A Morning In The Country

It’s 7:45 am as I sit in our shed and look over the latest in the news (a habit I need to curb). I’m the only one up. I hear gunshots from next door and realize Mr. **** (Lawnmower Man), is probably after some critter that is after his chickens. I wonder if he got “it”.

I also hear the usual dogs barking, the roosters, and from farther away, the whinny of horses. A morning in the country.

It was cold last night and I’m thinking we need to move the stove back in for the winter. Nothing better to take the chill off. We went from baking to chilly pretty fast. I ponder how humans have such a limited tolerance to temperature variation. One tip in either direction…

Fires have been raging across the county for weeks but the rain of the past week has cleared the air. The two-month-long stretch of smoke and heat left us dragging. Larger pieces of burned bits of trees were beginning to fall from the sky last weekend along with the ash.

I guess I’m glad for the cold and rain. The water is getting gardened. 🙂

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Our garden is best classified as “wild” this year, with volunteer pumpkins and what I think is cantelope fighting for space within the narrow confines of the fencing. The beans never beaned. They just vined like crazy – most likely because of the excessive heat. The pumpkins are pumkining but are still small.

pumpkin

I’ve busied myself with projects such as the cat cabin Building A Cabin For The Cats. After it was finally done, I decided a zip line was the next “just the right thing”.

We have plenty of trees and hundreds of feet of old telephone pole cable half buried on the hillside. That’s most of the ingredients. I spent half a day digging the cables out and discovered they’re in excellent condition. Breaking the old bolts on the plates that secure them was tough.

Cable can be dangerous to work with. It’ll spring up and whack you hard if you aren’t conscious of it at all times. Hanging it requires a lot of tension. We had to buy a cable puller to get it around the tree trunks.

I ordered a trolley. It’s the thing with the wheels that runs along the cable. I’m going to recheck and reinforce all of the connections before we try it out. If it’s fun, we’ll run a series of them; just in time for us to move.

Speaking of that, Holdmybeerguy appears to be trying to claim adverse possession of the end of the easement by putting up a barrage of no trespassing signs with a note that says “Not a easement” (sic).

not a easement

We can’t let him do that. We have an ownership interest in fifteen feet on his side of the property line going up the hill towards his trailer. Once we’ve relocated, we’ll be having the road professionally graded and graveled – all the way to the end – where he can see everyone coming and going. He deserves it.

We’ll be adding an extra entrance to our own property at the very end. It’ll boost our property value and prevent him from claiming he has an exclusive right to access (adverse possession). A better road will benefit all of the land owners. If they want to chip in, fine.

I still have to tell the story of the skunk but I’m shivering.

Generator Genius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wildlife Cams

We have seven security cameras and we love them.

Why would a family living on a chunk of land that has little on it (except trees), in an area with little crime, have them? 

  • bear
  • wolves
  • coyotes
  • cougars
  • deer
  • turkeys
  • house cats
  • skunks
  • an occasional neighbor destroying the road that you are responsible for the cost of maintaining, with their snowmobiles
  • the neighbor’s dog
  • occasional shenanigans of HoldMyBeerGuy

About that last one: we were delighted to come home one day to see HoldMyBeerGuy pulling a very large tree out by the roots near our driveway entrance. It sat almost on top of our property line and his extended family were in attendance. He had it chained to his truck and was giving it the ol’ heave-ho amongst hoots and hollers and the brandishing of a firearm.

To lend some perspective, imagine living in the suburbs and arriving home just in time to witness your neighbor ripping a tree out by its roots (which can kill nearby trees), directly in front of your house.

Then there’s the other wildlife.

Our county is home to wolves, coyotes, big cats, and bears.  You want to keep an eye on such visitors.

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The house cat cam is below our trailer and lets us know who’s waiting to be let in.  I have one camera on a tripod I can move around, depending on what we want to look at.

It’s currently the trash cam as our truck, which we haul garbage away in, is at the shop. Something’s been getting into the bags that are waiting for the dump run and we aim to identify the culprit/s.

