Cougar

We share this place with all sorts of wildlife: turkey, deer, pheasant, skunk, rodents of every variety, bear – and cougar.

A family (Cowheadguy), has a small farm about a half of a mile down our almost mile-long easement road. It’s a type of micro-farm and he has (we know he has cattle – The Totem), goats, chickens, a dog and kids.

About four days ago, a cougar jumped or dug underneath the ten-foot fences he has around the various pastures and killed all four or five of his goats and a calf. I feel bad for the animals and for the family, differences aside.

Another neighbor of ours came over to warn us and said the sheriff’s department and/or Fish and Game has set up a trap for the animal with motion-sensor cameras. They will signal a man who is on call to come and deal with the cougar should it show up again.

In the meantime, I got permission to set up one of our security cameras on my neighbor’s property, trained on his entrance and a little down the road where the cougar might be traveling. I set it to audible alarm and to take a snapshot should it be motion activated.

The same neighbor, who has shot at the cougar and missed, thinks he’s found a game trail wherein it’s coming through his property. I set up a trail cam down there but so far all I’ve gotten is a house cat.

Yesterday, the neighbor informed me the cougar had gotten a bunch of chickens on Holdmybeerguy’s property just above us. Within a few hundred feet of our front door.

We’d already told our son not to walk around at night with his flashlight until the cat has been removed from the area, however that may happen. He carries bear spray if he even goes outside after dark. We do also.

I set all of the cameras to take a snapshot with motion but had to turn the audible alarms off because with all of the cameras, something like long grass (which I cut), or the damned spiders that are constantly weaving webs in front of the lenses, sets them off every few minutes.

We’re hoping this thing is taken care of soon. For all of us, including the neighbors we don’t get along with. At some level, we’re all human and have to come together for the common good.

Holdmybeerguy Now Has Dogs Or Someone Visiting With Dogs

What would you do?

The barking began two days ago. It’s worst in the evenings – and goes ALL night long – NONSTOP. I want to emphasize this isn’t intermittent and it’s LOUD.

The first night it started at around 11:00pm with the racket still echoing over the hillside when I finally went to bed around 2:00am. Last night it started even earlier. They were still barking at 2:00am when I finally fell asleep.

I woke up to the cacophony at 4:00am.

I tried to use high frequency noise after the first few hours yesterday but nothing. I discussed things with my husband – the fact that once again we were in a position wherein a totally thoughtless neighbor had backed us into a corner from where we had to react.

We considered giving it a couple more days in case this was a visiting relative of Holdmybeerguy and live through it rather than end up in yet another confrontation rather do something immediately.

We asked ourselves what kind of person lets their dogs bark continuously most of the night without a care in the world. I sure don’t know, but when I woke up at four this morning my mind was made up.

I was pissed. No more.

I walked up along our shared property line and looked for the source of the noise and saw a small pen set up with one or two medium to large dogs inside with one running around outside the cage. All of ’em were barking.

I yelled across their property for them to quiet their dogs then turned around and added “you have one hour before I call animal control”. Realizing it was pretty early, I quickly decided it was more prudent and reasonable to go down the work-things-out-directly checklist before I made any calls.

I went back to our trailer and scribbled a note telling them to quiet their animals and that I’d be more than happy to meet to discuss the matter in person because we have to sleep sometime. I taped it to the post along their road with Gorilla tape. Two tiny pieces of paper from a notepad with extra wide industrial strength adhesive tape bigger than the note. Maybe I was trying to make a statement.

That was about twenty minutes ago, then I came in to vent.

What would you do? How long would you be willing to listen to three dogs bark all night long before you approached the owners, called animal control or the sheriff?

This is the guy who stole one of our UPS packages and ripped a full grown tree out of the ground with a chain right on our shared property line where we had trees that could have been damaged. This is also the guy who threw huge chunks of asphalt all over the easement when it got muddy making it almost impassable so I’m thinking that aggressive, swift action is the way to handle this situation.

Wish me luck. I don’t like confrontation but you have to show people like this that you’re not going to put up with their shit. Incidentally, we love dogs and have owned them. We don’t right now because we don’t have a fence as a guarantee of keeping them from wandering. As for the barking; no way in hell would we ever allow that kind of behavior.

Why us? Why the neighbors from hell?

I wish I had a nice poem for this one but I don’t think I’d be able to find enough expletives that rhyme.

Wildlife Cams

We have seven security cameras and we love them.

Why would a family living on a chunk of land that largely has nothing on it in an area where the crime rate is probably pretty low have them? 

  • bear
  • wolves
  • coyotes
  • cougars
  • deer
  • turkeys
  • house cats
  • skunks
  • an occasional neighbor speeding by on a snowmobile on an easement you have an interest in because you are responsible for the cost of it’s maintenance
  • the neighbor’s dog
  • occasional shenanigans of HoldMyBeerGuy

About that last one: we were delighted to come home one day a couple of summers ago to see HoldMyBeerGuy, with a chain hooked up between a very large tree and his truck.

