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.

 

Does Sasquatch Exist?

The tracks we found were huge.

My husband and I went on our first outing since the snow melt a few weeks ago. We drove up a nearby road just into DNR (Department of Natural Resources) land. We didn’t get far as the snow still blocked the road just past the boundary gate.

We walked up the road then made our way back to our car over the fallen logs and debris winter had deposited next to the creek. It hadn’t snowed for at least a week and we ran into tracks that were fairly large along with the usual and obviously human tracks.

They were distorted by the melting of the snow so it was hard to tell what had made them. They could have been an animal’s front and hind prints combined but they were unusual enough for me to decide to take some photos.

We also saw some vegetables dumped out on the side of the road nearby. I’ve heard of people leaving “treats” for Sasquatch. Maybe they were just someone’s unwanted lunch. Who knows?

I took at look at YouTube and found a video on the subject about knockings and other sounds heard in our county Bigfoot Of Stevens County Reports 11. Apparently there is a lot of unexplained activity here.

I had to enhance the pictures on my computer for them to be visible but below is what came out. Opinions?

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Itching To Get Out

After months of snow, we can’t wait.

The advent of Spring has left us dying to get out; maybe go on a hike on solid ground. My husband and I love the outdoors and we live in the woods but we’d like to see some different trees for a change.

Morel mushroom season is approaching but not fast enough so we settled for a drive up the road to DNR (Department of Natural Resources) land near us the other day.

The area is cross-crossed with dirt roads threading through forested hillsides and mountains. There are a couple of silver mines, plentiful sources of wood that some hardy locals take advantage of to make a living (they are a special breed), and hidden huckleberry patches known only to some inhabitants.

A local promised to take us out to pick but we have been warned that bears love huckleberries also. We’ll be sure to bring our bear spray The Man, the Bear and the Truck.

While in town the other day I stopped by the Colville National Forest ranger station for some advice as my husband has been chomping at the bit to go on some overnight backpacking trips. I asked if there were really Grizzly bear in Washington state and in Stevens County and the answer was “yes”.

The ranger said they hung out closer to the Canadian border and at higher elevations so I think we’ll stick to the lower areas. If we have to use bear spray, the ranger told us to spray in a half-moon pattern horizontally in front of us to create a sort of wall. I would have just sprayed straight ahead.

I asked about Morel hunting in previously burned areas of the forest where they thrive after fires. The staff told us there are hidden holes and the danger of falling trees so I think we’ll stay away from those. There’s plenty of mushrooms out there as it is.

When I asked about road conditions the ranger recommended a phone app called Avenza. It’s a free download that shows road and recreation maps of various sections of the national forest. You can also use them off-line. We could have used that a couple of years ago when we got lost in the Snoqualmie National Forest Lost In The Woods; Twice In One Day.

There is wild asparagus coming up although I have yet to find a single sprig. Crawfish are fun to catch (and delicious to eat) although I don’t know where to find them on this side of the mountains. We knew the back roads and where to look for things where we used to live (except for the time we got lost) but here is a new story. We’re still plying the locals for their secrets.

Lastly, I have gold fever again and have been all over our property crushing and breaking rocks. I dug a hole right into what I believe is the location of the fault running across our property. Imagine having your own private fault line? Take a look at the photo that shows its location. ūüôā

The back of our SUV is crammed with prospecting equipment just in case. If you look for gold in Washington state, you have to keep a copy of the Fish and Wildlife pamphlet with you. It has the rules for prospecting in it.

Let me close with an example:

“You can pan in the northwestern upper corner of the easternmost part of whatever creek as long as you use a sluice no longer than your arm but no shorter than the length between your elbow and your hand. You cannot dig more than three feet past the upper waterline of a hundred-year storm nor under the lowest point of a hundred-year drought on Saturdays and Sundays and only on tributaries to every river in Washington state except Snohomish County. You may wear only bright purple and use a shovel rather than a pick ax unless you are driving a Suburu in which case, you may wear purple with polka dots. This only applies to prospecting done during leap years.”

Tidbit

All I see are the tips of two ears angled sharply backward; below them are two intense eyes barely visible above the snow line. Retinas contracted into black slits in the brilliant sunlight, they bore a hole right through me – it’s prey.

