
Leaning in like a party guest offering unwanted advice, seizing the moment to enter
Quickly occupying every nook and cranny; nesting, rooting,
Inching forward through every carelessly cracked window, down every open chimney flue
Seeping along the floor, hugging corners
Inspecting cupboards, trying on boots and gloves
Filling closets and testing bed sheets; searching
Halting in a darkened corner, cold utters a sigh; glittery breath frosting windows in the vacant night
Uninvited visitor, unwelcome guest in the quiet
Faintly, the sound of voices tug at the fringes of its weary consciousness;
Lights flicker on interrupting its blue reverie; the rising sound of laughter assaults it’s crude senses
Suddenly feeling exposed, resolve melting, Cold hurriedly gathers it’s things, shoulder’s its frosty rucksack, and dissolves into the baseboards and walls, hiding
Whispering down halls, tendrils collecting its belongings along the way, cold escapes out the door as a warm body enters, door shut rudely at it’s back
Indignant and disheveled, Cold collects itself, shrugs its pack into place, and starts once again down the road trailing winter behind it
A very confused Yellow Jacket. Get it “”Flies” all over”?
They hover outside your door and the second you open it, they ride the air current into your house. “They” are Yellow Jackets.
If one gets inside, you have to follow it around with a rolled up newspaper or other weapon of choice until you get it because if you don’t, it will wait for you – then – zap – then pain.
I got stung twice this summer and my husband once. His was worse because he was sleeping when I heard him groan in pain. It was really bad judging by his reaction.
I asked to see the wound and I recognized it as a sting. I quickly crawled to the bottom of the bed and sure enough, there was a hornet still buzzing against the canvas. I squished it and showed it to him.
What a rude awakening.
It hurt him for a couple of days unlike mine. When I got stung, I was simply walking when I felt a sharp pain on the top of my foot. I realized what had happened and I grabbed it and put pressure on the sting. That seemed to help and I barely felt it after that.
The second time it happened I was sitting on a bench when a Yellow Jacket got me in my leg. I put pressure on it again but this time the back of my leg swelled up considerably over the next two days.
Wondering if I was having an allergic reaction that might get worse, we did some research and found out it’s called a large localized reaction. It’s a kind of allergic reaction but it’s not the type that’s systemic and dangerous. I just waited for the swelling to go down. Based on what I read, if you have a large localized reaction, your chances of having a more severe reaction the next time increase.
The Yellow Jackets were rampant this summer. When we went to get spray, the store shelves were empty. Apparently the scourge was worse than usual this year – perhaps due to the heat and shortage of water.
To keep them at bay, we set out various DIY and store-bought traps.
One deterrent is to make a fake hive and hang it up. Those didn’t seem to work but most of the water bait traps worked fairly well. Yellow Jackets love meat – especially hot dogs. We’d place one in a shallow tub surrounded by soapy water and the bees would land in the water and die quickly because of the dish soap.
We found some hives in the trees around our property and used a garden insecticide type sprayer filled with water and soap to soak the nests and kill the colonies. It worked really well but of course you have to keep your distance.
My husband told me that when a hive is first attacked, the insects go into swarming mode but as soon as it finished off, they seem to realize they’ve been defeated and simply hang around but are not aggressive.
We had fun shooting down a nest that was too close to the trailer with a BB gun. By the time it fell, it was nothing but shreds of nest material. I began to shoot rocks at it with a sling shot. I still shoot marbles today but with a can for a target.
I spent a lot of time digging our spring deeper because of the declining water table and the yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, black headed whipper snappers or whatever you call them liked “the hole” as much as me. It was a primary water source for everyone during an especially dry summer and the competition was fierce.
For the most part, we shared the space in peace but every once in a while I would grab my homemade oversized swatter and smack them all down so I could dig for a few minutes without having to have eyes in the back of my head.
It was fun to play yellow jacket tennis too.
I made a game out of swinging at every one that would happen by. I counted upwards of a couple of hundred per session. I would use the back and forth maneuver, the backhand, and the close quarters anti yellow jacket ninja move if they entered my personal bubble. I suppose I’m lucky I didn’t get stung.
God forbid you open a can of tuna in the trailer to make a sandwich. They would smell it from miles away and swarm the door and vents, trying to get in. It was almost scary. I would have to eat inside also.
