Art and a Hack

One of my hobbies.

Try to find a Dorodango ball for sale on the internet. I dare you. Good luck.

Dorodango means mud dumpling in Japanese (I think). It’s literally dirt formed into a ball then dried and polished over a period of time (everyone has their own technique), to become something pretty impressive.

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My first semi-successful Dorodango ball.

I’ve been trying to successfully make one for about a month now. It takes practice. They tend to crack and the outer shell tends to nick during polishing depending on how you do it.

I’ve tried and tried to finish one over the past weeks. I threw a few. I wrote a poem about them but deleted it because my son was silent after I read it to him. Maybe I’ll rewrite it from memory.

I finally successfully made one today. I want to sell them. Especially after I discovered I couldn’t find but one on the entire internet for sale. I couldn’t believe it. There’s a vacuum in that market. Maybe Etsy,  maybe here.

This last year has been very difficult. Very. We’ve had some really hard times and one of the things that helped me through it was my various art projects. I had to use what we had on hand most of the time and dirt was readily available. This is a fun activity and I highly recommend it but it takes patience. Just hit youtube for some tutorials if you want to give it a try.

Onto a couple off the grid self described hacks.

I came up with an ingenious idea for keeping the hoses and water filter from freezing this winter. The spring and holding pit never freeze even in extended zero degree temps. We learned that last year.

Why not mount the filter under the water line and just keep the hoses in the water also when not in use? Theoretically it makes sense.

We hit some items on the monumental To Do list today also.

We pulled the RV’s water tank out today. Had to pull out a small part of the structure in the RV basement to get it out. We’ll replace it of course.

We put it on a couple of barrels so we could fill it up to see if the bottom really leaked and filled it with water. No leaks on the actual bottom but both inlet/outlet receptacles leak around the edges. I sprayed a coat of Flexseal on it and am letting it sit overnight. Will do again tomorrow then fill again to see if the leak is fixed.

If we can use that tank, we won’t have to wrestle with keeping an exterior water tank from freezing. Crossing fingers. One thing at a time.

We called the manufacturer of the dreaded and cherished gas hot water heater and asked them why the thing isn’t turning off. The water is getting super hot. Not safe. We’re just turning the gas off after about a half hour of heating for the time being.

They said it sounds like a thermostat. 10.00 on Amazon. It’s under warranty but why bother for such a small amount?

Incidentally, Atwood is now Dometic (maker of RV appliances and maybe other things).

One item at a time off of the check list.

But wait, there’s more. There’s always more. We believe the front right hydraulic jack sheer pin sheered. It is a sheer pin after all. The jack won’t move up or down. We’re trying to finish leveling the trailer still. Everything on the bathroom counter roles towards the rear of the trailer. Driving me nuts.

We added 2 more batteries to the solar power system this afternoon. We’re going to try the TV for a little while. I think it’s charging fine after all. Added 4 more 100 watt panels to the system yesterday. It was a challenge to figure out the wiring. It’s still really rough looking mounted on two sheets of plywood. We need to secure the panels better before a windstorm hits.

Now to reap the rewards of siphoning the water from the top of the property from the well we dug, installing a new hot water heater, removing and reinstalling the shower faucet approximately 6 times as a result of the overheated water, and installing a new water pump.

I think I deserve a hot bath.

Hack: You can use one little microfiber rag to dry off your entire body after a shower. Just keep wringing it out as you go. They work great. I’ve had to do it more than once upon realizing no towels were available.

Nature: Works of God

What if math is beautiful?

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Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

Organic cathedral constructed under God’s direction

Architect of perfection

Wild shapes and patterns conceal sublime mathematical formulae

Arches bow in natural geometry

Divine order concealed beneath seeming chaos

Tale etched in rock, microbe, DNA, atoms

Poetry scripted in God’s hand

Story without beginning or end

Unedited by malice or choice

Unmarred by Ego

Every moment now

Every place one

Seen from the unseen

Known from the unknown

Matter from nothing

Imagined by the Creator

 

Realities

You have to want something to get it out here.

