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

Soap Making With Linda

A cautionary tale.

I am the queen of imperfection and soap making is no exception.

I’ve made homemade coconut oil soap before and the measurements and timing are really important. How much you try to cram into your food processor was also an important factor this time around.

I don’t do this too often so I watched a video on the subject on Youtube by a woman whom I’m now blaming for the disaster that ensued although it was no fault of hers whatsoever.

I’m jealous because she built a log cabin by herself and she has her own Youtube channel.

She made the measuring easier by using an entire 54 oz. bottle of the oil, adjusting the measurements for the other ingredients accordingly. “Great”, I thought, as I dug fifty bowls and utensils out, my alcohol inks (for color), my essential rose oil, a scale, a thermometer –  and my beloved food processor for mixing.

The normally solid matter was already in liquid form because of the heat and, vaguely remembering how I’d done it before, I started out by pouring the entire container into the mixer.

Then oil started seeping out of the machine.

I’d clearly overfilled it and it was leaking through the blade attachment. I thought fast and poured it into the container that was resting on the scale, zeroed out to measure the lye. In the process, oil slopped all over the place so I put the mixer container in the sink and grabbed the bowl that was on the scale to dump back into the original bottle.

Unfortunately, the oil had stuck the scale onto the bottom of the bowl, releasing it into the sink full of water at just the right moment.

I swiped it out, grabbed a rag, and began the cleanup.

Because our RV isn’t perfectly level (a sheer pin in one of the hydraulic jacks sheered off before we could finish the job and I’ve lived with the fact that in our bathroom anything that rolls, will head west when placed on the counter), the coconut oil also headed west.

It was on its way to the edge of the counter so I hit the most threatened areas first then turned my attention back to the motor unit of the food processor. I sopped up the pool in the tray on top, wiped off the suction cups on the bottom and put it aside while I finished cleaning the counters.

I scraped wave after wave of the skin conditioning, nutty smelling stuff into the sink and down the drain. I figure I lost about a third of the container.

I again picked up the motor unit and noticed a huge puddle of the viscous liquid on the counter I’d just cleaned. Upon holding the gadget above my head, I spied oil coming out of the motor compartment.

So long food processor.

You can actually dry some electrical components out but I’m not taking a chance with this one.

I put the fifty bowls, utensils, alcohol inks, the scale with the now-cloudy digital readout, the essential rose oil, and thermometer away but the food processor unit is now sitting in the hot sun, still oozing – destined for the garbage can.

The moral of my story? Life ain’t perfect but at least my hands are soft.

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 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.

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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. 🙂

 

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 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?