Heat Wave 3

The battle for A/C

It was 115° in the shade at 3:00p.m. today.

It doesn’t look like it in the picture, but it really says 115°. At 7:40p.m., we’re at 95° and it feels heavenly.

Today, being soaking wet wasn’t working any more. I no longer have my pool to dip in. I overturned The Trough because I added too much bleach, and the cooling effect of cold showers lasts maybe fifteen minutes.

I’d finally had it with the heat by 3:30p.m.

I strongly suggested to my husband  that we head down to the hardware store to put a couple of super heavy duty 10 gauge 15 amp extension cords on the credit card so we could cool off.

Forty-five minutes and two-hundred dollars later, we were back home untangling the anacondas and setting up for some air conditioning. Now the Generac 5500XL would be put to the test.

Our son lives in a smaller trailer about seventy-five feet in the other direction from the generator and his A/C unit is smaller so we started with him. So far, so good.

Now us.

I researched the watts and btu’s and all of that stuff ahead of time so theoretically we could comfortably run two units on the generator. We plugged in and turned our  A/C on low for a bit, then medium.

Ten minutes later, the generator override kicked in and shut it off. We cut a larger hole for the exhaust in the back of the shed but had a repeat. Shit. Looks like we can run it but only on low and only when we can reset it. That’ll be better than nothing.

We did the egg experiment again today but this time with a cast-iron skillet at the suggestion of another blogger. Why not try to have some fun with this? So far, no success.

egg in cast iron skillet

We also wrestled with the solar power system again.

Ironically, the heat was so bad, the batteries overheated again, even with the shed doors open and in the shade.

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Solar power my ass. 🙂 We cranked up our smallest generator to keep our power on while our son enjoyed his air conditioning.

Me? I crawled into a cool hole until the sun set.

The second spring needed to be deepened anyway.

Heat Wave 2

Cooking with Linda

I just checked the thermometer again. Two steps outside barefoot with two seconds to take a peek and my feet are singed.

It’s getting hotter earlier in the day. At 2:00p.m. it’s 108° in the shade.

Last night I decided to dredge one of our two springs and take more rock out of the bottom because of the threat of drought. I can only do this in the evening or early morning to avoid the sun. If at the end of the day, I have to coat myself in mosquito repellent to avoid being eaten alive. It’s always something around here.

I use what’s called a Santa Fe bar to do some of the work. It’s a six-foot rod made of solid steel for breaking rock. Don’t leave it in the sun then grab it with your bare hands (or anything else made of metal). You’ll regret it.

This morning I beat both the heat and the legion of yellow-jackets and wasps that share the watering hole with us by starting at 6:00a.m. By 8:00a.m., the place was getting too popular for my comfort so I wrapped things up until this evening.

Even earlier, I hung another tarp awning over our RV door because the knob has been getting too hot to touch. I don’t know what we were thinking when we originally positioned the trailer broadside to the sun.

We’ve added a cold shower with clothes on to our cooling repertoire and I now sport a wet T-shirt wrapped around my head.

Today’s shopping trip included some powdered Gatorade. Not usually a preferred drink but we live in different times lately.

We cracked an egg on a rock outside to test the “it’s so hot you can fry and egg on a sidewalk” expression but we don’t have sidewalks here. We have rocks though. We had trouble leveling the one we picked and the egg became partially scrambled during the cracking process. There it sits till later.

Speaking of rocks, a fault line passes directly under the northeast corner of our fifth-wheel (where I sleep), according to the Washington State Department Of Natural Resources geological map. The thought of lava somewhere below us in the depths of the earth makes me cringe and question once again, the placement of our RV.

Looking at a photo of two people hugging makes me feel uncomfortable. Now we practice heat wave distancing. As for dinner: who in their right mind would turn a burner on right now? Salad, Gatorade, and ice cubes sounds good.

The solar inverter started beeping again when it shouldn’t have and I suspected overheating. I remembered the large pieces of foam insulation stored away and grabbed a couple with reflective foil on one side. We stacked them on top of the battery and charge controller shack and drew them out over the front to act as shade.

