From 116 to 6 Degrees In 6 Months

When we left the temperate Puget Sound region four years ago, we were tired of the year-round rain. We wanted contrast – seasons.

I can now tell the difference between winter and summer.

At the end of June, the thermometer topped at 116 degrees. Now it’s the end of December and it’s 6 degrees according to the digital thermometer in the car. That’s over a hundred degree difference.

Our outdoor thermometers disappeared so after a fruitless search at Walmart today for another (apparently everyone wants to know how cold it is), if we want to know the temperature, we have to get into the car, make sure all the doors are shut, turn it on and read the overhead display.

I was also shopping for a snowblower while out. The sidewalks in front of the stores were empty. I wouldn’t be surprised if the run on cold weather survival tools is why we couldn’t find an electric blanket either.

I knew I was gambling a couple of months ago when I purchased a plastic electric snow shovel at the local hardware store. I was skeptical but after the salesperson truthfully explained that the thing was only good for use on a perfectly smooth patio or risk chipping the cheap plastic blades, I bought it anyway.

Little did I know what was coming. This year’s a whopper so far and it’s just begun.

We’ve had approximately fifteen feet of snow in the past week (or so it seems), much more than the Patio-Pal is made to handle. It doesn’t help that it’s not ergonomically designed.

Imagine pushing a two-hundred pound golf club around in two feet of snow while depressing some sort of “on” switch lest it turn off. Some improvements were imperative.

First I screwed a bent baking sheet to the bottom to displace the weight and make it slide more easily. I then moved the extra grip to a location where it’s not supposed to be. The grip broke off after a few minutes but the sled effect actually helps. Slopes are a bit of a problem because it now wants to slide downhill, but overall, I consider it an improvement. I also taped the “on” switch to the “on” position and use the plug to turn it on and off.

Now I need about a thousand more feet of extension cord.

I might order a gas powered snow blower but I’ll give the little one another week. With winter being off to such a rare start, we may break down and order the Snow Hog 5000 Self-Propelled Deluxe before the month is up.

To keep warm, nothing beats a fireplace. I made a smaller one this year out of an old propane tank and it works like a charm. We call it The Boiler because it looks like something out of a steamship boiler room of yesteryear. We have to cut the wood into smaller pieces but it suites our needs and gives us more room in our dining/living room. Space is at a premium here.

The car has new tires and the undercarriage had a good once over at the mechanic a couple of months ago so it’s a real mountain goat. Our beloved Bridgette, the truck – not so much. She has four-wheel-drive but we’ve never gotten the hang of driving her in the snow. We won’t leave untreated gas in her tank while she waits for spring like we did last year, but sit she will, until then.

Getting around the property after a good dump is difficult (I’m talking about the snow). Step off the path and you’ll sink. I considered getting snow shoes while I was out but decided we could stick to the trails for now.

God forbid I try to forge my way out to the various security cameras who’s line of sight is now totally obscured by tree branches loaded with snow. I followed a game trail out to one today and knocked the snow off only to find the now bent branch still obstructing the view when I got back to the monitor. It’ll have to be cut. It can wait.

The hoses are frozes as they are every winter. We pump our water from the spring at the top of the property through them to a large water tank next to our RV. I’m personally tired of loading them into the hose-thawing shack and have been looking for an easier way to refill the tank.

A couple of days ago I dropped a water tank heater inside the tank and loaded it up with snow. I knew it wasn’t the most efficient method but anything seems more efficient than hefting the hoses onto the hooks in the shack. Probably not efficient but it felt like it was easier because the water was right there but frozen. Don’t worry, we use the water for everything but drinking.

The next day we dragged the hoses all the way up to the top of the property and wove them into one of the springs. We reasoned that because the water wasn’t frozen, the hoses wouldn’t freeze either. By golly, when we dragged them back down the next day, they were clear! We will try this again, but for today, I shoveled more snow directly into the tank.

This is tiring. I want a house. That is next on our list.

The water pump is on the fritz again. We’ve lived here long enough to have long-term routines. Winter always catches us off guard. The water pump freezes then starts acting funny. It cycles on and off at intervals. I adjust it with an allen wrench, it works for a day, it drives me nuts after a few more days of cycling on and off, and we head down to the RV store for a new one and the cycle begins again. They make rebuild kits; we just buy a new pump.

