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.

How Many Gallons Of Gas Does It Take To Cook A Pizza?

Being “off-grid”, we’re on solar or generator power and, unfortunately, when a generator isn’t working at full-peak, the load it can handle is less than advertised. We aren’t the best at maintaining these as per the manual because, during the off-season for solar, we run ’em 24/7/365.

It’s hard to keep up.

You can only run so many watts on a particular model and it has to be able to handle the surge or peak watts (additional load placed on it when something is first plugged in). If it’s not tuned, it will balk more easily and shut down.

We have to think about that when we use the microwave or small electric oven we bought when our RV oven broke. It’s not easy to come by a new propane model so we went to Walmart and got the smallest electric device we could find.

I don’t know what the surge watts are when we turn it on but I can tell you it’s an event when we do.  The lights dim for a second as we stand there looking up and around at each other, wide-eyed and nervous, as if we’re waiting to be bombed, then the generator dies.

Blackout.

Time for my husband to put his boots on and grab the gas can.

We need the BIG one.

He trudges over to the canopy under which the super-heavy-duty-240-volt-capable-power-horse sits and dumps fifty gallons of petrol in.

Time to crank her up.

When he does, the rumbling echoes up into the canyons and hills of the surrounding mountain range and spills over the hillside into the valley below. I’m pretty sure it’s audible at Walmart in the kitchen appliances isle.

As this ear-blasting assault on the senses is happening, I’m wondering if the neighbors are regretting their decision to not let us have the power company run a few feet of line across their property to save us tens of thousands of dollars (it’s a long story).

All things considered, at about a half a gallon of gas per hour (as near as I can figure and with the pizza taking twenty minutes to cook), with gas at about three-thirty a gallon, it costs about sixty cents or roughly a quarter of a gallon of gas to cook a pizza.

Don’t get me started on man-hours.

We gotta find a new propane oven.

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. 🙂

 

Someone Paved Our Driveway – Sort Of

It’s that time of the year again – when the snow melts and the ground doesn’t. As a result, billions of gallons of runoff heads in our direction in the space of about three weeks.

The layer of permafrost won’t let the water soak in except for the topmost couple of inches; just enough to make a nice mud pie.

Our driveway, which doubles as a seasonal creek and has never been user friendly,  becomes a bog. It should have been regraded and graveled a couple of years ago but that would have required the neighbors to agree on something.

We have three times the traffic this year and every time someone drives through the goop, it gets deeper and threatens to suction the car in place – never to move again – and it’s one lane.

The prospect of becoming a ginormous speed bump the neighbors have to negotiate on their way home is enough to keep us far, far away from The Thing – The Road.

The destruction extends all the way to the main road. The postal service left a nasty-gram in everyone’s mailboxes telling us to fix the road or no mail would be delivered.  Luckily someone  dumped a load of rocks in front of the boxes, thus restoring our service.

The trek is so intimidating we stay home unless we’re out of oxygen or something. Don’t try to text during the ride or you may end up ruining a relationship with someone you never knew and becoming best friends with someone from Lisbon, Portugal in the space of a quarter mile.

By the time you reach the street, there’s a chance you’ll be seasick and may have incurred some sort of blunt force trauma after glancing off of some inner furnishing of the vehicle. The violent lateral lurches are capable of putting a head through a passenger door window.

The other day we needed cat food (oxygen), so we piled into the four-wheel  and braced ourselves. As we crept to the top of the worst part of the easement – a steeply graded slope – we looked down and noticed someone had laid pavement at the bottom.

More accurately, someone had lobbed chunks of broken asphalt all over the road. They lay at all angles and sizes where they were chucked. Some slabs were two feet in diameter with smaller shards mixed in.

This project had our uppermost neighbor’s “hold my beer” signature all over it. Huge ruts from his truck now cut into and through portions of the road – which he missed with the asphalt.

What we were looking at reminded me of a school project. Imagine a four-year old with some glue and macaroni only big.

I told my husband to stop while I jumped out and I redistributed the minefield.

I  jumped back in and we skirted the construction zone as far to the right as we could without rolling down the slope away from the road.

Now we had to make it past Cowhead Guy’s house (explanation here).

Never a dull day.

Frozen

All it takes is one pipe.

Part of the reason we moved away from Western Washington was the drab weather. The Pacific Northwest is mild and rainy almost year round and it can get depressing. We wanted some white Christmases.

Three winters later, we’ve had our fill.

It’s not so much the weather itself, it’s the way we are set up or rather not that’s the issue. We originally planned on building then changed our minds so we still reside in a fifth-wheel.

We have a spring at the top of our property and we siphon water down through about a thousand feet of garden hose to the holding tank next to the trailer. In the winter, that becomes a problem for a couple of reasons.

RVs in general, are not designed for severe weather. You have to insulate – especially when it comes to plumbing. Almost all of the Pex pipes are housed in what’s called the basement of a fifth wheel. It’s an area under the foremost compartment of the trailer with two access doors into an area about two feet in height. It’s way too small to crawl into to do maintenance and doesn’t have a heat source.

Because of the freezing, we’ve gone through three water pumps and then there’s always the occasional water leak because we’re not experts on this sort of thing and something comes loose from time to time – it’s inevitable.

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Who is supposed to climb in to deal with this stuff? Certainly not a full-grown man so you know who has to slide in and do the maintenance? Me. And it’s not easy. First I have to remove all of the insulation then it’s dress-down for the job. Gloves, pants, a coat, then tools and a flashlight and I go in.

