December In March

 

I wake up at three in the morning, open the door to the RV and what am I greeted by? Spring crocuses? Nope. The sound of songbirds (although not likely at this hour)? Nope.

Try a foot of new snow on the doorstep. It’s March for Godsake.

Did spring lose it’s way and pass our driveway by? Nope. I can see that the city down the hill is coated in fresh white. County too. As a matter of fact, BIG sections of the country are experiencing an identity crisis of seasons.

I don’t know if it’s global warming or the natural long-term patterns of a planet but the thermometer reads zero degrees and our pipes are frozen again. No water for coffee until we thaw them.

I’m tired of this. I’m whining at full volume and full speed ahead. No apologies here. You can tough it out all you want. I’m done.

Just when we thought we had this tiger by the tail, it’s whipped us. We managed to stay above twenty degrees for most of the winter until March. And more snow is forecast for Monday through Wednesday coming up.

The cats and I went to scrounge for some catnip in the Winter garden this morning but it’s just that……buried under four feet of snow. I dug a trench to the last remembered location of the wilted heap and began to dig. I knew I was getting close when the felines suddenly began to dig alongside me.

I scooped out a bit of the magical kitty herb and half trudged, half excavated my way back to the driveway, cats in trance behind me. I quickly dismissed a half-second thought of clearing the whole garden patch. Didn’t take too much effort.

The wilted mass that is catnip.

Water’s been mission impossible for the last week in the below normal temps. We’d drag the hoses inside, filling up our RV with loop after loop of frozen rubber while the ice inside melted, then drag the thousand feet of inevitably tangled anaconda-like mess outside only to have them freeze up again by the time we had them strung out and ready to siphon.

Although we’ve done our best to keep the pump and heated hose clear, the zero temps are still having their way with us.  No water until they thaw with the help of a small heater fan every morning.  The cold and snow have also been having their way with our driveway. Already got stuck and shook hands with a small tree last week due to worn tires.

Off to Walmart to have new tires put on so we can get back up our driveway.

At least they have coffee.

Art and a Hack

One of my hobbies.

Try to find a Dorodango ball for sale on the internet. I dare you. Good luck.

Dorodango means mud dumpling in Japanese (I think). It’s literally dirt formed into a ball then dried and polished over a period of time (everyone has their own technique), to become something pretty impressive.

20181001_192727
My first semi-successful Dorodango ball.

I’ve been trying to successfully make one for about a month now. It takes practice. They tend to crack and the outer shell tends to nick during polishing depending on how you do it.

I’ve tried and tried to finish one over the past weeks. I threw a few. I wrote a poem about them but deleted it because my son was silent after I read it to him. Maybe I’ll rewrite it from memory.

I finally successfully made one today. I want to sell them. Especially after I discovered I couldn’t find but one on the entire internet for sale. I couldn’t believe it. There’s a vacuum in that market. Maybe Etsy,  maybe here.

This last year has been very difficult. Very. We’ve had some really hard times and one of the things that helped me through it was my various art projects. I had to use what we had on hand most of the time and dirt was readily available. This is a fun activity and I highly recommend it but it takes patience. Just hit youtube for some tutorials if you want to give it a try.

Onto a couple off the grid self described hacks.

I came up with an ingenious idea for keeping the hoses and water filter from freezing this winter. The spring and holding pit never freeze even in extended zero degree temps. We learned that last year.

Why not mount the filter under the water line and just keep the hoses in the water also when not in use? Theoretically it makes sense.

We hit some items on the monumental To Do list today also.

We pulled the RV’s water tank out today. Had to pull out a small part of the structure in the RV basement to get it out. We’ll replace it of course.

We put it on a couple of barrels so we could fill it up to see if the bottom really leaked and filled it with water. No leaks on the actual bottom but both inlet/outlet receptacles leak around the edges. I sprayed a coat of Flexseal on it and am letting it sit overnight. Will do again tomorrow then fill again to see if the leak is fixed.

If we can use that tank, we won’t have to wrestle with keeping an exterior water tank from freezing. Crossing fingers. One thing at a time.

We called the manufacturer of the dreaded and cherished gas hot water heater and asked them why the thing isn’t turning off. The water is getting super hot. Not safe. We’re just turning the gas off after about a half hour of heating for the time being.

They said it sounds like a thermostat. 10.00 on Amazon. It’s under warranty but why bother for such a small amount?

Incidentally, Atwood is now Dometic (maker of RV appliances and maybe other things).

One item at a time off of the check list.