The bi-annual water leak in the RV basement happened like clockwork only for the first time in four years, we actually used the proper parts to fix it.

We’ve been setting up some small-scale ore processing equipment in frigid temps and snow to hell. We ordered it well before the first expected snow but it was delayed, and our plans to unload with a fork lift were foiled.

Some moderately heavy equipment would be nice right now but it’s expensive. We’ll wait until we can afford it and look for a good deal. For the most part, we live on the cheap to save for the stuff we really want.

We hired someone to bring the machines up and around back where five people took six hours to push, pull, maneuver, cut down trees, roll, come-along, pry and shed blood sweat and tears to get thousands of pounds of equipment into place by hand. Imagine pushing a small car without tires through the snow; and the job isn’t done yet.

We have to build a shed around one of the machines now that it’s in place. Try that in a blizzard. We’ll need this stuff up and running by spring because we bought a historic gold mine and a couple of other claims on forty-five acres over the pass. It was one of those things we really wanted and lived on the cheap to get.

Spring, some exploration (not in the mine itself without expert help), and some sampling will tell us whether we purchased just some beautiful property or a little more…

There goes the water pump again. I give it two more days.

Stories Formerly From Off The Grid

It was a huge moment for us – a major landmark on a journey that began on the evening of September 17, 2017, when we pulled onto the road at Snoqualmie Pass, rain pouring down, on our way to a new life.

On the fifth of November, 2021, at precisely 3:05pm, I flipped the switch.

We are no longer off the grid.

Actually, I didn’t flip a switch; we plugged in a power cord. It took three tries. I stood at the “console” recording video while my husband and son both unplugged their respective cords from the generator and brought them over to the shrine – uh – new power pedestal that stood at the end of our driveway.

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Our son was to do the honors. He plugged in his trailer as we watched the meter. He checked to see if he had power. Nothing. My husband then cracked open the breaker panel and sure enough; the switches were in the “off” position.

He flipped them all over for a second try. This time he plugged in our own extension cord. His slow walk back from the RV said it all; nothing. I was getting nervous at this point. Had the power company done something wrong or forgotten to turn a dial?

One more thing, my husband thought. He reset the mini-breaker in the middle of the outlet. A light! I started recording again. He plugged in and…four years of generators and not enough solar panels later…

WE HAD POWER!

That morning, I heard heavy equipment starting up in the driveway after waiting for two weeks since the pedestal was installed. I peeked at the security camera monitor and spied a backhoe and a gigantic roll of power cable attached to a digging machine.

It sure wasn’t UPS.

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I woke my husband up and sprinted out to greet the workers, my husband struggling behind me. We watched a backhoe dig a trench from the location where the transformer was to be located toward the pedestal with the meter and plugs.

The powerful bucket easily broke up the ground, neatly depositing ton upon ton of earth and rock in piles next to the road. My husband and I eagerly eyeballed the debris for boulders. Gold, maybe?

We snuck up on the mounds of fresh smelling dirt when the crew went to lunch and picked through it. I found a rock that looked like a huge stone foot and set it aside. My husband grabbed a couple of samples before we retreated.

No gold. Not visible, anyway.

The work commenced but the sound of bucket grating on stone reminded me we’re sitting on top of bedrock. Fifteen feet from the pedestal and we were looking at another couple of grand should the guys have to use a hammer attachment to break up the rock.

About the same time, a hydraulic hose broke so the driver took the machine back to exchange it for another. Upon returning, he was able to scrape enough rock away to make the trench deep enough.

In the meantime, the funny spool with the machine attached dug it’s way down the easement and to its destination at the power pole down the hill. The crew installed the transformer box, laid the cable and brought the meter in- all while we stood around gaping. They couldn’t have understood.

Finally, trench filled, driveway scraped flat, jaws still hanging open, we watched as the backhoe operator disappeared down the driveway to join the rest of the magical electricity elves.

Then we did the official plug in.

We are now slaves to a big corporation and we don’t care. I never said we chose this way of life as a matter of principle. We almost had electricity early on but the neighbors wouldn’t let us run a couple of hundred feet of cord across a remote portion of their property – so we waited.