I stare back.

I didn’t see it until I was almost on top of it. Most of it’s body was hidden in the snow, the predator having found a depression within which to lay in wait. Too late, I see the butt wiggle in preparation for the attack then – it launches at me.

Tidbit, our cat, connects with a brilliant catfu double-time cuffing at my legs before ricocheting off at a ninety degree angle, ears still laid back. Recovering, he swaggers away, satisfied he has made the kill. Time to go summon the pride for the feast.

I just stand there giggling. I continue on my way and cat falls in behind, para-scope up (what my husband and I call the tail when straight up in cat greeting).

As I walk along, kitty darts up the hill behind me, climbing the occasional tree and pouncing on imaginary prey. He leaves a sprinkling of paw-prints behind him in the snow.

Our entire property is crisscrossed with cat trails. They reveal their wanderings in search of birds, sounds, snowballs, sticks, mice, or whatever else draws their attention.

Cats are narcissistic. A cat can’t just walk with a human. They have to pretend they just happened along and they don’t walk – they skulk. Tidbit has a habit of running straight for the space between your legs. When he makes contact, you are faced with either stepping on him or falling. I can’t tell you how many times he has “noodled” me.

Tidbit acquired us a few months ago when he showed up at a friend’s house hungry. Apparently, he waltzed right past their four Corgies on “guard duty”,¬† and found the cat dish inside the house. He was still munching when I got there.

A search for his owner failed to turn anyone up so when I was ready to leave, my husband and I took him home with us.

He made himself welcome immediately and we had him fixed a couple of weeks later. Asshole was annoyed at first but soon warmed up to the idea that he now had something to play with.

Tidbit craves attention and we wonder if he was taken away from his mother too early. Our answer to this is “regression” therapy. He loves to be wrapped up tightly then goes into kitten mode. This causes us to regress also.

Tidbit is boneless. He goes limp when petted and he is more like a dog than a cat. When he sees us coming he throws himself on the ground and rolls onto his back. He has no dignity. He doesn’t care

Tidbit is also the devil in a fur coat. He rattles around the house all night, gets into Asshole’s face constantly, and steals our seats as soon as we get up but his cuteness keeps our annoyance at bay.

This cat is unique and he fits right in with the eccentric theme of our family.

We’re glad he adopted us.

From Our Old To Our New

Reflections.

When we sold our house on the other side of the state, we had no idea where we would settle down. Personally, I didn’t want to move too far from our old home because of our ties. Friends and family and a fierce resistance to change make me like a limpet: I find a place to stick to and I stick to it.

When my husband and son first pitched the idea of moving, I had a tiny panic attack. We’d lived in our house in Snoqualmie for eleven years and in the surrounding valley for about twenty seven. The idea of leaving it all behind scared the crap out of me. I needed time to digest the idea.

For anyone, moving can be overwhelming because of the logistics alone. The emotional and sociological impacts only quadruple the anxiety. I was looking at selling a perfectly good home and launching into the unknown. My family was my only safety net amidst the potential chaos of change.

Selling a house is stressful enough – packing everything you own (which is more¬†than you think), finding a new place and moving all of your stuff there almost qualifies as a traumatic event. You have to say goodbye to friends and family and schools change. You worry about the effect it’s going to have on your child. Luckily, our son was on board which made things a lot¬†easier in the guilt department.

Not having bought anything yet when we hit the road was an added unknown. We did know we loved the outdoors and wanted something away from the cities; something with trees and acreage.

We spent over three months living in the little travel trailer we’d bought as a temporary home, while we looked for property.¬†¬†We visited many prospects while we camped and pushed farther and farther east in our search. I didn’t want to move too far away but it became apparent that I might have to compromise.

In August, we decided on a place. We would be situated in Stevens county in eastern Washington about seventy miles south of the Canadian border.¬†¬†It was beautiful and there were four seasons – unlike the monotonous rain of the Puget Sound region we’d left behind. The property fit our criteria perfectly so we made an offer and waited until things were finalized in mid-September of 2017.

On September 17th, on an especially rainy night near Snoqualmie Pass where we were camping, we packed up and headed home – our new home.