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Lastly,  we can observe the Gobblers https://wordchef.press/2021/05/06/absurd-bird/

The system was cheap but setting them up was a pain in the rear. We had to trim branches away and run hundreds of feet of cord for the initial setup. Now spiders keep spinning webs ON the cameras, and we keep having technical issues with the connections.

All in all, the cameras have been worth every penny and we’re able to run everything on solar. I wouldn’t be surprised if a website like Survival For Preppers recommended something like this https://survivalforpreppers.com/.

We like being able to keep an eye on things from our living room whether it be an errant neighbor or a marauding skunk – or vice versa.

 

 

The Totem

You may have heard of The Long Long Long Driveway.

It’s the almost mile-long unpaved easement we share with our neighbors to get to our landlocked properties. The stretch of gravel and dirt resembles a stream bed in places and a mud-bogging race track in others, depending on the season.

The legal agreement says it’s for “ingress and egress” only, but it’s become oh-so-much more – including a nifty place to display one’s trophies for all to see; in this case, the head of a freshly slaughtered bull.

Our newest neighbors have placed this lovely item on top of a fence post right next to the shared entrance to our property. I’ve put the photo at the end of this post, far far down so those who don’t want to see it don’t have to.

Who does this and why? Is this what farmers do after a slaughter or could it be  because someone is pissed because I yelled at them about the snowmobiles and they want to send us a message?

There’s a history with the snowmobiles.

Shortly after we moved in, one family took it upon themselves to ride their mobiles all over the property that surrounded and spanned the driveway, tearing it and the road up pretty badly.

When I confronted them, the matriarch of the clan claimed they’d just bought the lot. I found out differently the next day and the not-very-happy realtor sent someone up to straighten things out. Turns out they’d made an offer then weren’t able to “perform” or fulfill their end of the deal. It wasn’t their property.

The next year, after another of their family members bought one of the remaining lots, they resumed their riding only this time, in large circles around the surrounding properties, essentially turning the barely snow covered road into a racetrack.

Out went a letter from our attorney and all was quiet until a couple of months ago, when there they went again. We gathered evidence via surveillance cameras just in case, and I finally yelled at the top of my lungs for them to stay the hell off of the easement as they drove by.

They had a pow wow about it after driving the machines up onto someone else’s private property and rallied for one last stand or drive. I could hear every word they said as they plotted from their secret place atop the hill. I had to resist the urge to yell out “I can hear you” from the darkness. I believe there may be some discontent.

By the way, one of them stole a UPS package from us a couple of months ago. We have good reason to be out there standing our ground. It’s a shame but we have not picked the fights.

Back to the bull. Is this a thing in rural America; the displaying of your leftovers from the slaughter? What’s gonna happen when it warms up? Is this thing going to sit atop it’s post and rot into the summer?

Will we break down and leave a note in their mailbox or go up to their door and tell them to please put it away with the rest of the Halloween decorations until next year? Does anyone know this to be a custom of farmers and won’t it attract predators?

I love Halloween, but please.

Photo way below – off screen. 🙂

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cow

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 EL-14.

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.

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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.

logs

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!

The Muddy Season

You people with your sidewalks and your manicured lawns – I envy you right now. We moved onto raw land on purpose but I didn’t anticipate having to train for a cross-country event just to get to the car.

At this time of year, when the snow melts and the ground is still frozen, our property becomes a quagmire.

Imagine plopping down somewhere in the woods to live. Wherever you walk, you trample the grass down leaving only dirt, then mud, when it rains. Everywhere you drive, the same. Without driveways and sidewalks – mud is what happens.

To get to the car we have to zigzag between patches of snow, muck, and the boards we put down to prevent us from leaving our boots behind.

We’d be stuck here without four-wheel drive and we meet in the war room to strategize our route out before we hop in the car The Long Long Long Driveway.

It’s almost spring and water from the melting snow is trapped on the surface by an under-layer of permafrost. It has nowhere to go and mixes with the trampled or driven-upon topsoil to create a real mess.