A few months ago, the opportunity presented itself again. We debated whether or not to go ahead as we still might move but after factoring in some dynamics, we decided to do it. At the very least, our property value just increased.

No more waking up at five in the morning to refill the generator. No more daily trips to fill up the gas cans. No more oil changes, spark plug replacements or broken pull cords.

I love solar. I love being self sufficient. We’ve learned so much from having to go it alone. I wouldn’t trade our experiences and lessons of the past few years for the world but would I do it again? I don’t know.

Besides, we have some really big equipment on the way that will require too much electricity at once for a solar setup. That, however, is a story for another time.

Our first evening with public utilities closed to the sound of silence – except I swear I could hear the meter counting up the watts and kilowatts.

We’ll have a different bill to pay next month.

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Heat Wave 2

Cooking with Linda

I just checked the thermometer again. Two steps outside barefoot with two seconds to take a peek and my feet are singed.

It’s getting hotter earlier in the day. At 2:00p.m. it’s 108° in the shade.

Last night I decided to dredge one of our two springs and take more rock out of the bottom because of the threat of drought. I can only do this in the evening or early morning to avoid the sun. If at the end of the day, I have to coat myself in mosquito repellent to avoid being eaten alive. It’s always something around here.

I use what’s called a Santa Fe bar to do some of the work. It’s a six-foot rod made of solid steel for breaking rock. Don’t leave it in the sun then grab it with your bare hands (or anything else made of metal). You’ll regret it.

This morning I beat both the heat and the legion of yellow-jackets and wasps that share the watering hole with us by starting at 6:00a.m. By 8:00a.m., the place was getting too popular for my comfort so I wrapped things up until this evening.

Even earlier, I hung another tarp awning over our RV door because the knob has been getting too hot to touch. I don’t know what we were thinking when we originally positioned the trailer broadside to the sun.

We’ve added a cold shower with clothes on to our cooling repertoire and I now sport a wet T-shirt wrapped around my head.

Today’s shopping trip included some powdered Gatorade. Not usually a preferred drink but we live in different times lately.

We cracked an egg on a rock outside to test the “it’s so hot you can fry and egg on a sidewalk” expression but we don’t have sidewalks here. We have rocks though. We had trouble leveling the one we picked and the egg became partially scrambled during the cracking process. There it sits till later.

Speaking of rocks, a fault line passes directly under the northeast corner of our fifth-wheel (where I sleep), according to the Washington State Department Of Natural Resources geological map. The thought of lava somewhere below us in the depths of the earth makes me cringe and question once again, the placement of our RV.

Looking at a photo of two people hugging makes me feel uncomfortable. Now we practice heat wave distancing. As for dinner: who in their right mind would turn a burner on right now? Salad, Gatorade, and ice cubes sounds good.

The solar inverter started beeping again when it shouldn’t have and I suspected overheating. I remembered the large pieces of foam insulation stored away and grabbed a couple with reflective foil on one side. We stacked them on top of the battery and charge controller shack and drew them out over the front to act as shade.

Upon opening the doors, the charge controllers indicated the batteries were indeed, over heating but once the “breeze” began to circulate throughout the shed, all of the battery status lights changed to green, telling us everything was good to go. We left the doors open with the components now in the shade. Lesson learned.

It’s so hot outside the foam insulation we put around our security camera cords is melting. The cords themselves are fine.

melting foam tube

The ants are going crazy looking for water and have attempted another invasion. They seem to be moving around frantically and I feel bad for them. Even insects need water – but not from my kitchen.

This time around, I soaked a paper towel in vinegar and stuffed it in the hole where they were coming in. It seems to be working and I’m wondering if I’ve discovered a more effective strategy than my old battle plan: Ant Invasion – A Poem

I wonder if putting a dish of water outside and away from the trailer will draw them away? I think I’ll try an experiment.

I take back what I said about the west coast: they’re every bit as hot as us. I hope this isn’t a trend.

Oregon is down to two fires now. Everything is like tinder. Crossing my fingers for eastern Washington this summer.

Three-and-a-half hours to today’s high and counting. I’m going to look at the thermometer and egg again but this time I’m wearing my shoes.

It’s 2:40p.m. and it’s 109°.

The egg is not cooking.

Heat Wave

How we manage not to melt

I’m sitting in a dark place, sopping wet – on purpose: because of a heat wave.