I woke up at 4:00am this morning when the inverter to our solar power system shut off. At this point, it does that early every morning because we did the classic underestimate of power consumption needs. More on solar later. It get’s it’s own post.

I spent about an hour up anyway running on our RV’s batteries with  LED lightbulbs. I had to use my phone’s hotspot because we forgot to hook up the inverter to the RV batteries so we could run a cord inside to plug the modem into.

After going back to bed and waking up about 20 minutes ago, the husband’s still asleep so I got to instruct my son again, on how to turn on the gernerator but he forgot to unplug us from the solar system and into the extension cord he plugged into the generator. We have the modem for internet over here. That was why he was so helpful.

I then had to plug the fridge back in because we’re getting a propane fridge because the electric is a gas hog and when we’re on the inverter, we turn it off for a few hours and keep the door shut.

I also checked the level of our water supply and will have to go up to the top of the property to “turn on” the water. I siphon it all the way across the property to our temporarily outside 55 gallon water tank that holds water for our trailer.

Tired yet? I’m semi used to this but when my threshold for stress is down, I break down also. Most of the time I’m OK but it takes a lot of effort to live out here. I have problems with depression and when that kicks in, it weakens my emotional immune system and makes effort difficult.

My husband is front and center to help and we make a great team but I tend to mentally take on a sense of responsibility for the load. I don’t have to. It’s just habit, I suppose. I’m trying to learn to ask for help and to know that I don’t have to do it alone but when I realize how much there is to do before the snow hits, I get overwhelmed.

I’ll show you what I mean.

To do before the snow hits:

  • skirt both trailers
  • replace our water tank (we found out our water tank has a massive leak after we got it home)
  • seal all panels around the RV basement
  • insulate all pipes and the inside of the basement
  • finish foam insulating the small trailer and do the pipes
  • figure out why the hot water heater is not turning off (we never called someone about that)
  • return the faucet we bought when we thought the old one was broken because the hot water made it work weird
  • come up with a plan to keep the outside water barrel from freezing if we can’t replace the inside water tank
  • figure out how to keep the outside water filter from freezing
  • figure out why the solar panels we added don’t seem to be helping
  • buy more batteries for solar system
  • make sure we have a heating system in place for the basement of the RV
  • finish cleaning up the property
  • finish the roof on the shed when the truck gets home from the shop
  • pack the rest of the garbage to the dump when truck available
  • finish installing miscellaneous hardware around the inside of the trailer
  • finish the laundry (happy thought! I have a washer/drying combo in the trailer!!!!)
  • Work on blog which has become a very happy thought to me

As I said, I suffer from depression. It’s been all of my life give or take a year or two and of course I get treatment for it but it’s especially bad right now. Luckily, I’ve discovered blogging. 🙂 I can now “talk” to people about how I feel and bitch about all of the hard work I have to do living out here.

I know this has all been a choice and I would do it again. Zero regrets. But that damned to do list…..

We’re Not All Electricians

A drawing of what the wiring in my RV looks like to me.

I didn’t know how to install a water pump so I went to see the local RV repairman last week. In my estimation, he’s been doing this for over a hundred years and stopped caring about customer service in the seventies.

When I asked him how to hook up the wiring, he barked at me in an irritated voice while gesturing violently at the water pump “red is red and black is black”!

Well, I made this picture for him to show him what the wiring in my RV looks like to me. No, he hasn’t seen it nor will he ever. 🙂

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What My Fifth Wheel Looks Like To Me

A translation.

No, not a turkey. I am temporarily out of my own pictures pertaining to RV repair.

I didn’t know how to install a water pump so I went to see the local RV repairman last week. He’s probably been doing this for about 100 years now and doesn’t give a rat’s ass about customer service anymore. When I asked him about the wiring he said in an extremely tired and irritated voice while gesturing violently at the water pump I had in my hand “red is red and black is black”!