But wait, there’s more. There’s always more. We believe the front right hydraulic jack sheer pin sheered. It is a sheer pin after all. The jack won’t move up or down. We’re trying to finish leveling the trailer still. Everything on the bathroom counter roles towards the rear of the trailer. Driving me nuts.

We added 2 more batteries to the solar power system this afternoon. We’re going to try the TV for a little while. I think it’s charging fine after all. Added 4 more 100 watt panels to the system yesterday. It was a challenge to figure out the wiring. It’s still really rough looking mounted on two sheets of plywood. We need to secure the panels better before a windstorm hits.

Now to reap the rewards of siphoning the water from the top of the property from the well we dug, installing a new hot water heater, removing and reinstalling the shower faucet approximately 6 times as a result of the overheated water, and installing a new water pump.

I think I deserve a hot bath.

Hack: You can use one little microfiber rag to dry off your entire body after a shower. Just keep wringing it out as you go. They work great. I’ve had to do it more than once upon realizing no towels were available.

The Spring

The heart of our place.

When we first saw the property, it was late August and everything in eastern Washington was very dry, needless to say. Knowing this, we were trying to decide how we would have access to water. We considered a large tank and delivery. We asked our agent about a well and she said maybe a few hundred feet down we might find water.

I found water at about 1.5 feet.

The day we arrived, I explored every square inch of our newly acquired 3.7 acres and looked for likely spots for water. I had been online getting tips so I looked for green amongst the brown and signs of winter run off ditches. I found one spot on a hill on the property that actually had some green grass growing at that time of year. I decided to dig there.

I can’t remember how long it took; just a couple of hours I think, as there was solid rock right at the surface, but I chipped and dug away and to my disbelief, the soil turned damp and then…actual standing water.

I had found a spring.

It could have been runoff but all signs pointed to spring water as I continued to go a little deeper. It turned out that the whole hillside was either one massive spring with a multitude of outlets or tons of springs all over the hillside. Some sources were larger than others but you could almost dig anywhere up there and find water coming up out of clay tubes and cracks between rocks.

We decided to use it as a water supply and at one point, we trenched a tiny path down the hillside to a larger holding hole we had dug. We used our pump to put water directly into the trailer for washing and just got drinking water either from the city’s standpipe or bought jugs from the store.

All through the winter we got a pretty good flow and measured about 12 or more gallons per minute using the bucket method. Problem is, the flow almost dried up over summer. That’s why we didn’t try to tap it during the colder months. I ended up going down a little deeper during the summer months but we had water all year long!

Come fall, we called contractor after contractor to dig a shallow well to make things official but they were all booked months ahead. Faced with another winter with an amateur setup, we went and got a sediment filter to run the water through before going into the trailers. Our hoses froze last winter so we (as with everything we plan around here), have to think ahead for that. We had that flow all last winter so we’re thinking the only tricky time might be between when the freeze hits and before the water is flowing again. We’ll have to be careful to keep the hoses empty after each use. The water filter too.

Mind you, I know things are a bit dicy with water rights here in Stevens County so I’m still trying to figure out where we stand with all of this legally. We can have a shallow well dug no problem; that’s all we need anyway but I discovered something interesting while digging this summer.

Sure it was hot and there may have been surface runoff somehow making it’s way down well beneath the surface but I began to notice slightly hot spots in places at the bottom of the spring. It was coming up a rock face and was pretty consistent. I felt around day after day with my fingers trying to decide if this might be geothermal activity.

Just a month or two earlier, while looking at geological maps for prospecting purposes, we discovered that not only were we situated in the middle of a series of faults but that, by the look of things, we might be sitting right on top of one! That would explain the springs and, possibly, geothermal activity.

I called WSU’s (Washington State University) geology department and spoke with a geologist there. He seemed to think it might be runoff but trust me, I just have a hunch something else is going on down there. I called an attorney about buying the water rights but it sounds like a complicated process. We’ll see. We want someone to come out and drill to settle the matter of geothermal activity. Maybe next spring?

We’re also considering getting a micro water generator for electricity. More research is needed though.

All in all, we watered our garden all summer by siphoning through hundreds of feet of garden hose to the holding hole, then pumping it out to the sprinkler. Pretty nifty huh? When we dug the garden, we routed the water into the area and created a temporary mud pit to soften the clay rich soil to a point where it was a tad bit easier (bit still almost impossible to turn).

Our spring (or Stevens County’s spring), is the heart of our property. It represents life and hope for us and it’s the place I go when I need to think or just cry. It’s my place: and the yellow jacket’s. I had to share the space with them all summer long in that hole. We managed to get along, somehow, and everyone got their water.

20180928_180511
Looking up the hill with the hose for siphoning.