We are in the midst of a week-long, possibly historical weather event with an excessive heat advisory across Washington state. Over the mountains to the west, it’s slightly better but still hot.

Looking at a heat index map, we are smack-dab in the middle of a region marked by a deep red color – the darkest and hottest – according to the legend.

The thermometer inside is pegged past 90° and the one outside reads 105° in the shade.

Leave butter out for any length of time and it’s broken down into its various liquid components. Cheese sweats profusely. Hell, I think my clock is doing the same, Salvador Dali-style; or it’s that hit of acid I took when I was sixteen finally coming back to haunt me.

We’ve closed all of the windows and hung tarps as a canopy in front of the fifth-wheel to see if we can cut a few degrees from the highs. The tarps make us look classy.

tarps on rv

The solar power system is loving this. We are running an electric energy hog of a refrigerator (long story), and everything else on it. The inverter alarm was constantly going off but we discovered that four of our panels were off-line and  fixed the problem.

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The cats only come out at night. I don’t know where they go during the day. They simply “appear” at about 6:30p.m. or so, after the temperature gauge is well into its journey back down the scale.

Since we can’t disappear during the day like them, our main defense is water, or keeping wet.

Here are a few ways we do that:

  • The livestock trough: what I bought last year after my first swimming pool debacle The Pool. It’s a big tub meant for watering animals but it works just fine as a dunking pool. I’m using the now-defunct swimming pool filter/pump and bleach to keep the water from turning green.
  • The sprinkler: hold the hose up and make it rain on yourself.
  • The garden mister: a larger version of the spray bottle.
  • Lakes or rivers: there are  plenty around here; just get there early and plan on scaling a nearly vertical slope in places to get to the water.

lake panorama

Another option is our Generac 5500XL generator. It could easily power an RV air conditioner but we need to wait until the first of next month to pick up heavier duty cords – when the worst of this has already passed.

But we’re in for a lot more according to longer-term forecasts.

In addition to the current heat wave, a drought is forecast for this summer and we’re ready to dig the spring deeper if it gets low.

Wildfires are a danger in weather like this. Oregon currently has three active ones. They got torched along with California last year. I finally bought personal property insurance after several local fires came a little too close. We need to finish trimming the lower branches of our trees as a fire deterrent.

It’s 3:00 p.m. – still three hours of rising temperatures until the red on the thermometer begins to slowly fall for the day. It doesn’t fall enough. Sleep is difficult. The temperature has risen two degrees since I began writing.

We in the Pacific Northwest aren’t the only ones cooking. I was originally indoctrinated to be skeptical of global warming but what I’m seeing year after year with my own eyes and what I’m gathering from credible sources has lead me to have a more open mind on the subject.

My latest thoughts are that we, as humans, need to get our shit together soon.

sun fire

How Many Extension Cords Does It Take To Fill Up A Pool?

This is not a math quiz.

It’s about a matter of necessity or what you have to do when you can’t turn on a spigot with access to an unlimited water supply (although we technically do – from the mountains). Resources are precious out here, regulated not by the water company but by Mother Nature.

Winter is done and somehow we’ve skipped by spring rather quickly and belly-flopped straight into a summertime heat advisory. Today was in the nineties with the prediction tomorrow being the same or higher.

Not being content to wallow in the livestock watering trough I’d bought in the stead of my failed pool venture of last year, I found myself digging through the dust-laden shelves in search of the plastic heap that was The Pool. Or rather, I asked my husband to find it.

The thing requires approximately two-hundred-thousand gallons of water to fill it which is problem when the springs have suddenly dried up or at least the rate of flow has dramatically decreased because of said heat-wave.

You have to have sense of determination around here at times.

We have two springs at the top of the hill. The original and The Squitzer as we call it after my husband broke some rock away when we were digging it and excitedly exclaimed “look at this – we have a squitzer”!

The water was literally squirting out of a crack in the bedrock under pressure. It was a nice sight. It fills up faster than the original but we haven’t had to use it over the winter months and I needed the water from both springs to fill the pool to capacity.

This meant I had to hunt for an extra thousand or so feet of extension cord to reach the top of the hill because The Squitzer required the pump. We can’t siphon it because it’s sunk deeper into the ground, unlike the other spring.

