Coffee’s Comin’ Down The Tracks

Morning ritual wakes us up.
Pound of coffee in your cup.
Black as night and heavy too.
Man, this is your kind of brew.
Coffee is so thick and dank.
Roles in like a Sherman tank.
Busting rivets, twisting guts.
Loosening your bolts and nuts.
This pot it has a coal car.
A fireman and crew.
Hit that mountain running.
Son, you have no clue.
Clear the way to Uncle John.
Pave the streets and tell your Mom.
Ticker tape parade with bands.
Don’t forget to wash your hands.
When it’s done and all is quiet.
Feel like you’ve been on a diet.
Have another cup my friend.
I’ll stay with you to the end.

The inspiration for this poem.

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 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.

 

 

Fishing Is Like Threading A Needle

Catching a fish is not a sure thing for me because it seems as if anything that can go wrong, will.

Think about it: you have to attach a super thin, almost invisible line to a skinny, long pole then tie a hook onto the end with fingers way too big for the job. Then you have to squeeze a piece of lead onto it without dropping the tiny chunk of metal into the dirt. Then you have to add a float.

That involves catching the now wildly swinging invisible line with an extremely sharp hook on the end that is now trying to wrap itself around the end of your pole fifty times when you’re not looking, and wrapping it several times around the hooky thingy on the float. Now it’s time to add the bait.

Keep in mind that all the while, you’re being buzzed by horseflies and mosquitoes because you left the repellent in the car next to the tackle box. The fish bucket is next to the tackle box.

After debating whether or not to put down the pole and go back to the car for everything you forgot, you decide instead, to use a rock to dispatch the fish if you catch one. You thread the worm onto the hook trying not to spear your finger in the process.

Finally – you’re locked and loaded. Time to cast.

You release the line while grasping the portion on the pole that is now loose, you bring your arm back – and cast. Unfortunately a bush has grown unexpectedly behind you and you have now caught it.

You can practically hear the fish laughing at you then realize it’s your husband.

As you swat at the cloud of gnats that are circling your face, a sandwich is beginning to sound appealing but one more try. This time you manage to land the lure halfway across the river but the current quickly routes it directly towards a sunken tree trunk.

You frantically reel it in as it approaches the obstacle but it’s too late. The hook does it’s job well – it has now caught an entire tree. Just a quick tug will jerk it free and – the line breaks. All that is left is a tangled mass of spiderweb-thin nylon and the float.

You could barely thread the hook but somehow, what’s left of the line has spontaneously tied itself into thirty different boating knots. This is a sign, you think.

You put down the pole and prepare to go grab that sandwich when your friend casually meanders up with his pole ready to go, casts it perfectly, and snags a trout within seconds. He effortlessly reels it in, kills it, cleans it and wanders off to have his dinner.

You just stand there with your ball of filament and stare.

Culture, Charred Steak, and Gold

We are on another prospecting expedition and I’m sitting by a campfire smelling steak burning just right as the sun nears the top of the treeline to the west. It seems as if I feel less heat already in early August. Pink Floyd’s The Wall is playing – probably for the one-billionth time since the album was created. 🙂

There is laughter and talk of entrepreneurial ventures after the virus recedes – hopefully for good until the next Something comes along. I’ve just had a bite of the best Filet Mignon of my life.

Pieces of gold are being compared.  I feel content at this moment. America – the world – mankind is going to be OK. As we sit around the fire, we share stories about the prospecting culture and the local woodcutters among other things. Bits of information are passed back and forth such as that salmon berries are known by some as Smooshberries – because they are smooshie, of course. 

Local lifestyles make for great tales. The woodcutters are stuff of legend around these parts. They know how to harvest a truck load of wood from the mountains in the dead of winter (I’m from “civilization” so everything is larger than life compared to what I’m used to).

We’re out prospecting with some people we’ve just met and they are very cool. They own a computer store and the husband has a YouTube channel having to do with drones. They want to open a restaurant. I’m sold after the steak.

Earlier in the evening, the husband threw a fishing line in the river and snagged a couple of trout for dinner. I’m rusty and asked for some pointers then proceeded to snag my hook in the nearest bush then break the line. I briefly considered shooting a trout with my slingshot before grabbing a hotdog.

Our other friend’s pooch has taken up residence at my side as I give him a good scratching. His owner is dabbling with constructing campers of a different type for a specific purpose. I don’t want to disclose his ideas without permission so I’ll let that lie for now.

We all have gold in common. It’s fascinating, elusive, and worth almost two grand an ounce right now.

I’ve been focusing on metal detecting for gold ore with some success and we plan to try to track down the source. It’s exciting. I’m sending in a pound of the material for a gold and silver assay which will tell me if, and how much of the minerals are in there.

The evening is mild, the mosquitoes few, the food excellent and the trading of stories and dreams the best. Tonight, the ties that bind are exquisitely charred food, a campfire, stories of people and their dreams – and gold.

Another trip is coming soon. We only have so much time before the legendary winter sets in. Then the gold of the mountains and creeks will be locked up for the season in ice and snow.

the grimmer roci

Other Adventures

Today I changed the description of Stories From Off The Grid to include other adventures.

There’s only so much that can happen to or that a family can do on 3.74 acres.

The garden is growing (peas and cabbage only this year and we planted way late), we moved the raspberry bushes closer to the RV so I could tend to them better, I still slingshot, the appliances are constantly breaking or now getting lost or damaged in the mail, and the pool is still halfway brown, still freezing, and largely unused.

The turkey’s are still turkeying along with this year’s batch of goblets,  I’m still obsessively looking for gold on our property although I’ve expanded my search to beyond the perimeters, Lawnmower man now drives a small backhoe and insists on creating a park-like setting here in the semi-wild, and we are dreading winter.

All is quiet on the western front with the neighbors, thankfully, and I’m running out of off-grid subjects. We don’t have livestock and I don’t make soap: wait, I did a couple of months ago but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and certainly couldn’t write a how-to post on the subject. I cook, but lately, dinner has more often than not, been microwaved chicken patties and store-bought cookies. No how-to-cook posts here.

The solar power system is on the fritz. Nothing new.

Things have been pretty quiet here actually. So, in the spirit of trying to keep things interesting, this blog covers about anything that happens in our lives or that we make happen (I hope we’re still behind the wheel) that might be funny, informative, or humorous.

Other than the propane fridge we’ve long needed getting damaged in transit so we’re still short an LP fridge and me dredging the well, camping for gold is the order of the day this summer. There have been lot’s of adventures at Sheep Creek where we’ve been prospecting. We’re heading out again this afternoon and I’ll take lots of pictures because we might be onto something!

Whether it be the ongoing mess inside our car from packing or stays at motels from hell, its now all free game. The motel featured photo is not the motel from hell . 🙂

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.