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.

Generator Genius

OK. So we’re not small engine mechanics but after three years of not having city or county utilities, we’ve gotten to know The Generator pretty well.

That’s because we run the shit out of them.

We have solar also but our system is 1200 watts and it’s limited in the off-seasons. During the summer, however, the sun runs EVERYTHING.

The rest of the year we use generators: small ones, big ones, efficient ones, gas guzzling monsters for the 220 volt jobs, loud ones, quiet ones, two strokers, 1500 watt ones, 3700 watt ones, orange ones, green ones, generators from Walmart, gens from North 40.

We got ’em all in a generator graveyard behind our shed, but not before we go through the “keep ’em alive” checklist before one or the other finally kicks the bucket:

  • check the oil when it’s shut down and the oil is in the pan, and do oil changes
  • spark plug – pull it out and clean the gap with sandpaper or get a new one. They get carbon deposits on them.
  • fuel filter – if it has one. I’ve never seen a generator with a fuel filter but I guess they exist. Replace if it has one?
  • air filter – wash and dry it if it’s soaked with oil and/or dust.
  • spark arrester at the exhaust – yes, this can impair airflow through an internal combustion system. Remove it and clean it regularly.
  • check that the gas doesn’t have water in it. You can add a product called  Heat, which gets water out of gas but I can’t say how effectively. You can always drain the tank and refill with good gas.
  • the carburetor gets mucked up with hundreds of hours of usage and might need to be cleaned. We take it to a shop for this or, to keep things running in the interim, spray carb cleaner directly into the butterfly port while the engine’s running. It’ll bog it down temporarily then recover.

I’ve probably forgotten something, but there you go. If all else fails, buy a new one and retire the old one to the graveyard or sell it on Craigslist for repair.

We may not be able to fix them after a certain point but there are people out there who can.

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.

 

 

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

Other Adventures

Today I changed the description of Stories From Off The Grid to include other adventures.

There’s only so much that can happen to or that a family can do on 3.74 acres.

The garden is growing (peas and cabbage only this year and we planted way late), we moved the raspberry bushes closer to the RV so I could tend to them better, I still slingshot, the appliances are constantly breaking or now getting lost or damaged in the mail, and the pool is still halfway brown, still freezing, and largely unused.

The turkey’s are still turkeying along with this year’s batch of goblets,  I’m still obsessively looking for gold on our property although I’ve expanded my search to beyond the perimeters, Lawnmower man now drives a small backhoe and insists on creating a park-like setting here in the semi-wild, and we are dreading winter.

All is quiet on the western front with the neighbors, thankfully, and I’m running out of off-grid subjects. We don’t have livestock and I don’t make soap: wait, I did a couple of months ago but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and certainly couldn’t write a how-to post on the subject. I cook, but lately, dinner has more often than not, been microwaved chicken patties and store-bought cookies. No how-to-cook posts here.

The solar power system is on the fritz. Nothing new.

Things have been pretty quiet here actually. So, in the spirit of trying to keep things interesting, this blog covers about anything that happens in our lives or that we make happen (I hope we’re still behind the wheel) that might be funny, informative, or humorous.

Other than the propane fridge we’ve long needed getting damaged in transit so we’re still short an LP fridge and me dredging the well, camping for gold is the order of the day this summer. There have been lot’s of adventures at Sheep Creek where we’ve been prospecting. We’re heading out again this afternoon and I’ll take lots of pictures because we might be onto something!

Whether it be the ongoing mess inside our car from packing or stays at motels from hell, its now all free game. The motel featured photo is not the motel from hell . 🙂

 

A Little Cabin In The Woods

Had someone been squatting on a neighbor’s land?

We’ve been looking at land for a few months and we often check Google Earth for a closer look from a couple of miles above the earth. There are two parcels for sale adjacent to us and up the hill towards the mountains that we’ve been interested in.

I noticed what looked like a shack on the property in the latest satellite imagery and rolled back the timeline a couple of decades. Someone had built whatever it was after 1998 and it had a roof as late as 2016 – the last captured image date.

Was the object a shelter with someone living in it? I got permission to walk the property for a closer look and I told the real estate agent I’d check for a possible squatter.

I use the My Tracks app when I go for hikes to keep my bearings so I started to record my movement as I crossed the property line and continued up toward the mysterious – whatever it was.

I climbed up the steep hill and through some almost impenetrable thickets toward the structure until the app told me it was almost directly in front of me. I peered through the brush – and there it was.

A cabin!

I wasn’t expecting to see such a well-made and picturesque abode. It was minus a roof and a chimney but someone had taken the time to craft this little building and had been living in it.

Anticipating the possibility of surprising someone, I made my approach noisy – like I was out hiking but it became immediately apparent the tiny house had been abandoned for some time.

No squatters.