After about an hour of locating cord and lugging it up the hill, I had to dredge the damned spring. Once a year we clean out months of accumulated clay and debris from trees that’s fallen in and decayed.

This is a lot of work to fill up a pool but it’s freakin’ ninety-plus degrees; about two-hundred in front of our trailer. Even the cats have retreated into the “basement” of the fifth wheel to sleep through the worst of the heat of the day at this point.

After the dredging, I have to pump the dirty residual water out of the hole lest I create a mud pit rather than a pool. I want pristine water. Sparkling, shimmering, bug-free with no pine cones floating around. And warm, dammit.

I dragged the blue-vinyl mass into the brush and found a sunny spot and spread it out. I inflated the ring after I cleared the spot of branches and pine cones.

Now I needed power. Not a problem thanks to good ‘0l Mr. Sun and our solar power system.  I made my fiftieth trip up to the top of the hill carefully checking the connections of the two-thousand feet of extension cord, placed the pump in the now pristine waters of The Squizter and plugged it in.

Believe it or not – it worked.

I ran two miles back down the hill for the six-hundredth time to the pool in the wilderness and found, to my delight, that water was coursing out of the hose into the pool.

To the best of my calculations it will have taken about two-hundred thousand feet of extension cord, five-hundred thousand gallons of spring water and one week to fill the pool up.

Then I can recreate.

How Many Gallons Of Gas Does It Take To Cook A Pizza?

Being “off-grid”, we’re on solar or generator power and, unfortunately, when a generator isn’t working at full-peak, the load it can handle is less than advertised. We aren’t the best at maintaining these as per the manual because, during the off-season for solar, we run ’em 24/7/365.

It’s hard to keep up.

You can only run so many watts on a particular model and it has to be able to handle the surge or peak watts (additional load placed on it when something is first plugged in). If it’s not tuned, it will balk more easily and shut down.

We have to think about that when we use the microwave or small electric oven we bought when our RV oven broke. It’s not easy to come by a new propane model so we went to Walmart and got the smallest electric device we could find.

I don’t know what the surge watts are when we turn it on but I can tell you it’s an event when we do.  The lights dim for a second as we stand there looking up and around at each other, wide-eyed and nervous, as if we’re waiting to be bombed, then the generator dies.

Blackout.

Time for my husband to put his boots on and grab the gas can.

We need the BIG one.

He trudges over to the canopy under which the super-heavy-duty-240-volt-capable-power-horse sits and dumps fifty gallons of petrol in.

Time to crank her up.

When he does, the rumbling echoes up into the canyons and hills of the surrounding mountain range and spills over the hillside into the valley below. I’m pretty sure it’s audible at Walmart in the kitchen appliances isle.

As this ear-blasting assault on the senses is happening, I’m wondering if the neighbors are regretting their decision to not let us have the power company run a few feet of line across their property to save us tens of thousands of dollars (it’s a long story).

All things considered, at about a half a gallon of gas per hour (as near as I can figure and with the pizza taking twenty minutes to cook), with gas at about three-thirty a gallon, it costs about sixty cents or roughly a quarter of a gallon of gas to cook a pizza.

Don’t get me started on man-hours.

We gotta find a new propane oven.

Wildlife Cams

We have seven security cameras and we love them.

Why would a family living on a chunk of land that has little on it (except trees), in an area with little crime, have them? 

  • bear
  • wolves
  • coyotes
  • cougars
  • deer
  • turkeys
  • house cats
  • skunks
  • an occasional neighbor destroying the road that you are responsible for the cost of maintaining, with their snowmobiles
  • the neighbor’s dog
  • occasional shenanigans of HoldMyBeerGuy

About that last one: we were delighted to come home one day to see HoldMyBeerGuy pulling a very large tree out by the roots near our driveway entrance. It sat almost on top of our property line and his extended family were in attendance. He had it chained to his truck and was giving it the ol’ heave-ho amongst hoots and hollers and the brandishing of a firearm.

To lend some perspective, imagine living in the suburbs and arriving home just in time to witness your neighbor ripping a tree out by its roots (which can kill nearby trees), directly in front of your house.

Then there’s the other wildlife.

Our county is home to wolves, coyotes, big cats, and bears.  You want to keep an eye on such visitors.