Where pools of standing water form, we discovered that hammering holes through the frozen ground to the unfrozen earth below allows the water to drain. Where that doesn’t work we cover the goo with boards or fill it in with rocks.

The place looks classy.

Until the thaw is complete and all of the snow melts, I put on my rain boots no matter the outfit. At least I fit in here in rural America.

The Long Long Long Driveway

7/10’s of a mile of hell.

It is a buffer between us and anyone who isn’t hell bent on visiting us.

The postal service won’t drive up after that one time they dared and left us a note saying “never again”.

The UPS driver delivers but only in summer. The first few times he drove up the easement, we could hear the overhanging branches scraping along the sheet metal shell of the box truck. He finally asked us to cut the trees back but we still know he’s coming before we see him because of the rivet-busting potholes.

The route is dusty in the summer, clogged with heavy snow and slush in the winter and becomes a bog in the spring. It hasn’t been graded and graveled in God knows how long and has a very steep incline towards the end.

It is our driveway – seven-tenths of a mile of natural disaster area. It is our only way in and out and it is the bane of my existence. We have been within eyesight of our front door and had to abandon the vehicle with our groceries to go get the shovels and salt.

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When the thick layer of snow and ice begin to melt and the ground is still frozen, crevasses open up and torrents of water with no place to go converge to form streams in the ruts. When the ground thaws, driving through the mud displaces giant slabs of Play Doh-like ooze. On subsequent passes, we drive on the tops of those and squish them down until the road is finally flat and dry again. We lay down rocks in the worst places.

We had the gauntlet to ourselves until the neighbors moved in. One of them drives a little sedan that isn’t suited for the terrain. I occasionally see them make a run for the last portion of road – speed helps. I can hear the wrenching sounds of the suspension as they lurch along, bouncing violently over the uneven ground. The scraping of oil pan against bedrock sends shivers down my spine as the car careens up the last fifty feet of hill to safety.

A couple of weeks ago we spotted what is still left of it abandoned halfway up the grade, with it’s wheels frozen solid in knee-deep mud. I don’t know how they got it out.

The sheriff once drove all the way up over an issue about a dog. We found part of a bumper near the gate the next day. The Washington State Patrol once stopped us because chunks of our driveway were calving off the underside of our car onto the freeway.

Someday we will have our little slice of heaven repaired. Until then, I shut my eyes tight and pray every time we back out of our parking spot.

My Junk

Our property, no matter how hard we try to make it look nice, looks trashy. Until we can upgrade, there’s not a lot we can do about it.

We try our best to keep things organized but it’s difficult to make rusty metal objects, pallets, tarps and trailers appear attractive. One of our newer neighbors is building and it makes us look bad. My prospecting collection of trashy looking buckets, dirt piles, rocks, pots and pans, and holes in the ground doesn’t help.

When we’re out and about though, my husband points out other people’s properties, many of which have old cars, heaps of beer cans and other trash strewn about in order to make me feel better. This is rural America, after all.

I have a large container full of “useful” stuff. Everything’s tangled together in a mass of wire, brackets, screens, hooks, buckets, and parts of old appliances and when I grab something, everything comes out at the same time. It’s indispensable so I keep it.

ovens
Two of my homemade furnaces made of clay and old parts.

I regularly go to the farmer’s dump on the hillside to scrounge for more useful stuff. I’ve found mangled tools, parts to household appliances and old vehicles and other treasures I can’t live without. I’ve harvested screen, fencing, bones (not human), marbles, two can openers, and assorted remnants of ancient kitchenware that I might a have need for someday.

Recently I got distracted on my way to repair something. I was already carrying a load of tools when I veered toward the hillside.

My son came home from school in time to see me wandering away from the dump with the armful of tools, part of a shovel, a leftover wheel from a child’s wagon, a long sharp object, an old tractor carburetor, and a candle holder – all possibly useful.

I left the mangled bird cage behind; this time.

beaters
Try to beat this.

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.