The tree was right on our property line but on his side. He and his buddies commenced to ripping it out by it’s roots among hoots and hollers (this really happened), as the rest of his extended family showed up on ATVs for the occasion – all of which happened right in front of the entrance to our driveway. Imagine coming home in the suburbs to someone ripping out a tree right in front of your house (which can kill nearby trees), and having a party in the street directly in front of your house. That’s where the alarm factor comes in.

Ugh.

Besides watching out for our interests, though, we like to keep track of what wildlife is passing through the place. There are packs of wolves in this county, coyotes, big cats, and bears.  You want to keep an eye on such visitors.

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The Cat Cam is below our trailer and lets us know who’s waiting to be let inside.  I have one camera on a tripod made of sticks that I can move around. It’s currently The Trash Cam as our truck is in the shop which we normally keep trash in between dump trips and something’s getting into the bags we temporarily moved behind our shed.

20210518_035900

I know: “keep trash around and no wonder the wildlife shows up.” It’s only for a couple of days. OK?

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

The system was cheap and one of the cameras didn’t work but we got a refund for it and setting them up was a pain in the rear. We had to trim branches away, spiders keep spinning webs ON the cameras, and we’ve had some – no – a LOT of technical issues with connections and infrared stuff. I guess you gotta expect that.

 

All in all though, worth every penny. I wouldn’t be surprised if a website like Survival For Preppers recommended something like this https://survivalforpreppers.com/. We run the system on solar as it doesn’t draw much power. 

Very lastly, how do I reconcile having all of this stuff with “living off-grid”?

One simple answer: I don’t feel the need to explain myself any more. 🙂

 

The Totem

You may have heard of The Long Long Long Driveway.

It’s the almost mile-long unpaved easement we share with our neighbors to get to our landlocked properties. The stretch of gravel and dirt resembles a stream bed in places and a mud-bogging race track in others, depending on the season.

The legal agreement says it’s for “ingress and egress” only, but it’s become oh-so-much more – including a nifty place to display one’s trophies for all to see; in this case, the head of a freshly slaughtered bull.

Our newest neighbors have placed this lovely item on top of a fence post right next to the shared entrance to our property. I’ve put the photo at the end of this post, far far down so those who don’t want to see it don’t have to.

Who does this and why? Is this what farmers do after a slaughter or could it be  because someone is pissed because I yelled at them about the snowmobiles and they want to send us a message?

There’s a history with the snowmobiles.

Shortly after we moved in, one family took it upon themselves to ride their mobiles all over the property that surrounded and spanned the driveway, tearing it and the road up pretty badly.

When I confronted them, the matriarch of the clan claimed they’d just bought the lot. I found out differently the next day and the not-very-happy realtor sent someone up to straighten things out. Turns out they’d made an offer then weren’t able to “perform” or fulfill their end of the deal. It wasn’t their property.

The next year, after another of their family members bought one of the remaining lots, they resumed their riding only this time, in large circles around the surrounding properties, essentially turning the barely snow covered road into a racetrack.

Out went a letter from our attorney and all was quiet until a couple of months ago, when there they went again. We gathered evidence via surveillance cameras just in case, and I finally yelled at the top of my lungs for them to stay the hell off of the easement as they drove by.

They had a pow wow about it after driving the machines up onto someone else’s private property and rallied for one last stand or drive. I could hear every word they said as they plotted from their secret place atop the hill. I had to resist the urge to yell out “I can hear you” from the darkness. I believe there may be some discontent.

By the way, one of them stole a UPS package from us a couple of months ago. We have good reason to be out there standing our ground. It’s a shame but we have not picked the fights.

Back to the bull. Is this a thing in rural America; the displaying of your leftovers from the slaughter? What’s gonna happen when it warms up? Is this thing going to sit atop it’s post and rot into the summer?

Will we break down and leave a note in their mailbox or go up to their door and tell them to please put it away with the rest of the Halloween decorations until next year? Does anyone know this to be a custom of farmers and won’t it attract predators?

I love Halloween, but please.

Photo way below – off screen. 🙂

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cow

One More Makes Three

What weighs about one pound, has no manners, is spring loaded like a moray eel, has no attention span, leaves a path of destruction wherever it goes, is currently trying to eat my husband’s headphones but is too cute to be mad at?

A kitten, of course. Cat number three.

We’ve tried really hard not to have another cat for two years now but this one was an emergency. My husband was driving to town when he saw a small animal in the road. He got out and it ran into some nearby bushes. He continued on then turned around.

Now we have the world’s cutest nightmare.