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The house cat cam is below our trailer and lets us know who’s waiting to be let in.  I have one camera on a tripod I can move around, depending on what we want to look at.

It’s currently the trash cam as our truck, which we haul garbage away in, is at the shop. Something’s been getting into the bags that are waiting for the dump run and we aim to identify the culprit/s.

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Lastly,  we can observe the Gobblers https://wordchef.press/2021/05/06/absurd-bird/

The system was cheap but setting them up was a pain in the rear. We had to trim branches away and run hundreds of feet of cord for the initial setup. Now spiders keep spinning webs ON the cameras, and we keep having technical issues with the connections.

All in all, the cameras have been worth every penny and we’re able to run everything on solar. I wouldn’t be surprised if a website like Survival For Preppers recommended something like this https://survivalforpreppers.com/.

We like being able to keep an eye on things from our living room whether it be an errant neighbor or a marauding skunk – or vice versa.

 

 

Someone Paved Our Driveway – Sort Of

It’s that time of the year again – when the snow melts and the ground doesn’t. As a result, billions of gallons of runoff heads in our direction in the space of about three weeks.

The layer of permafrost won’t let the water soak in except for the topmost couple of inches; just enough to make a nice mud pie.

Our driveway, which doubles as a seasonal creek and has never been user friendly,  becomes a bog. It should have been regraded and graveled a couple of years ago but that would have required the neighbors to agree on something.

We have three times the traffic this year and every time someone drives through the goop, it gets deeper and threatens to suction the car in place – never to move again – and it’s one lane.

The prospect of becoming a ginormous speed bump the neighbors have to negotiate on their way home is enough to keep us far, far away from The Thing – The Road.

The destruction extends all the way to the main road. The postal service left a nasty-gram in everyone’s mailboxes telling us to fix the road or no mail would be delivered.  Luckily someone  dumped a load of rocks in front of the boxes, thus restoring our service.

The trek is so intimidating we stay home unless we’re out of oxygen or something. Don’t try to text during the ride or you may end up ruining a relationship with someone you never knew and becoming best friends with someone from Lisbon, Portugal in the space of a quarter mile.

By the time you reach the street, there’s a chance you’ll be seasick and may have incurred some sort of blunt force trauma after glancing off of some inner furnishing of the vehicle. The violent lateral lurches are capable of putting a head through a passenger door window.

The other day we needed cat food (oxygen), so we piled into the four-wheel  and braced ourselves. As we crept to the top of the worst part of the easement – a steeply graded slope – we looked down and noticed someone had laid pavement at the bottom.

More accurately, someone had lobbed chunks of broken asphalt all over the road. They lay at all angles and sizes where they were chucked. Some slabs were two feet in diameter with smaller shards mixed in.

This project had our uppermost neighbor’s “hold my beer” signature all over it. Huge ruts from his truck now cut into and through portions of the road – which he missed with the asphalt.

What we were looking at reminded me of a school project. Imagine a four-year old with some glue and macaroni only big.

I told my husband to stop while I jumped out and I redistributed the minefield.

I  jumped back in and we skirted the construction zone as far to the right as we could without rolling down the slope away from the road.

Now we had to make it past Cowhead Guy’s house (explanation here).

Never a dull day.

The Wood Goddess

The Story Of A Local Wood Cutter.

Did you know that firewood with smaller rings, burns longer or was it hotter?

I learned one or the other today from a person I shall call The Wood Goddess or Goddess Of The Wood – take your pick.

She visited us as we were in need of her magic after a lean season last year.

Winters are cold here and a fireplace warms a space like no man-made heat source can. The sound of crackling, the smell of fresh cut logs, the way the heat radiates; there’s no substitute.

Burning wood is a wintertime ritual. Here’s a poem I wrote about gathering wood: Wood Gathering: A Poem.

A hot stove or fire soothes the soul. It’s draws people around at gatherings. It dries soaked socks and gloves and beckons pets to lie down in it’s glow. A good supply of fuel means security.

Last year we didn’t purchase a load from one of the many local purveyors. Instead, we hauled our electric chainsaw and about two-hundred feet of extension cord down the hill to where three large trees lay, and harvested our own timber.