Well, I made this picture for him to translate to him what I saw. No, he hasn’t seen it nor will he ever. 🙂

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Prospecting

Our quest for gold.

I can’t figure out how to use my expensive metal detector. Steel gives off the same signal as gold, iron signals the same as gold, bottle caps signal the same as gold, nails signal the same as gold.

From what I’ve read, metal detecting is almost an art form and I have yet to create a masterpiece let alone a decent sketch. Prospecting for gold is the same – it takes patience, knowledge and experience to become successful at it.

So far, gold has totally eluded my husband and I. You could point us to a gold rich river and we would come up with only pyrite or mica no matter where we dig, how deep we dig, how much material we dig – you  get the idea. We’re rank amateurs.

All I ask for is a few little grains or flakes in the bottom of my pan – just a few. I would be able to finally sleep at night.

I downloaded some maps from Gold Maps Online for Google Earth. It’s on overlay of gold claims and mines along with data from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).

You can plan ahead to find closed and open claims and check to see if they’re on private or public land (although that’s not always easy to ascertain). You can check terrain and roads beforehand. Like their website says, you really can do a lot of the footwork ahead of time virtually and save yourself gas and disappointment.

Our property has a lot of geological indicators for gold: iron rich soil and ore, quartz outcroppings and springs, not to mention an actual fault. Nothing so far though.  I even tried divining – still nothing.

We panned all summer near Snoqualmie Pass and around North Bend Washington to no avail. Denny Creek near the pass is supposed to bear gold but we came home empty handed.

One thing we did find recently is garnets.

I was panning and found a bunch of reddish looking sand and rocks. They were the only thing left in the bottom of the pan with “the heavies”, as prospectors say. We took them into a local jeweler who confirmed they were garnets. The jeweler said most creeks and rivers around these parts contain them.

My husband isn’t as interested in prospecting as myself but he always takes me places to hunt. He contents himself with exploring the area while I prospect. He found a wolf skull just last week.

I’ve yet to find any gold but my day will come. I’ve heard that when you see it you know it and that you will never mistake a piece of mica or fool’s gold for the real thing again.

Ticks and Sticks

A theoretical game involving ticks.

Note: Ticks carry disease. My suggestion of playing a game involving them is a joke.

Ticks and Sticks is the name of a game I came up with one spring day as my family and I were looking for something creative to do outside. I imagine the rules would have involved something like going up to a bush and whacking it with a stick. In the spring, the bushes are loaded with ticks.

We played kickball instead.

Ticks are nasty spidery looking parasites that cling to branches in underbrush while they wait for an animal (or human) to latch onto. They flourish in the spring and can infect a human with Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other dangerous diseases if they burrow into your skin to feed on your blood.

We eat garlic during tick season as it repels them according to what I’ve read but don’t take my word for it – do some research and protect yourself if they live in your part of the world. If you have animals such as dogs and cats, be sure to treat them appropriately. They will bring ticks into your house – believe me.

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Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com

I never saw one until we moved to eastern Washington and then I saw way too many.  I found several on myself the first spring we lived here. They would appear at the most inopportune times.

There is nothing like the look on someone’s face when they see a tick crawl out of your hair. Imagine this happening on a first date? Once, a guy I was talking to deftly snatched one off of my forehead as if it was nothing and crushed it. He obviously had experience with these things.

I have a theory that they don’t like fluorescent light because they would almost always come out in the library or other public building.

What purpose could such ugly, dangerous pests have in the scheme of things? I’m sure they have their place – just not on my head.

Pine Bugs

A poem.