We open the hatch and I have to crouch down then slide in. I had to remove a structural cross-member to get to the area I needed to be the first time then hammer it back into place when I was done. Don’t have claustrophobia and plan on doing this.

I have to slide the tools in first and push them around ahead of me because there’s no turning around or turning over once you’re inside. If the yellow jackets have decided to winter in the place, watch out for them too. They sting when they’re sleepy I found out.

I get in and do the repair crunched up and craning my head to see properly while my husband provides moral support from just outside. We run the water before I exit and he pulls me out by my heels once I reach a certain point. Then in goes the insulation again and we have to screw the hatches shut because our cats use them as cat doors if we don’t.

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Then we wait for the next mishap.

A couple of weeks ago when the deep freeze moved so far south that Texas froze, we spent three days without running water. It was about zero at night and the ice had become especially thick. Something somewhere would not allow the water to circulate. .

We bought an extra heat fan, a heat lamp that was placed carefully where we could see and watch it, we put heat tape on the Pex pipe most prone to freezing, we opened all of the cupboard doors that linked to the basement, and we put an extra heater right in front of one of those sets of open doors.

Still nothing for three days.

I doubled my efforts to find the problem when it became evident that the end of the cold-front was nowhere in sight. I checked that the defrosting arsenal was plugged in. All OK. Where was it frozen?

I pulled the heated hose out of the water tank and looked. There it was – the very end, which was a small splice of  regular garden hose was filled with ice. I took it off and we were open for business again. Or so I thought.

Still no running water. Then it occurred to me that maybe I insulated so well the  heat wasn’t reaching the pipes. I had used spray-foam so I set about cutting and ripping the toughened insulation out from around them.

Within twenty minutes, we had water.

Now we needed more water. Time to gather up and wind the hoses onto the brackets we’d mounted on the walls of a small shack. Once they are in, we light a propane heater and shut the door for a couple of hours until they’re thawed. Then up the hill again with the hose to the spring.

We could probably dig a trench and lay pipe but we don’t know the first thing about heavy equipment operation and so far, we’ve done everything here by hand.

Besides, why spoil a good time?

Out come the straws for who gets the first shower.

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

Wintertime Is Here

Wintertime is here three cheers
Time to feed the deer
Winter time snuck up oh f*ck
Wading in the muck
Wintertime is cold and old
Shoveling up the road
Wintertime’s too long begone
It goes on and on
Wintertime is white no light
Sun’s dipped out of sight
Wintertime’s a mess no less
Put away the dress
Wintertime means sleds warm beds
Snow atop the shed
Wintertime is ice that’s nice
Hear the skater’s slice
Wintertime snowballs and falls
Hatchets, axes, mauls
Wintertime is fire and choirs
Racing Radio Flyers
Wintertime is crisp snow drift
Giving others gifts
Wintertime is here we fear
Donning our snow gear
Wintertime is snow we know
Gifts with great big bows
Wintertime is great full plates
We all celebrate
Spring’s a dream away let’s pray
Counting down the days

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.

You Get What You Pay For

It weighs two-hundred and twenty pounds, is green, was cheap, and sits outside our shed in pieces. It was supposed to break rocks into pieces – not itself. It’s Bill, our new rock crusher.

As an amateur gold prospector, I got tired of hand-crushing rocks. It gets old fast – believe me. Gold doesn’t always come in nuggets that you find in creeks, rivers and beaches: sometimes you have to pry it from the rock itself.

This is what we bought Bill for: to process gold ore.

I had an assay done on some ore from our property a few months back that came back at 14 grams of gold per ton of rock and 15 of silver. That’s not the mother lode but it’s not bad, either.

The problem is getting the gold out of the rock – especially if it’s disseminated throughout in tiny particles. You have to crush a lot of rock in order to smelt the precious metals out (heat the ore with flux in a furnace to extract the precious metals).

I needed a more efficient way to get the job done so I went to Amazon and ordered Bill.

He was born in China and traveled a long way to get to us. He arrived in a sturdy wooden crate that looks a lot like the box that held The Ark Of The Covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. At least the box was well made.

We met the delivery guy in town to pick Bill up and it turns out that the guy’s father is a preeminent geologist. This is a good sign, we thought. We were wrong.

The broken adjustment knob.

After hauling him home, the whole family wrestled Bill onto several pallets I’d screwed together to make a table. He was to stay in his crate for safety reasons (a spinning flywheel with no guard, for one). Then we discovered Bill didn’t have a plug.

After some research and a couple of calls to electricians, we determined Bill would work on a North American electrical system. He would run a bit fast, but run he would. We installed a plug and everything went fine until we fed some wet material through him.

The info I’d read said this was OK but believe me, it isn’t! The finely crushed material mixed together with the water to make a nice cement-like paste and gummed the machine up.

Two hours of cleaning later, we started Bill up again only to discover his adjustment knob had sheered off. This is the part that allowed us to set how finely we wanted the rock crushed. Without that function, we were once again dead in the water.

I think it was poor workmanship and materials that led to the failure. Several screws also vibrated loose which caused a metal piece in the feeder to bend and get jammed full of rocks. Another two bolts came out altogether and when I tried to tighten them, I realized they weren’t long enough to seat.

It was time to contact Amazon and the seller.

This evening, Bill sits partially dismantled and I’m in negotiations with a company across the world about how much of a refund to agree to with some parts thrown in.

And I’m back at it with the sledge hammer.