Upon opening the doors, the charge controllers indicated the batteries were indeed, over heating but once the “breeze” began to circulate throughout the shed, all of the battery status lights changed to green, telling us everything was good to go. We left the doors open with the components now in the shade. Lesson learned.

It’s so hot outside the foam insulation we put around our security camera cords is melting. The cords themselves are fine.

melting foam tube

The ants are going crazy looking for water and have attempted another invasion. They seem to be moving around frantically and I feel bad for them. Even insects need water – but not from my kitchen.

This time around, I soaked a paper towel in vinegar and stuffed it in the hole where they were coming in. It seems to be working and I’m wondering if I’ve discovered a more effective strategy than my old battle plan: Ant Invasion – A Poem

I wonder if putting a dish of water outside and away from the trailer will draw them away? I think I’ll try an experiment.

I take back what I said about the west coast: they’re every bit as hot as us. I hope this isn’t a trend.

Oregon is down to two fires now. Everything is like tinder. Crossing my fingers for eastern Washington this summer.

Three-and-a-half hours to today’s high and counting. I’m going to look at the thermometer and egg again but this time I’m wearing my shoes.

It’s 2:40p.m. and it’s 109°.

The egg is not cooking.

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

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. 🙂

 

The Wood Goddess

The Story Of A Local Wood Cutter.

Did you know that firewood with smaller rings, burns longer or was it hotter?

I learned one or the other today from a person I shall call The Wood Goddess or Goddess Of The Wood – take your pick.

She visited us as we were in need of her magic after a lean season last year.

Winters are cold here and a fireplace warms a space like no man-made heat source can. The sound of crackling, the smell of fresh cut logs, the way the heat radiates; there’s no substitute.

Burning wood is a wintertime ritual. Here’s a poem I wrote about gathering wood: Wood Gathering: A Poem.

A hot stove or fire soothes the soul. It’s draws people around at gatherings. It dries soaked socks and gloves and beckons pets to lie down in it’s glow. A good supply of fuel means security.

Last year we didn’t purchase a load from one of the many local purveyors. Instead, we hauled our electric chainsaw and about two-hundred feet of extension cord down the hill to where three large trees lay, and harvested our own timber.

We waded through five feet of snow in blizzard-like conditions to buck the timber then swore our way back up the nearly vertical slope with the rounds. That was the worst part. Second was the splitting. Third, the hauling into the RV.

Fourth? Getting the damned fire started with wet wood.

It took a lot of patience and an assortment of tools. A propane torch, bacon grease, maybe some candle wax, some skill, and a lot of patience – especially at three in the morning, freezing cold, in a robe.

No more.

This year The Goddess Of The Wood paid us a visit! She doesn’t leave anything under your pillow but who wants splinters in their bed anyway? This supernatural-like figure brings the gift of ambiance upon request and now we can eliminate steps one, two and half of four.

When the cold temperatures arrived this fall, my husband and I agreed we’d had enough of the self-sufficiency thing so we looked around and found some wood for sale. I’d made arrangements for the delivery by message so I was surprised to see a woman pull up. Another tomboy like myself, I thought!

Her roundish canine companion, who rode shotgun jumped out to tour the property while she unloaded. Cocoa happily ambled off to find the best vantage point from which to keep watch. The Goddess explained that his figure was a result of his love of the occasional snack at home.

We chatted as she worked and The Goddess told me how she and her daughter make forays into the national forest where they fell trees, buck the logs, and split them on the spot so the wood is ready for delivery. That’s hard work and I was impressed by these women.

She has been selling firewood for about three years after some health issues threatened her sense of happiness as things like that do. She was previously a nurse but found the switch in vocations to be life changing if I remember her story correctly.

The woods can do wonders for the soul and for healing, I believe.

After she threw the last round, we said our goodbyes as she boosted the somewhat rotund Cocoa into the truck and off they went – presumably home before their next trip into the forest where she will work her magic for someone else.

As she drove away I found myself wondering if there is a deity of wood stacking.

Thank you again to The Wood Goddess. We shall see you in a couple of months.