The property we’d settled on was raw land and we knew we would be facing some major challenges to make it livable. Ultimately, reality kicked our asses, especially during our first year but we survived (unlike some of our worldly possessions that succumbed to the forces of nature).

Living off-grid isn’t just living; it’s an experience that involves an interplay between emotions and pure grit. Out here, you interact with your environment and surroundings¬† because you must. What you do or don’t do directly affects the quality of your life. You learn cause and effect and that’s a good lesson.

If I was a princess type, I wouldn’t survive a day but I wouldn’t be here if I was¬†a princess.

When I’m stressed out, the tasks of daily living become burdensome. I’m easily frustrated and ask myself “what was I thinking”, only to wake up the next morning to the sight of trees, mountains, deer and other wildlife bathed in the brilliant light of a sunrise I could never have experienced from the doorstep of my former suburban home.

Being here comes at a price but the cost reminds us we are alive.

 

 

 

Nine Lives Before Christmas

A catastrophe.

Nine lives before Christmas and in the RV, two felines were climbing up my Christmas tree

The lights and the baubles I’d hung up with care, strewn wall to wall not a single one spared

Shredded remains of my prized Christmas cactus, total destruction they’ve had lots of practice

They found the pine cones left a trail of debris, nothing was spared in the wake of their spree

Forget wrapping presents dispense with the bows, the effort is useless the gifts they’ll expose

I tried hanging garland, Oh what was I thinking, my light strings are broken they’re no longer blinking

cat ornament

I chased them outside tried to clear out my head, they came back in soaking wet jumped on my bed

What if St. Nick dares to come bearing gifts, they’ll ambush his sleigh from behind the snow drifts

Busting cat Kung Fu they’ll knock him out cold, one tailbone broken a fright to behold

Flat on his back splayed out under the trees, cookies and milk won’t fix his injuries

Journey cut short by two renegade cats, no toys for the children no balls and no bats

Packages strewn from his sleigh to the house, next year he’s packing a catnip stuffed mousecriminals

Cats, Dogs, And Politician Control

A social commentary on the lack of animal control in Stevens County and a shocking prevailing attitude.

My heart breaks when I look at the picture above of the feral cat we caught on our property night before last. Our goal was to take it in to animal control to have it fixed and/or relocated to a better place such as a barn cat type of situation. Here, it is just hungry, cold and gets into fights with our fixed house cats.

We should have done our homework before we trapped it as we discovered there are no animal control services in Stevens County – for cats, at least. They have limited services for dogs but cats – forget it. Thank God there are some non-profits in the area that are filling the vacuum.

What is wrong with the local officials that they are ignoring this problem? Could it be money? The culture? Whatever it is, it’s bullshit and it pisses me off badly. There is a problem because¬†there are no services. Ignore it and it will get worse!

I looked up animal control in the Revised Code Washington and in black and white there it was; there is no requirement for a jurisdiction to have services set up for animal control. Wow.

Once we had kitty, we made some calls and got the runaround. Animal control referred us to the sanctuary but they are closed for a few days (bad timing for us), and the Stevens County Sheriff who told us they don’t offer any services referred us to Spokane County’s SCRAPS program. We drove eighty miles only to find they didn’t accept out-of-county cats.

That’s when I posted on Facebook.

There I learned a little about the local attitude: dump ’em in another town or take care of things the – you know – old fashioned way.¬† I’m not going to give that disgusting option any words on this page.¬† One person mentioned that they’d heard cats taste like chicken. What kind of human being could say something like that? Answer: it wasn’t a human – it was a pig.

After the SCRAPS program turned us away, we drove home with kitty and let it go for the time being. Luckily, there are people here who have evolved past the Crow-Magnon stage of evolution and with their help, there is a plan in place to re-capture kitty and find a good home for it.

I’d like to re-home a few politicians while we’re at it – oh – and take care of couple of assholes on Facebook – you know – the old fashioned way.

I’m joking, of course.

Wood Gathering: A Poem

At night in the woods.

Disclaimer: This is kind of a cliché poem but I had fun writing it.