Debris from the once-household lay strewn about outside, including parts of the fireplace and chimney but I wanted to see inside first. I called my husband and told him I’d found the place as I crept through the doorway and into the little space.

Bright sunlight shone directly into the interior and onto the still-sturdy planks. Various kitchen items lay scattered about, left behind by the former occupants, but most were gone.

The stovepipe remained attached to the wall while the rest lay in a heap with some other rubbish near the shell. I looked out a window in the rear to see what “they” saw when they looked out. I imagined seeing snow or maybe wolves prowling too close on a dark night.

They’d left behind a wooden wind chime and a couple of fish shaped dishes they’d used as ashtrays; a match and some ashes were still in them. I put the little trays in my pocket; no one was coming back for them.

I picked my way to the back of the shelter and found an animal cage. For a second I considered whether it might have been used for a human (my vivid imagination). A couple of saws, a cup and an empty toolbox sat on top, forgotten and rusty.

My curiosity satisfied and my mission complete, I stood and looked out at the view the mystery people would have enjoyed. It was spectacular but how did they get up here? There were no roads nearby. They must have cut the logs for the cabin on the spot.

I used my navigating app to find my way back down the hill to “safety” – across our property line. I breathed a sigh of relief although I had really enjoyed the afternoon’s adventure.

I don’t know if we’ll buy the two parcels next to us but someone had built a house with their own skills and a few tools and lived there for some time.

I wonder who they were?

Blog To Book

The night we packed up the trailer and truck in a downpour near Snoqualmie Pass was emotional. It was September of 2017 and we were headed east to our new home.

Family, friends, our old home, and our memories (bad and good), would soon be nothing but a reflection in a rear view mirror.

After we sold our house in the spring, we inched our way across the state looking for land to buy and that time on the road was only the beginning of a grand adventure. Since the day we first pulled into our driveway to today, life has been vivid both in experience and emotion.

Our first year was hell. We didn’t have a lot of money and had to deal with the realities of living on raw land in any way we could. We walked through snow, dragging a sled loaded with groceries and propane because our four wheel drive was broken.

Our pipes froze and we froze while we scrambled to find everything we’d left outside under three feet of snow. Our trailer had canvas walls that we had to insulate while at night we listened to animals just feet beyond the material. Spring was short and summer brought a scourge of insects we didn’t know existed, along with temperatures we weren’t used to.

I wondered often, if we’d done the right thing. In my head, life involved literally making it from one moment to the next, knowing we had things in the works financially. The patience required was infinite.

In our time here, we’ve learned how to drive in the snow, keep warm in an RV, install and repair appliances and use propane for just about everything. We no longer take water and electricity for granted. We’ve overcome a lot of challenges and walked away from the rest.

Today we live in what’s still an uneasy standoff between our choices and their consequences. I’d be lying if I said I was perfectly happy living like this but I wouldn’t trade this past three years for anything.

What makes it all worth it is stepping outside to see the early morning sun coming up over the mountains across the valley, framed by massive Ponderosa Pines. Looking the other way, the Huckleberry Mountain Range slopes up into the distance, carpeted with trees and capped with low-lying clouds.

The skies are big and full of strange things out here. We’ve seen stuff we still can’t explain.

Our spring is the centerpiece of our property. It’s where I go to meditate, think, and to cry. This place was dry when we moved here but a lot of digging later, we have all the water we need. Thanks to gravity, it’s the turn of a spigot away.

None of us can imagine living back in “civilization” again. We like it out here with the deer, turkeys, skunks, pheasants, occasional bear, cougar, one white rabbit, and, of course, our cats.

We decided not to build for a lot of reasons but we’re comfortable in our fifth wheel for the time being and we have the shed for projects and hobbies.

The place is paid off and when we’re outside, my husband sometimes gestures broadly with his arm and reminds me that “we own this place”. It’s a nice feeling. The trees, the rocks, the dirt below our feet belong to us – or do they, really?

I wrote these stories to preserve our memories of this time and place. I recently read an account of my Grandfather’s life and found it fascinating. What is everyday existence for us can take on new meaning for someone down the road.

Our lives changed forever that night we packed up and headed east in the fall of 2017. I hope you’ve lived, if just a little bit, with us, through these pages.

Hermits

Hiding from the neighbors.

Today, my husband and I took turns peeking suspiciously out our closed curtains to see if the neighbors had fixed their broken-down truck which stood near the entrance to our property.

Neither of us wanted to go outside and expose ourselves to the perceived scrutiny of one of the men who stood around the vehicle with its lid propped open. You see, we’d had this place to ourselves until “they” moved in about a year ago and to this day, we are about as anti-social as they come.

Why didn’t they tow the truck the rest of the way up the hill to their property where all the tools were? Why leave the truck out in the “open” where we could watch every move they made? Didn’t it bother them? Is this a cultural thing?

