Following are the stories of my family’s journey from a place of manicured lawns and HOA’s to a land of yellow jackets, ticks, mud, frozen pipes, wild animals, roof-crushing snow loads, neighbors that almost shot us, a driveway from hell – and the best adventures of our lives.
After we sold our house in suburbia in the Spring of 2017 and pulled onto the road towing our twenty foot Jayco Lite travel trailer, we literally didn’t know where we would end up by the end of that summer but we figured (rightly) that adventure awaited us on the open road and beyond.
Here’s our story.
We are a married couple with a sixteen year old son and two cats. The increasingly frenetic atmosphere of the Puget Sound region was getting to us so we sold our house in the spring of 2017, bought a travel trailer, and headed east in search of wide open spaces more compatible with our nature.
The national forest and anywhere else we were allowed to camp became our home for three months as we cruised the real estate websites for property. In September we found a few acres of raw land in eastern Washington near the Idaho and Canadian borders that was just right. It was three and a half miles away from the closest town, was far far away from any major metropolitan area – and came with no utilities.
Moving onto undeveloped land means you’re on your own. Utilities are no longer a matter of flipping a switch or paying a bill. You have to figure it all out for yourself. You become the chief engineer, contractor, and if something breaks, repair person for every project . We missed having amenities but we learned a lot from having to provide for ourselves.
We scrambled for lack of preparation for the first few months. We got our water from the city standpipe then found out they close it in the winter. Luckily, we had discovered natural springs on our property which we dug by hand. For power we used a gas generator. The following autumn, we installed solar but couldn’t really use it until the next summer.
We initially used a WiFi hotspot for Internet but it became us vs the Google data pig. The neighbors let us use their connection until we got into a fight and they changed their password. We could only connect from my husband’s spot in our bed anyway, and only if it wasn’t raining. It eventually took downing three gargantuan trees to get Internet service to the property.
Emotional and cultural adjustments were inevitable with such a big move. Like the new extremes in the weather in eastern Washington as opposed to those of the moderate rain belt we moved from, the emotional highs and lows were more extreme.
Hotter summers and colder winters gave rise to newfound happiness and adventure which gave way to days and weeks of depression but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The local Welcome pamphlet opens with “Welcome to the Wild West” and encourages the reader to “get used to it”. The attitudes of the locals reflect that sentiment.
Our first weeks at our new home were fantastic. We were officially land owners and there was exploring to do but then winter came on fierce and with a seriousness that slapped all thoughts of anything but survival out of our consciousnesses. Our water pipes froze and our worldly possessions disappeared under three or four feet of snow. Some things we didn’t find until the spring melt.
Zero degree temperatures forced us to make the decision to relocate my son and I to an emergency shelter while my husband hunkered down at the property with our cats. I worried about him being in a trailer with no heat except the central heating system. We were low on money and propane. One morning I called over and over again with no answer. I panicked and had the neighbors check on him. His phone was dead. Glad he wasn’t. I didn’t worry too much about the cats as they had fur although we had to constantly replenish their water because it would freeze.
Three months later, we moved back to the property and picked up where we left off; still struggling financially and with very little to work with. Propane in general, was still an issue although we’d gotten a small propane heater to keep us warm.
We sometimes cooked or made coffee over a fire outside. Usually camp food is the best but the worst spaghetti we ever had was cooked over one of our fires. Although we already knew how to start a fire, the experience turned us into master fire builders. I built a rocket stove but the old fashioned pit fires always worked better.
Spring, then summer came with new challenges. We got a crash course on bugs and I took up slingshot while trying to shoot down yellow jacket nests. The heat, and an oppressively hot summer made it one of the longest I’ve ever experienced but we had things in the works.
We tilled rock-hard soil and planted a garden. We dug the spring and a trough going down the hill to a catch hole. We used antiques we found buried on our land to construct things we needed such as the fence to our garden. We did whatever we could to pass the time and keep our chins up.
Thank you to my husband for helping me to get through it all. When I was at my worst, he would hold my face in his hands, look at me and say “Good things Baby, good things”.
As fall arrived, our “eggs” began to hatch and we were finally able to make some huge changes to our living conditions and begin to build, literally and figuratively, the quality of our lives. We could stop trying to just survive and begin to live.
We’ve accomplished a lot since fall. We now have a solar power system, generators, a large shed, an upgraded RV (we decided to put off building until spring), and other necessities. We have a fireplace to sit by, a wood pile, larger propane tanks and other means for which to stay comfortable and dry for the winter. So far, so good as of January 2019.
Although better prepared now, this life is not for the faint of heart. It requires sturdiness and ingenuity. More money wouldn’t hurt but we have something in the works.
Welcome again and I hope you will enjoy the stories (and some of my eccentric poems), that follow. 🙂