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.

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. 🙂

 

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 🙂

 

What Is Off-Grid?

Does it have to be an ideology or could it just be circumstantial?

When I first contemplated starting a blog about our adventures living off the beaten path, I considered calling it Stories From Almost Off The Grid.

To be honest, we didn’t originally choose a lifestyle of independence.

We kind of fell into it.

After we sold our house and hit the road looking for property, our priorities were nature and seclusion – not necessarily living off-grid. The stories naturally followed, however, and I started my blog with that theme.

I once posted on Facebook that we lived off-the-grid and the town troll suggested that I couldn’t be considered off-grid because I had the Internet. Another person once suggested the same applies because I have a phone.

Ridiculous.

One could argue till the end-of-time as to what qualifies as “true” off-the-grid status. It varies for everyone.

Our family happens to live this way for a lot of reasons but I feel the adaptations we’ve made and the hardships we’ve overcome help to define what it is to live off-grid. When we bought undeveloped land we had to change our paradigm and we had to get busy.

We installed a solar power system and dug a spring through breccia and bedrock with our own hands. We planted a garden and learned to install and repair our own appliances. Having to provide for ourselves taught us how to be more resourceful.

We like not having to pay someone else for our power although only through the summer (until we tweak our solar power system). My husband wants ducks and geese for their eggs. We want our own dog – not the neighbor’s. We’re planning on farming truffles but to pull it off we’re having to think outside the box because it’s too cold here.

We have been inspired.

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Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, this idea of living independently has caught on with us regardless of how we came into it. I believe that however or why a person comes to live off the beaten path isn’t so much the point – it’s the experience.

Besides, you can’t make this shit up. The stuff that has happened to us since we left the suburbs makes for one hell of a story.

 

 

Lawnmower Man

A poem about conquest.

He moved out to the country just to cut it down and tame it
Should have bought a condo and had someone else maintain it
With chainsaws, mowers, chippers, tillers, every shape and size
He’s here to stay he’s clearing the way it’s time to colonize
At six am we hear the roar he’s got the chipper chipping
Another tree he’s on a spree the landscape he is stripping
He has big plans with his bare hands he’ll mold it to his taste
A cul-de-sac and traffic lights not one inch left to waste
I wonder why he chose to live in natures splendid glory
The turkeys, deer, the wolves and cats this was their territory
When we arrived before his time ’twas tranquil and so soothing
Its time to go we like things slow we’re packing up and moving

We’re Human

We are the family with the un-mowed grass at the end of the block.

I’ve been comparing my blog with that of others who write about the subject of living off grid – perhaps unfairly. Most blogs offer accurate information and how-tos, informed by education and experience. People like blogs that offer useful information.

Mine is stories.

When we left our old world for our new, the adventures began and I felt compelled to record them, and maybe share them with others. I hope to turn our tales into a book.

Neither me nor my husband or super go-getters so almost nothing we do is top-notch although we try. We end up stumbling along in a human rather than super-human manner and the results of our efforts are often just-enough and not pleasing to the eye.

When I take pictures, I avoid the trashy looking parts of the property. My husband says I worry too much about appearances.

We do all of our own repairs so half of them don’t get done if we can’t find instructions of the internet. That would include our central heat which stopped working when we attempted to install a propane fridge which is now sitting in the shed getting dusty.

I built our generator shed out of pallets and it looks like shit. I also built all of the shelving in our shed from pallets. They aren’t Pinterest-worthy but they hold stuff.

Our garden fence was constructed from trees and old barbed-wire fencing left on the property seventy years ago. Our solar panels were mounted on plywood for the first six months we had them.

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We are experts at nothing but the journey seems to be what is worth writing about. I wonder how many people are like us – that just do their best which is far from perfect but they still live a rich life despite themselves.

Although we’ve struggled financially for the past two years, we haven’t been sitting around doing nothing. We were working on something that has finally come to fruition and the rewards are just beginning.

Now we can pay someone else to fix things or just buy new ones. We paid off our current property and are now in the market for a larger chunk of land with a house.

I’ve thrown some money at my blog hosting site and hope to reach more people in the coming months.

In the meantime, you won’t find hacks here – just stories of how we fudged this or that. I hope that revealing our humanity is enough to keep someone coming back.

 

 

 

The Patriot

A suburban solution to a rural challenge.

I found it at a garage sale about a month ago. It cost us twenty dollars and is probably twenty years old. Its housing is made of ugly green plastic with Stars and Stripes and the word Patriot on its side.

It’s an electric chain saw. Had I known such a thing existed, I wouldn’t have squandered two years of wood-cutting.

Everyone around here uses gas-powered chainsaws to cut timber down for firewood. I won’t ever use one because they seem too dangerous. Whether or not that’s true I’ve made up my mind. My husband seems neutral. Either way, we have some wood cutting to catch up on now that we’re not afraid of removing a limb while we’re removing a limb.

We had three huge trees cut down that have been laying on our hillside for a couple of years. We hacked and sawed off all of the branches and removed the bark for firewood but we couldn’t cut the giant trunks. They were just too big.

Enter the Patriot. the patriot

It probably has half the power of a gas chainsaw but that’s what makes it so great: less probability of bouncing off a knot and wreaking havoc with the human body. I feel I can use this thing safely.

The day we acquired our new gadget, I ran a couple of extension cords down the hillside and commenced to “bucking” one of the humongous logs. To my surprise, the chainsaw works really well for being electric.

Now we can cut the giant trunks into small sections that my husband splits into firewood. All of that wood that’s been sitting around taunting us is now thinking twice.ax1

I feel accomplished. I can slingshot and I can buck lumber.

If there was a merit badge for rural living, I think learning how to use a chainsaw would be one of the requirements. A Carhartt jacket would be the badge, but I cheated – I bought one for myself just last week.

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Blast From The Past

About a year ago, I found a broken and rusty bracelet in the farmer’s dump on our hillside. It’s embossed with a boy’s name.

Bottles and jars are cool to find intact but whenever I’ve uncovered something personal, it’s always gotten me to thinking about the person to whom it belonged to and what life was like when they lived here so long ago.

Our property had not been occupied since about 1957 until we moved in. Back then, people threw their trash in dumps right on their land. Their trash is now my fascination – but back to that bracelet.

I wondered who this kid was and I figured there was a chance he might still be alive so I looked through the list of previous owners and did some additional detective work on the Internet and found him! He is 80 years old and still lives in the state.

I prepared a script before I dialed his number and he actually answered the phone. I felt a bit awkward but I asked him if he had lived where we are now and he confirmed it. I told him we had bought his family’s old property and I explained how I’d sifted through the old garbage heap on the hillside and found many items that were most likely deposited there by his family.

I told him about the bracelet with his name on it and asked him if he remembered it. He hadn’t, to my slight disappointment, but he was friendly and open to conversation.

I described the horseshoes, TV dinner containers, bottles, toys, and marbles we’d unearthed and questioned him as to whether or not he remembered them. He mentioned he had two older brothers who might have been the marble’s owners.

I told him I was using what may have been his Mother’s can openers and how what might have been her egg beaters were now growing into the side of a tree. He laughed and told me he was nine when his family moved here.

The call was very pleasant although, for him, it had come out of the blue. I said goodbye and thanked him for his time. Although he didn’t recall everything, I’m hoping he’d hung up the phone with some old memories rekindled.

It felt nice to make a connection with someone who had shared the history of this property with us. It once was his own.

I forgot to ask him if they had a well and where it was located. The privy too. Those are supposed to be treasure troves!