I hope you get that I’m talking tongue-in-cheek

We understand the psychology of social anxiety. Some of us are more introverted than others and have the perception that we are different and might somehow be unliked by others; in this case – the locals.

We get that it’s our own insecurities and we joke about it freely.

The truth is, however, that we want to be left alone. We want our privacy and if a seven-foot tall fence was in our budget, you better believe we’d have one by now.

Human relationships are the most important part of life but every time our neighbor (Lawnmower Man) starts up his Sears Special, we find ourselves halfway hoping he’ll run over a really big branch that will stop the machine in its tracks – at least temporarily. Although I’ve chatted with him a few times, I’ve always left the conversation wanting to run away as fast as I can.

He has a lot of plans for his property but his property is smack next to ours and every time we hear the chainsaw start up, we cringe and hit the real estate ads. I want to be in control of when I socialize and watching my neighbor cut the grass right up to my property line thirty feet away every other day unnerves me.

We moved to the country for solitude.

Where we came from, our neighbor’s doorstep was two-hundred feet from our own and I was not allowed to plant a single bush for privacy because the HOA said we couldn’t.

One day I set up a carnival-like play area for my then youngster with bean bag throwing, an alien bubble-making tub, and other fun stuff. The power-hungry president of the HOA showed up on my doorstep to point out that the driveways were not designated for such use.

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I took the matter into my own hands and ended up uncovering so much corruption the whole organization had to be overturned.

This history is, in part, why we are so reclusive.

Hemmed in and getting panicky, we are carefully planning ahead to ensure we have a buffer around our new home when the time comes – lots of acreage surrounding ground zero – our front door.

This evening, we finally heard the thunderous rumbling of our neighbor’s V-8 and we rushed to the blackout curtains to take a peek. The hood was down – this was good. All tools were put away. Almost time to skulk out from beneath our rock and sprint to the car for the pop.

But alas, the man and his accomplices decided to gather around the truck to chew the straw for another hour.

Cornhole and the alien bubble-making booth will have to wait until tomorrow 🙂

 

Endcap Entertainment

Grocery store treasures and other games to keep the family busy.

Impulse-buy sports.

Since we can’t recreate away from home, our family’s been looking for new ways to keep busy here on our property. The only games we had were Uno and Pass The Pigs which were getting old.

Fortunately we have room outside to spread out so we looked for outdoor diversions.

A trip to the grocery store was the answer.

Bowling.

We found the giant bowling set in a display at the end of the Haircare isle. With fat, two-foot-tall plastic pins and a hollow ball, it is not to be confused with yard bowling.

It is an illegitimate game with implied rules and is guaranteed to be broken or forgotten about within twenty-four hours of purchase unless you consider the potential for creative destruction.

I couldn’t get the pins to stand up so I filled the bottoms with dirt making it impossible to knock them over with the shell that was the ball. After attempting to pack it, too, full of dirt with unsatisfactory results, I hung the pins from a tree and we threw rocks at them instead.

They’ve been sitting in the shed ever since except that I cut the bowling ball in half and used it for a smelting furnace mold.

Horseshoes – A short story.

My husband picked up the horseshoes game a few weeks ago and we set it up without reading the instructions as per protocol. We positioned the stakes as far apart as we figured we could throw then lobbed the shoes.

If not for the overhead screen of branches the game might have lasted.

All of the shoes, having been knocked off their trajectories, eventually ended up in the nearby bushes next to last-year’s lost cache of slingshot balls where they will remain until tick season is over.

Note to cat owners: Check the pits before gameplay.

Badminton – with an emphasis on bad.

Yesterday we picked up a badminton set, or rather, four racquets and eight shuttlecocks. Most of the family outdoor play equipment had sold out so there weren’t any full sets left on the shelf.

During the ten whole minutes we spent running around flailing at the birdie, we learned this sport is best played away from equipment, rocks and solar panels. My husband speculated that getting a net would also improve our game. Makes perfect sense.

Still, it beats Yellow Jacket Tennis – What is Black and Yellow and Flies All Over?.

Wiffleball – AKA long distance running.

This was another endcap special at Safeway. They were on sale at two for the price of one so I grabbed two.

Play involves mostly running after the ball which inevitably ends up in the bushes next to the horseshoes and the slingshot balls.

If you have an overly enthusiastic five-year-old who thinks running after a ball is the next best thing to ice cream, you can save a lot of energy.

Cornhole – Beanbags gone professional.

Cornhole came home the same day as the badminton set. I’d never heard of it.

It’s beanbags – outdoor beanbags.

It may be a professional sport according to the words emblazoned on the panels with the holes in them. I’ll have to check Youtube to see if it’s true.

My husband says I’m a shark and that I should play professionally. I have a hard time believing that. Maybe the hopscotch I played as a kid is finally paying off.

Thankfully, beanbags don’t roll.

Next week we get a pool.