Preparing For Coronavirus

I don’t scare easily but the coronavirus outbreak is a little bit different.

I have asthma so I am one of those people with an underlying condition and am theoretically at higher risk for complications or death. I have significant problems breathing some mornings and a little bit of exacerbation would not be a good thing.

I’m glad we’re out here away from town and not in close contact with other people. Our plan is to stay put for as long as possible when the crap hits the fan – which it will. I don’t know what the life cycle of this virus is so perhaps we aren’t being realistic. Still, minimizing our exposure to others seems prudent.

Today we stocked up on things that would help us stay comfortable for longer on our own. We grabbed a bunch of canned dinner-type items such as spaghetti and meatballs – things that provide protein but will keep indefinitely. A bag of potatoes and sweet potatoes seemed like a solid idea also.

We meant to buy some hand sanitizer but it was already sold out. Instead, we grabbed a few bottles of alcohol and some wipes so we could make our own version of sanitizing wipes – one for the car and one for home.

My husband grabbed the extra gas cans and propane cylinders to fill up.  Other than that, I’m not sure what else we can do. Our solar isn’t running at full strength but we can run most of our appliances and charge our batteries during the day.

We have plenty of wood on the property for heat and if it came down to it, for cooking over a fire. We have an unlimited water supply.

I looked up some natural antivirals and none are proven to be effective in warding off this virus but no proof doesn’t mean they don’t work. There simply isn’t evidence either way so we eat lots of garlic and I add coconut oil to my coffee for now – just in case.

Our entire school district closed this morning and some individuals are awaiting test results. The high school our son attends is being sanitized. I hope he isn’t sick.

If it wasn’t for my asthma, I wouldn’t worry as much but because I’m at a higher risk,  I’m ready to call the number that is listed in the local health department press release at the first sign of symptoms.

Being able to sustain ourselves for a good month is reassuring to me. But can we outlast the outbreak?

 

Surviving Winter In An RV

How To Stay Warm

We currently live year round in a fifth wheel trailer. They are notoriously under-insulated for winter because they are just that: recreational vehicles designed mainly for summer camping. We have plans to build a real house but for now, staying comfortable in frigid weather requires a lot of effort.

We broke the central heater in our fifth wheel when we tried to install a propane fridge a couple of months ago (don’t ask) so we’re left with space heaters and the fireplace we installed last year to keep warm.

Earlier this month, an arctic front dipped into the northern United States from Canada. Next thing you know, it’s zero degrees and our pipes are freezing despite our anti-freezing protocol.

The area under and near the front of a fifth wheel is often referred to as “the basement”. It took me a while to figure that one out when I couldn’t find the stairs going down (ha ha). It’s the compartment where all of the water tanks, the pump, and the water pipes reside. You have to keep the vulnerable complex of Pex pipes that wind throughout from freezing. Most people add extra insulation and incorporate some sort of auxiliary heating system. The central heating ducts go into this compartment in our “home” but that’s out for now.

We put a couple of small desk-sized heater fans near the water pump and we use a heat hose to go between our 400 gallon external water tank and the trailer to keep the lines clear. Unless it’s ten degrees below. In that case, we have to remove the heat hose and bring it inside to thaw before hooking it back up. Coffee water comes from dipping the pot directly into the tank on those mornings.

We also leave the cupboard doors open between the living space and the basement to equalize the temperatures. It’s all about strategy out here. Thick dark curtains and/or shrink-wrapped plastic on windows help cut drafts.

Skirting is a standard protection used to keep wind out and stabilize the air temperature beneath a trailer. It’s a barrier running the circumference of the rig from the ground to the body. Everything from expensive kits to straw bails can be used for the purpose.

We installed a fireplace last year. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. We used the correct components and installed it to the letter of the instructions for safety. We got a fan that is activated by the heat on top of the fireplace which blows air throughout the living space quite effectively. A bellows is mandatory for getting fires started.

We couldn’t afford a cord of wood this winter so we’ve been harvesting it from around the property. Storms have brought branches down and there are three huge trees laying on a hillside that we had to have felled in order to get an internet signal. Those have provided us with a seemingly endless supply of wood but the work: chopping, cutting, sawing the stuff to fit the fireplace – its exhausting.