His name is Lucky (and some others if you know what I mean) because of the circumstances in which he was found. Lucky had obviously been abandoned or somehow separated from his mom and litter as he was all bones at first.

He was almost certainly feral and very hungry at first. We got him started on kitten formula right away but it quickly became obvious he was older than I first thought. He started eating our cat’s solid food on day two although we went to great lengths to adjust his diet slowly. We got him a bag of kitten chow.

It’s been about a week and a half and he seems to have doubled in size and the bones are giving way to kitty fat – and lots of kitten energy. Usually a kitten has litter mates to play with but Lucky here only has us. Lucky us.

From sun up to sun down it’s skittle here and skittle there at full speed and the claws – razor sharp. We’ve made approximately fifty paper balls for him to chase, all of which have disappeared and the one cat toy I bought went missing on day one. We’ll probably find them all during spring cleaning.

I made him the ugliest cat tower ever out of plywood, rug and a couple of tree branches. Cats don’t care how pretty their toys look. Example: the half of a squirrel one of them left behind for us last week. A head was all that was left over from the next.

So here we are with cat number three. He has moved on from the headphones and is now playing behind me on my chair. I woke up with him standing on my forehead yesterday morning.

Despite the hell that has become our lives since this little being arrived, I’m glad my husband turned around.

Memorable Moments

Times we won’t forget since we moved.

Here is a list of some memorable moments we’ve had since we left “civilization” over two years ago:

  • Finding a man asleep in the back of his pickup truck minutes after a bear ransacked his belongings at his open tailgate – inches from his feet.
  • Driving with a twenty-five foot trailer behind me for the first time and coming to a halt at a bridge we weren’t sure was wide enough for us.
  • Shaking a skunk out of a cage at 2:30 in the morning.
  • bear screen shot filtered
    A passerby.

  • Watching the solar eclipse on the beach of a river at a campground.
  • Coming home from work to the first snow we’d seen in years. Three feet of it.
  • Hitting the ground after a bullet ricocheted off a tree near us and yelling “there are people down here” when our neighbors almost shot us.
  • My husband walking out the door to our RV to see a bear about thirty feet away.
  • Finding a skunk in my kitchen in the middle of the night.
  • The night our cat jumped onto the canvass of our camper-trailer, collapsing it onto my head and my half-asleep husband mumbling “are you sure that’s the cat”?
  • Bambi
  • The night we packed our trailer to leave for our new home in eastern Washington in a monsoon then having the lights on the truck go out on the freeway.
  • Getting a flat tire while pulling our trailer out of the woods and living in it for two days on the outskirts of a residential area while we had the tires replaced.
  • Letting an extremely aggressive wildcat we’d caught out of a cage.
  • My husband listening to the bays of a wolf pack while he stayed in the trailer alone one night. We found tracks outside the trailer the next day.
  • Striking water under pressure and seeing it gush out of the ground while we were digging our spring deeper one summer. We’ve been set ever since.
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  • The family from hell we camped next too while on the road who got drunk every night and fought. It ended with half the crowd screeching away in a cloud of dust and spraying rocks one morning.
  • Driving down the highway as we neared our new home with Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream playing on the radio as the sun tipped the horizon to the east.
  • Runnin’ to a dead-end after we discovered the road to our property had been washed out and having to back the trailer into a dirt ravine to turn around.
  • Pulling up our driveway for the first time on the morning of September 18th, 2017.
  • DSCN1038
    Our latest four panels.

Wild Turkey Anyone?

My husband calls them The Horde.

They are the collection of wild turkeys that cruise the area searching for food and doing whatever else turkeys do. They seem to live in loose groups and there’s no shortage of them here in eastern Washington.

We often wake up in the morning to the sounds of hungry fowl outside our windows. They surround the RV (have you seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds?) making their expectations plain – it’s breakfast time.

My husband knows his job: He roles out of bed, throws on some clothes, grabs the thirty-pound bag of food with the cup and steps outside to feed “his” flock. They chitter, pip, pop, peep and sometimes gobble loudly in unison while they skirmish over the offerings.

They nip at each other, driving away their competitors for every bit of seed. Some are scraggly, some look a little sick and it makes me sad. Nature is nature though. I throw food to the ones who look like they need it the most. The rest look pretty healthy aside from the wind-tunnel look.

turkey 6

We started feeding them a couple of months ago. When we pull into our driveway they make a bee-line to our RV. Most are hens but the males are standing out this time of year.

turkeys 12

It’s the beginning of the mating season and the Toms are dressing up in full window display. To make themselves look most presentable to the females, they “fluff up” with an audible swish of their feathers. Their heads flush with color and somehow they manage to cause their plumage to stand upright.