We waded through five feet of snow in blizzard-like conditions to buck the timber then swore our way back up the nearly vertical slope with the rounds. That was the worst part. Second was the splitting. Third, the hauling into the RV.

Fourth? Getting the damned fire started with wet wood.

It took a lot of patience and an assortment of tools. A propane torch, bacon grease, maybe some candle wax, some skill, and a lot of patience – especially at three in the morning, freezing cold, in a robe.

No more.

This year The Goddess Of The Wood paid us a visit! She doesn’t leave anything under your pillow but who wants splinters in their bed anyway? This supernatural-like figure brings the gift of ambiance upon request and now we can eliminate steps one, two and half of four.

When the cold temperatures arrived this fall, my husband and I agreed we’d had enough of the self-sufficiency thing so we looked around and found some wood for sale. I’d made arrangements for the delivery by message so I was surprised to see a woman pull up. Another tomboy like myself, I thought!

Her roundish canine companion, who rode shotgun jumped out to tour the property while she unloaded. Cocoa happily ambled off to find the best vantage point from which to keep watch. The Goddess explained that his figure was a result of his love of the occasional snack at home.

We chatted as she worked and The Goddess told me how she and her daughter make forays into the national forest where they fell trees, buck the logs, and split them on the spot so the wood is ready for delivery. That’s hard work and I was impressed by these women.

She has been selling firewood for about three years after some health issues threatened her sense of happiness as things like that do. She was previously a nurse but found the switch in vocations to be life changing if I remember her story correctly.

The woods can do wonders for the soul and for healing, I believe.

After she threw the last round, we said our goodbyes as she boosted the somewhat rotund Cocoa into the truck and off they went – presumably home before their next trip into the forest where she will work her magic for someone else.

As she drove away I found myself wondering if there is a deity of wood stacking.

Thank you again to The Wood Goddess. We shall see you in a couple of months.

You Get What You Pay For

It weighs two-hundred and twenty pounds, is green, was cheap, and sits outside our shed in pieces. It was supposed to break rocks into pieces – not itself. It’s Bill, our new rock crusher.

As an amateur gold prospector, I got tired of hand-crushing rocks. It gets old fast – believe me. Gold doesn’t always come in nuggets that you find in creeks, rivers and beaches: sometimes you have to pry it from the rock itself.

This is what we bought Bill for: to process gold ore.

I had an assay done on some ore from our property a few months back that came back at 14 grams of gold per ton of rock and 15 of silver. That’s not the mother lode but it’s not bad, either.

The problem is getting the gold out of the rock – especially if it’s disseminated throughout in tiny particles. You have to crush a lot of rock in order to smelt the precious metals out (heat the ore with flux in a furnace to extract the precious metals).

I needed a more efficient way to get the job done so I went to Amazon and ordered Bill.

He was born in China and traveled a long way to get to us. He arrived in a sturdy wooden crate that looks a lot like the box that held The Ark Of The Covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. At least the box was well made.

We met the delivery guy in town to pick Bill up and it turns out that the guy’s father is a preeminent geologist. This is a good sign, we thought. We were wrong.

The broken adjustment knob.

After hauling him home, the whole family wrestled Bill onto several pallets I’d screwed together to make a table. He was to stay in his crate for safety reasons (a spinning flywheel with no guard, for one). Then we discovered Bill didn’t have a plug.

After some research and a couple of calls to electricians, we determined Bill would work on a North American electrical system. He would run a bit fast, but run he would. We installed a plug and everything went fine until we fed some wet material through him.

The info I’d read said this was OK but believe me, it isn’t! The finely crushed material mixed together with the water to make a nice cement-like paste and gummed the machine up.

Two hours of cleaning later, we started Bill up again only to discover his adjustment knob had sheered off. This is the part that allowed us to set how finely we wanted the rock crushed. Without that function, we were once again dead in the water.

I think it was poor workmanship and materials that led to the failure. Several screws also vibrated loose which caused a metal piece in the feeder to bend and get jammed full of rocks. Another two bolts came out altogether and when I tried to tighten them, I realized they weren’t long enough to seat.

It was time to contact Amazon and the seller.

This evening, Bill sits partially dismantled and I’m in negotiations with a company across the world about how much of a refund to agree to with some parts thrown in.

And I’m back at it with the sledge hammer.