Pine bugs here, pine bugs there

Pine bugs they are everywhere

Little smelly sticky things

Fly around on crispy wings

If you try to flick them off

They will stick like glue to cloth

Think that they’re a yellow jacket

Freak you out until you whack it

Knobbly legs with little claws

Eat them pine nuts with their jaws

Found one in my swimming suit

Found one crawling up my boot

Summer find them high and low

Never find them in the snow

Although they may seem annoying

Pine trees are what they’re destroying

 

 

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Notice the fly with the attitude. I had to follow this little pine bug/beetle around the table to get a couple of good pics of him and this fly shows up and he’s like “this my piece of paper ya’ll”. Pine bug just says “ya, whatever”.

 

Hitting The Road

Picking up the trailer and we’re off.

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The evening we picked up our temporary home – our new/used travel trailer – I hadn’t pulled one in years.

We had closed on our home were headed out of town and into the foothills of the Cascade mountain range where we would live until we found a place to set down anchor.

After a final inspection to make sure everything was buttoned up tight, I climbed behind the wheel and pushed on the gas. With a gentle lurch, we pulled forward and were on our way.

I was a little nervous hauling a rig for the first time in quite a while so both me and my son kept looking out the back window to make sure the trailer was still behind us. It became a joke to say “it’s still there”.

Out and away from town and into the foothills we drove – trailer still behind us.

There was a truck stop near the entrance to the county road that led to where we were camping. It had showers for only fourteen dollars a pop, a laundry, and a gift shop with everything a trucker might want to ease their travels – or us, ours.

We stopped to fill the water tanks then pulled out for the last leg of our day’s journey. It was getting dark and we wanted to get to the campground before late.

The county happened to be paving the dirt road out and had placed a billion red cones smack in the middle for the entire length of the narrow road. I had to maneuver the trailer carefully around every single one of them. We took a couple of them out – on accident, of course.

Then we came to the bridge.

It was also under construction and had been temporarily made into one lane. I slowly rolled up to it, sizing the situation up in my head. It looked like I would have about five or six inches to spare on each side of the trailer. Some skill would be needed – or stupidity.

What if we got the rig stuck halfway over the bridge? I didn’t want to think about it and rolled forward, my son cheering me on. Gritting my teeth, my fingers practically breaking the steering wheel, we moved forward at a moderate speed. I figured a little momentum would help if things got too tight.

Yes, speed would help us in a jam.

We “narrowly” made it through the tight squeeze without losing any exterior trailer parts and continued on to our destination. One more challenge awaited: backing the trailer up into the parking pad.

I’ve never been good at that. Turning the steering wheel right makes the trailer go left, or right, or something. The next thing you know, you have completed a two-mile per-hour jackknife.

Tonight, we got lucky. I didn’t take out any trees or picnic tables and we settled in without incident for our first night on the open road.

 

 

The Beginning Of The Journey

Living as gypsies for the summer between selling our house and moving east.

pexels-photo-696680We sold our house in May 2017. We needed to close before we could make a decision on a new place to live. We didn’t know how much cash we would walk away with after everything was said and done at the old place. I cruised craigslist for a couple of weeks looking for a trailer to live for the summer. Little did I know we would end up living in it for an entire year.

I saw one that caught my eye. It was a 20′ Jayco Lite with 2 canvas fold outs. It seemed sound to me, and had a few amenities we liked so we bought it. My son and I picked it up one evening and slowly pulled it out for it’s long adventure over the mountains to a new home.

I hadn’t pulled a trailer in years. The last time was with a 1962 Shasta hitched to a tiny Ford Escort with nothing but a chain-on hitch. That was a nightmare. It was me and my previous husband with 2  friends in the back seat. At one point the car began violently wavering back and forth along with the trailer behind us. Everyone yelled “pull over, pull over!” at once and I’m at the helm trying to gently coast the contraption slowly over to the side of the road. No sudden turns here.

I don’t know how we got that thing home. We took it on many a camping trip up the local county road to the national forest where we were mistaken repeatedly for meth cookers.  One time, we had been in town and were heading back out to camp with our supplies when a bunch of Sheriffs drove by fast. We were used to the routine at that point and I think we may have turned around and gone home until the smoke blew over.