They angle their tale swag from side to side, as if tuning in a radar array. They tuck their chins in and glide across the ground as if on wheels. Or they stand stock still while the hens ignore them. Somehow, despite the rejection, little hordes inevitably appear in the following weeks. We call them gobblets.
turkey 9

Yard Carp, Gobblers, Cats, Skunks, One Brown Bear And One White Rabbit

“Tell Dale to make sure the door is shut because wild animals are getting into the house”.

This was my response when our son left the trailer door open on accident the last two nights and we had one feral cat and a skunk pay us a visit. We got rid of the cat door for a reason.

Learning to live with the “locals” has consisted mainly of putting up fences and keeping doors shut because we don’t necessarily want them in for dinner (unless it’s a gobbler).

My husband loves the “hordes” of turkeys that cross the property daily. The adults have a crop of youngsters that make peeping sounds and are currently cute. I wonder at what point does a turkey stop peeping and start gobbling? Is the transition from cute to ridiculous slow or overnight?


Deer are called yard carp around here and they have finally made it into our garden. The fence is almost seven feet tall but apparently not high enough. They still prefer tomatoes and squash leaves. I put a motion sensor light near the garden after passing on making the fence higher to hopefully scare them away.

We have seen a white rabbit a couple of times which we consider lucky, unlike the bear that has been hanging around the area.

A very large muscular feral cat or bobcat has been terrorizing our cats so we trapped and relocated it farther out into the hills last week. Hope it doesn’t find it’s way back Homeward Bound style.

We spend all of this time and energy keeping the animals at bay then go and bring more home. That would be our cats.

“Are You Sure That’s The Cat”?

Nowadays, I never know what to expect.

One night when we were still living in our first travel trailer, our cat jumped onto the top of the canvas canopy over our bed and collapsed it on top of me. As I was holding the animal up off of myself and screeching about the damned thing, my half asleep husband mumbled “are you sure that’s the cat”?

This story is similar.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard one of our two cats munching in our dining room and for some reason, I decided to get up. I stumbled out of bed, put my robe on and made my way out into the kitchen.

We’d just installed a cat door so we wouldn’t have to let the felines in and out of the house fifty thousand times a day. They could now come and go as they pleased.

I sleepily shambled down the stairs and flipped on the light to see a skunk in the dining room. I shouted something and the poor thing ran into a corner then out the “cat” door which was now officially a skunk door.

To my relief,  it hadn’t sprayed. I wondered if it was the same one I’d dumped out of a cage in the middle of the night a couple of months earlier.

I went back to bed. Tomorrow, the cat door comes out.

The Small Small Trailer

An essay in inadequacy.

When I bought our twenty foot Jayco Lite travel trailer before our house closed in the spring of 2017, I figured we’d be living in it for a few months while we looked for a new home.

I was wrong.

We lived within the confines of it’s half-inch walls for almost two years.

When I spotted it in an ad, I was sucked in by the extra amenities and the price. Plenty of room for the job as I saw it at the time. It came with a TV, radio, an air conditioner, central heating and something else so appealing I’ve forgotten what it was.

It also came with a badly rotted floor which I didn’t know about at the time. The rest was standard.

We spent a summer living in the thing expecting to find a property with a house. We didn’t, and ended up crammed in for much longer than we expected. The single table inside was only big enough for my son and his computer so I spent a lot of time in our bunk at the rear or outside in our half-built shed. My husband even moved his TV and Xbox outside during the summer. It was too cramped in the tiny house on wheels.

The sink was too small, the bathroom was too small and the hot water heater was glitchy. It became an art form to take a shower. We had to set the timer for twelve minutes exactly from the time we turned the hot water heater on. Whoever was taking a shower had to be ready to jump in at the mark or the water would boil out of the tank outside within a couple of minutes.

We managed to break not one but two windows and had to tape them up and when the freezing temperatures hit, we had a major problem on our hands with the canvas walls of the pullouts.

We ended up putting rigid sheet insulation and plywood around the walls and over the roofs of the pullouts but zero degrees doesn’t care. The rain had a tendency of finding a way through the tarps we put over them too. Wet mattress pads, sheets and pillows were the order of the day. I don’t know how we survived but we did.

Some time during the summer the rotten floor made itself apparent and we crawled under the contraption to shore up the floor with two by fours to prevent a “yard sale” while driving down the freeway at sixty-five miles an hour.

There wasn’t much between the outdoors and us in a canvas pullout.

One night shortly after we’d set up camp on our new property, we heard a distinct scraping sound against a trash barrel outside just feet from our heads. We’ll never know what was out there. I took the outside position only one time and ended up on the inner side within minutes.

Last fall we got a fifth wheel, not knowing for sure when we’d be able to build a real house but our fifteen year old insisted that he didn’t want to see the Jayco go to waste. He’s a teenager and he still lives in it.

We were quite happy to say goodbye and move next door forty feet away. At least we no longer have to worry about Mr. Foot reaching his hand under the canvas wall and making away with my husband.