We used the tuna juice against them also. We bought a fly trap at the hardware store that had a one-way top. It came with fly bait but we put the top on an empty plastic gallon milk jug with the tuna juice inside and they went nuts trying to get in.
We’d watch the jug fill up with buzzing bodies climbing over each other trying to get out. Better in than out but there seemed to be an endless supply that summer.
It’s cooling down and I haven’t seen one in a few days. I won’t miss them or the games.
It’s time to put away my Whackajacket 2000 till next summer.
Little white marbles – four hundred of them – lost.
Out into the trees, into the ditch, under layers of pine needles and behind clumps of dirt. Like gold, they quickly find their way to the deepest recesses where I can barely see them. When I run out, it’s time to forage.
One day while I was wandering around looking for the balls, the act of concentrating seemed to put me into a trance. I became contemplative and wondered if the universe communicates to us through symbols and if so, could I learn something from rambling around looking for marbles?
What if each ball represented a truth? Then the following might apply:
They are sometimes easier to find in the darkness rather than the light.
The harder you look for them the more they seem to elude you.
Sometimes they are right in front of you and you don’t see them.
Sometimes you walk right over them only to spot them when looking from a different perspective.
Some get buried in the dirt but they still remain visible if you look closely enough.
They are all around you but you don’t always see them.
They seem to appear magically in front of you with the right frame of mind.
Just when you think you’ve found them all there are always more.
Although they seem lost forever, they are there, somewhere. Or are they?
Are they there when observed and gone when not?
They are more visible with an open mind.
Some travel farther than others.
Picking them out of the pine needles can hurt.
You can drive yourself crazy looking for them in the snow or you can be patient and wait till Spring when they will reveal themselves.
Where the hell do the ones I never find go? Does some gopher have a living room full of them?
We camped in the national forest near Snoqualmie Pass during the summer of 2017 while we looked for property to buy. It was a popular area and most of the spots were full at that time of year.
Every now and then, a bear will discover that food is readily available in these places and will take advantage of the smorgasbord. One had been seen going up and down the road so the Forest Service had posted warning signs.
My husband and I were driving back to camp one afternoon when we spotted a truck parked just off the road with the tailgate down. At the end, and supplies at the end.
We pulled over. The bear took off and I very carefully crept up to the truck hoping I wasn’t about to see a blood bath. I got close enough to peak into the back and into the shell.
There was a man asleep but very much alive in the back! His feet had been mere inches away from where the bear had been destroying his goods. I woke him up and told him what had happened. Can you imagine if he had woken up while the bear was at work? He would have had no where to go.
Our family has had our own bear encounters.
One year one kept coming into our campsite so we moved our food to the car with the exception of some canned goods. We learned that cans don’t stop bears when we woke up to find it with a can crushed in its mouth, enjoying the contents through the holes it had bitten.
It continued to cruise the campsites so we called Fish and Game. I don’t know what they did about it.
We now carry bear spray wherever we go.
Recently, two men who were mountain biking near North Bend, not far from where we used to camp, were attacked by a cougar. One of them ran, and was subsequently killed. . This was just months ago.
We now live in much closer proximity to predators.
A couple of years ago, a bear attacked a neighbor’s dog in her carport and she beat it away. There are wolf packs in the area that are being tracked for conservation efforts. They have been killing livestock which has lead to ongoing friction between the conservationists and the ranchers.
Be prepared if predators may be around: make noise so you don’t surprise an animal, be aware of your surroundings, store all food away from yourself, and carry a firearm or bear spray.
If you’re not careful, you may not be as lucky as the guy in the back of the truck.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L’Amour
Yeah, only in my case, you have to dig the damned well, install a water filter and about five-hundred feet of hose, put the hose in the trailer water inlet (it puts the water in the trailer or it doesn’t get the coffee), turn off the water pump that you realized has been on all night pumping air, make the coffee after you get enough water in the tank to make it, check on said status of water refill, run in and check on coffee making status, run up to the top of the property again to “turn off” the water (pull the hose out of the spring), run down again and turn the coffee to low for perking, turn on the generator sometime during all of this, and plug in the fridge because it was turned off when plugged into the solar.
It’s then and only then that you can sit down and have the freaking coffee.