Another time, I was taking a nap in the Shasta with my 6 month old baby and 8 year old son when I heard “I know you’re in there. Come out”. I got up and went outside with my infant in my arms and my son. Robocop was there with a man who seemed really embarrassed for the cop. He stood sheepishly near the squad car. Probably a ride-a-long.

Upon seeing the obvious threat we were, the cop proceeded to reem me a new one for having a BB gun leaning up against a tree stump. Apparently, the barrel was slanting slightly too far towards an adjacent abandoned camp site. Ooooooh. “Breaking the law breaking the law”. He asked for my ID while I kept stealing looks at the poor guy who had accompanied the sheriff as he almost visually winced at the “fail” factor on the cop’s part.

After running my ID and finding no evidence that me and my children were cooking meth, he proceeded to chew me out for having a messy campground.

Well, I didn’t take to kindly to the robo-incident and complained loudly to the sheriff’s department the next day when I went into town. I happened to run into the robotard going the other way while heading back to camp. I waved him down and let him know I’d complained. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. What an asshole. I don’t like authority figures who abuse their positions and scare the crap out of 8 year old children.

The Shasta finally met it’s demise after we began storing it in an unofficial yard where, ironically, meth cookers moved in next to it and trashed it. We hauled it down to an RV reclamation site down south. It was a good little trailer. 😦 I won’t miss the busts though.

Back to new trailer. I was a little nervous hauling a rig for the first time in quite a while so both me and my son kept looking out the back window to make sure it was still behind us. It became a joke, saying “it’s still there”.

Out away from town and into the foothills near our old home we drove. Trailer still behind us. There was a truck stop near the entrance to the county road we followed to get to where we were setting up house. It had showers for only 14.00 a pop, a laundry, and a sort of gift shop setup with everything a trucker might want to ease their travels.

We stopped and “watered” the trailer before we headed out for the last leg of our day’s journey. It was getting dark and we wanted to get this rig out to where we were going to settle for the next couple of weeks before late.

The county just happened to be paving the dirt road out and had these annoying little red cones right smack in the middle of the entire length of the narrow road. I had to maneuver the damned trailer carefully around every single one of those things. We took a couple of them out. By accident, of course.

At one point we came to an already very narrow bridge that had been turned into a one-lane. I slowly rolled up to it, sizing the situation up in my head. It looked like I would have about 5 or 6 inches to spare on each side of the trailer. Some skill would be needed. Or stupidity. What if we got the rig stuck halfway over the bridge? I didn’t want to think about it and rolled forward, my son cheering me on. Gritting my teeth with my fingers breaking the steering wheel, we moved forward at a moderate speed. I figured if we had a little momentum, if we scraped maybe we’d be less likely to get lodged in place. Yes, speed would help us in a jam. Can you imagine if we’d funneled into the far end of the bridge? Oh my God. Better not to think about it.

Somehow we did it. We made it. As I recollect, we opted to pull into a regular campground that first night just to make things easier. Backing up the rig…I’m not so good at that but it happened.

Tucked in for the first night on the road to a new life.

I’m beginning to realize that there is so much to write about, I’m going to have to continue this in another post. Many many many strange and unusual things seem to happen with our family. I’ve been told countless times I should write a book. Again, a blog will do.

Next in “The Beginning”

  • Camping neighbors from hell.
  • Are you sure that’s the cat?
  • The limousine.
  • The glass menagerie.
  • The bear and the guy in the pickup.
  • Teenage drivers.
  • Crystal hunting!
  • Hopping campgrounds and really grouchy hosts.
  • Bartering with the really nice campground hosts.
  • Panning for pyrite.
  • The rocky beach trail.
  • I realized with horror one evening that we were going to be dealing with freezing temperatures and snow with canvas pullouts.