Air sharp as glass, ice scraping flesh

Breath escaping in frosty plumes

Feet frozen, struggling up hill to the place where the wood lies

Snow glows bluish, dark shapes fracturing it’s crust, frozen in escape

Stillness, snow holding tightly to all sound but the travelers

Constellations assume their poses, looking back through time with patient curiosity, eyes extinguished for millenia

Flashlights swing right to left and back, searching

Pausing, putting down the wood bag; catching breath

One stands watch while the other sets to work

Listening; sharp crack, blade falling

Wood rending under blows

Load bundled, nervous glances; fears better left unvoiced

Back to light, too far away

Not too quick, not wanting to look behind

Home close, steps quicken in urgency

Silent reassurances; nothing is there

A sound from the darkness, wood flung aside, clattering

All thoughts of fire forgotten

In flight, flashlights abandoned

Stairs, porch, door flung open, in

Dawn brings light, safety promised

Door opens, cautious glance

Long shadows cast by an early sun reveal clawed tracks in the snow

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A track my husband found right outside of our trailer last winter after hearing howls “like out of a movie” nearby.

A Cat Called Asshole

Adventures of He who is better than us.

His official name is Mr. Fluffy Pants. We call him Asshole.

He’s a grumpy, jumpy long-haired who-knows-what that showed up in the arms of a neighbor one day as a kitten.

He’s always had attitude disorder – maybe a narcissistic disorder? Have you heard the one “A cat doesn’t have owners, it has staff”? He seems to have a smug look on his face most of the time, like he knows something we don’t and he’s not about to tell. Why inform the little people?

Effort is an issue with him.

Everything he does is half-hearted. He’s halfway out the door (or in) when you open it for him, halfway into catching a mouse and God forbid the dish gets halfway empty.

Open a can of tuna, however, and he’ll awaken from the deepest slumber and come trotting – not running (that wouldn’t be dignified). He loves¬†his tuna juice.

He fancies himself a great hunter but ultimately, that requires too much effort. We caught him stalking turkeys one day. “What are you gonna do with it when you catch it” , we thought? He eventually walked away from that one.

He once threw-up in my lap, looked at me like I was crazy and left the room.

He loves his catnip. We planted some in the garden just for him and we make it a ritual to visit the bush daily.

Cats don’t know how to interact with humans. If we’re outside, he’ll show up and do his lame “I’m here” routine. Cats just happen along like “Oh, it’s you”, and look like they have something better to do.¬† God forbid they show any real interest in us humans.

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Asshole is the king of all he surveys (including us). Hopefully we live up to his expectations.

kitty

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What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter

It was cold and it was solid and it wasn’t letting our dishes go.

25231901698.pngIt lasted for months; the block of ice that held most of our dishes captive.

I remember the day I was able to wrest the last utensil free of the icy tomb that had encased our pans, forks, spoons, spatulas, glasses, bowls and plates – almost everything we ate off of – in one huge chunk of ice.

The Dishberg.

We had recently moved to eastern Washington and were living in a trailer on raw land when it happened. As we were settling in, we met our neighbors and stories were told of winters in eastern Washington – temperatures of minus forty-degrees with snow drifts up to the eaves of your house.

When we mentioned we were from west of the mountains, we got the all-knowing nod of someone who has just learned you are from The Coast and they must break the news to you of the impending doom that is winter in Stevens County.

Incidentally, you are from The Coast if you are from anywhere west of the Cascade mountain range. It doesn’t matter how far from the ocean you live; you are from The Coast and are referred to as a Coasty.

The stories were almost true. We weren’t prepared and me and our son went to live in an emergency shelter for three months while my husband stayed in our trailer with the cat.

Occasionally, I’d come to take a load of dishes to the shelter to wash because the trailer’s pipes were frozen. One day I piled them up in a large Tupperware container to get them¬† out of the way and put it outside.¬† For some reason, it sat there for a couple of days filling with water. Before long the whole container froze solid.

The mass was heavy and there was no breaking it up because there were plastic and glass items embedded in it. It sat for a couple of months before it finally began to thaw. I remember when it melted enough to break into smaller pieces I could bring inside and run hot water over and by the end of March, we finally had all of our dishes back.

Now if we could only find the coffee pot lid I lost in the snow in February.