We also pick up wood pallets from around town when we go down the hill. Most of them fit comfortably into the back of our SUV and they are free and plentiful.

The first thing I do every cold morning is make the fire in the fireplace and it’s the last thing I do at night. Keeping warm is so much work. I’m glad we are on our way towards spring and summer so I can complain about the heat.

The Never Ending Repair Cycle

I keep reminding myself I asked for this. I entered into this adventure willingly but I’m reminded daily that it comes with a price.

Living out here away from the cities with no utilities is exhausting and I’m pretty sure my blog will someday morph into “Stories Formerly From Off The Grid”.

I’m up in the middle of the night again unable to sleep. There’s either an air or water leak in our RV fresh water system and the pump keeps cycling on and off about three times a minute. It’s driving me nuts.

I could disconnect it but that would mean putting my boots and coat on and going outside in the rain to disconnect the pump from the battery – which might wake my husband.

If an RV water pump is turning on and off by itself, it’s either an air pressure or water leak or the pump is bad.

We’ve tried to track down the cause without success. I’ve listened carefully for the sound of running water inside the RV but haven’t heard anything. I looked underneath the trailer for drips but have only spotted a small one coming from one of the holding tanks.

My next step is to replace the heat hose going into the pump to see if the system is losing pressure there.

On top of the leak problem, our furnace stopped working. I browsed the online RV forums for clues but we’ll have to open an outside access panel that’s sealed shut in order to check the fan reset switch, if there IS one.

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We accidentally put bad gas in our small generator and broke it.. Then I accidentally stripped a bolt inside the carburetor while I was trying to repair it. JB Weld didn’t work so now it has to go to the shop. Thankfully we have another larger generator but it’s a gas hog.

We tried to install a propane refrigerator to replace the electric one that was using seventy percent of our electricity but after a month of trying we couldn’t get it to work. The extra fridge sat in our living room for a month but now it’s tucked back into it’s spot. The RV seems suddenly spacious.

It seems like after we fix one problem, another one pops up or we cause another one until we’re back at the beginning. Like a wheel, it goes round and round – never to end.

Update: We bought a new water pump – problem solved.

 

Featured Image by  Christopher Burns on Unsplash.

 

Winter Lurks

I now dread the once magical time of year.

I used to love the snow.

As a kid living in western Washington, we rarely got it. When it did snow, it was cause for celebration. One of the reasons we moved was the year-round rain but after one winter here, we are cured of the love of snow.

We now live in a land of extremes between hot and cold. Fall and spring seem fleeting here. The blistering heat, wildfires, and droughts of summer quickly give way to cooler temperatures and sprinkles that seem to last a few days and fall is done.

Our first winter here was brutal as we weren’t prepared. The cold crept into our travel trailer through every tiny crack and we had to put up insulation along the walls of our canvas pullouts. I remember lying in bed one summer night while we were still on the road when I realized with horror that we might have to spend the winter in a cardboard box with cloth walls on the ends.

I was right to be anxious.

Our water pipes froze and I had to systematically hunt down drafts and cold spots and cram whatever I could find into crevices and holes to keep warm. With the water pipes frozen, I had to wash the dishes outside in ice-cold water I’d gotten from the spring.

We couldn’t drive our truck up our almost mile-long driveway because our four wheel drive was broken so we had to trek back and forth along it’s length with our groceries, gas and propane tanks.

I wrote a poem about winter that year: Cold.

Cold

I’m not looking forward to all of the work ahead of us to prepare.

I made a to-do list last week. We have to put plastic over the windows, skirt the RV, take down the tent we never used after I set it up last summer, hang all of the extension cords, and stockpile the wood.

Today we bought an ax to dispatch the trees on the hillside for firewood.

I worry a lot about winter but I remind myself that we’re better prepared than last year and I try to focus on thoughts of sledding, making snow sculptures and of course, Christmas.

Although I’m not looking forward to the cold weather, I’m looking forward to sitting by the fireplace and writing while the snow falls outside – and being able to wash my dishes inside.