Modern Day Pioneers

Simple daily tasks made complicated.

Clean clothes don’t come easily nor does most anything else when you live on raw land.  For everything it’s a process . A lot more of a process than just sticking the clothes into the washer and pushing a button.

Utilities are even more complicated. We have a solar, RV battery 12 volt, and gas generator system. Depends on what you want to do, how much electricity it’s going to take, the time of day, what’s broken, and what you happen to have on hand that day.

Want some coffee? If you’re like us and are out of propane in the dead of winter and need some caffeine, you’ll need either a blow torch or some firewood and fire building skills.

A bath? You want a bath? This is going to take some time. Put the pot on the stove and turn it on high and you’ll have your bath in about an hour. A shower? Maybe, if you can take one in less than five minutes and the generator has gas and the water pipes aren’t frozen. Oh, and if the trailer’s water tank is full enough after dishes.

But you need water for some of these things. That undertaking meant weeks of digging and breaking rock to get to it. We were so lucky to have natural springs on our property. Before the spring, we depended on city water and the neighbors.

All summer we drove our truck to the city water department to fill our 55 gallon drum every third day or so then one day in fall, the standpipe closed for the winter. Our neighbors came to the rescue for a few weeks and let us fill up at their outdoor faucet but it was incredibly laborious. Eventually we built a trench down the hill from our spring  to the hole we dug to act as a holding tank near our trailer. At that point we felt a new sense of independence and accomplishment. Surprisingly, the spring poured forth water all winter in plenty.

We still had to get the water into the trailer which we did by pumping it through a hose and adding a touch of bleach in the process. We used that water for dishes and showers while buying drinking water from the store.

As for the laundry, we’d have to decide whether or not we wanted to load everything up and drive into town to the laundry mat or just do it at the property. More often than not, we did it by hand at home.

If by hand, we’d first have to get the water into a tub or the bathtub, depending on whether or not it’s summer or winter. That involves (or involved as we’ve recently upgraded) using the water pump to move water from the holding tank/hole we dug in the ground. After filling up, we’d pile the clothes in and add the detergent. A clean plunger came in handy for sloshing the mix up. I’d then turn the container over to drain it and fill up again with fresh water for the rinse. The water would still be pretty much black but my standards were pretty low at that time.

For the wringing out, I’d drilled a bunch of holes in one of those Home Depot all purpose buckets and I’d put the clothes in, take my shoes off, and mash grapes; that is, climb on top and mush the water out of the holes with my feet. It worked relatively well. Then for the clothes line we’d strung up between two trees. There the clothes would most likely get rained on.

The clothes would be anything but soft by the time I took them down and into the trailer. They would be completely wrinkled, still stained, and crispy. But hey, they were mostly clean and better than they were before. They would then sit on the couch in our cramped trailer for another week before I grudgingly sorted through them and put them away.

Some things always remain the same whether or not you have a washer and dryer. Folding and hanging clothes and putting them away is death. You avoid it at all costs. I have a pile of laundry that’s been sitting around for a week as I’m typing this.

The shower/bath thing was difficult because the water heater on our original trailer is fucked up. I tried to fix it so many times but we’d have to time it once we activated it and then you’d have to be ready to jump into the shower at exactly 12 minutes in order to catch the window between the water being ice cold still and the water heater boiling over outside. It was almost a skill; timing a shower. The heater is still messed up but we have one that works in the new fifth wheel.

Now let’s get to electrical systems. We’re still tweaking our solar power system and may have already ruined our batteries by depleting them by more than 50 percent but we’re hoping not. We run on solar mainly at night and in the mornings at this point as we just don’t have enough panels to generate what we need. We ordered our third set of solar panels this morning and added a new controller to the existing 8 panels this afternoon. We still need to see how adding the new controller to the mix contributes tomorrow when the sun comes out again. We were running all 8 panels through one controller until we found out it was too small to handle the amps (or watts or volts or something like that).

At this point though, we can’t run our electric refrigerator on solar so we unplug it and try to stay out of the fridge until we start the generator. If it’s plugged in when we plug in the solar, we lose our internet. That’s where the protocol comes in. Many things we do here involve using a set order of tasks we have to follow in order for things to go smoothly.

When the generator goes on, remove the plug from the inverter, turn it off, unplug the fridge, plug in at the generator itself. Then you can do laundry and use the microwave. When that’s reversed, unplug the fridge and replug into the inverter. Make sure the laundry’s done and anything you want to microwave is done. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve turned off the generator only to realize we wanted to microwave something. We ordered a propane fridge today. Finally.

If the solar has flopped in the middle of the night and you want to use the internet and/or your computer needs juice, turn on the other inverter back by the RV batteries, and plug the modem into that extension cord.

Does this all sound exhausting? It is. Thank God things are improving day by day. I now have a washer/dryer in the fifth wheel along with a shower that works.

And we have hot water for the kitchen now! The repairman came today and turned the temperature dial to cooler. That was the only thing wrong with it!