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.

20210626_142115

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

Soap Making Part 2: Resurrection

Obligatory disclaimer included.

Despite the use of the word “obligatory”, I really mean do this at your own risk.

I killed my food processor as detailed in my previous post Soap Making With Linda by flooding the motor compartment with coconut oil. Actually, I barely got started before the incident.

I’ve dried out electronics before but when I held my processor above my head and saw gook dripping out of its innards, I thought “That’s it -she’s done”, before placing it outside.

There it sat in the baking sun after I’d reluctantly thrown the upper components into the trash. I would have to buy another on the first of the month, I’d decided.

I regarded the thing with a sense of regret every time I walked out the door and saw it. The sheen of oil that coated it made it look almost as if it was tanning.

Then I had an idea.

I figured I had nothing to lose at this point so I grabbed a small tub, the device, and a bottle of laundry detergent. I headed for the sink, placed the patient in upside down and began the resurrection.

Against every instinct in my body, I poured detergent directly into the vent on the bottom while I filled the tub with ultra-hot water. I knew I’d need a lot of the surfactant to break down the oil.

I swished the thing around violently in every position imaginable in hopes of removing all traces of oil from the innermost parts of the machine. I rinsed and repeated six times before the rinse water was clear of oil droplets. I also used dish soap as it’s a good de-greaser.

Back out to it’s place in the sun it went where it cooked in about 90 degree weather for six hours or so.

Meanwhile, I dug through the usual egg shells and coffee grounds in the garbage can in order to rescue the accessories I’d thrown away the night before. I washed them and waited for the sun.

My husband was leary of this whole venture, but I had a former tenant submerge my old food processor in a sink full of water. I caught him in the act and booted him out, needless to say. I did some research about rescuing electronic components at the time and successfully dried it out. I reminded my husband about that and assured him I’d gotten the oil out of the processor and that it was a matter of drying at this point.

Of course, do this at your own risk, but as the sun began to set, I grabbed the accessories and the food processor and headed for the shed. I announced to my husband that I was testing it. I plugged it in, put the top pieces on and turned it on.

It worked.

No burning smell, no smoke – just the electronic whirring sound of the blade spinning. I’m letting it sit out for another day in the sun just to be sure.

Welcome back food processor. How was heaven?

Soap Making With Linda

A cautionary tale.

I am the queen of imperfection and soap making is no exception.

I’ve made homemade coconut oil soap before and the measurements and timing are really important. Mixing too.

I used my food processor and discovered how much you try to cram into it matters.

I don’t do this too often so I watched a video on the subject by a woman whom I’m now blaming for the disaster that ensued. Doesn’t matter that I didn’t follow the instructions.

I’m jealous because she built a log cabin by herself and she has her own Youtube channel.

She made the measuring easier by using an entire 54 oz. bottle of the oil, adjusting the measurements for the other ingredients accordingly. “Great”, I thought, as I dug fifty bowls and utensils out, my alcohol inks (for color), my essential rose oil, a scale, a thermometer – and my beloved food processor for mixing.

The normally solid coconut oil was already in liquid form from the heat so I wasted no time and poured the entire container into the mixer.

Then oil started seeping out of the machine.

I’d clearly overfilled it and it was leaking through the blade attachment. I thought fast and poured it into the container that was resting on the scale, zeroed out to measure the lye. In the process, oil slopped all over the place so I put the mixer container in the sink and grabbed the bowl that was on the scale to dump back into the original bottle.

Unfortunately, the oil had stuck the scale onto the bottom of the bowl, releasing it into the sink full of water at just the right moment.

I swiped it out, grabbed a rag, and began the cleanup.

Because our RV isn’t perfectly level (a sheer pin in one of the hydraulic jacks sheered off before we could finish the job and I’ve lived with the fact that in our bathroom anything that rolls, will head west when placed on the counter), the coconut oil also headed west.

It was on its way to the edge of the counter so I hit the most threatened areas first then turned my attention back to the motor unit of the food processor. I sopped up the pool in the tray on top, wiped off the suction cups on the bottom and put it aside while I finished cleaning the counters.

I scraped wave after wave of the skin conditioning, nutty smelling stuff into the sink and down the drain. I figure I lost about a third of the container.

I again picked up the motor unit and noticed a huge puddle of the viscous liquid on the counter I’d just cleaned. Upon holding the gadget above my head, I spied oil coming out of the motor compartment.

So long food processor.

You can actually dry some electrical components out but I’m not taking a chance with this one.

I put the fifty bowls, utensils, alcohol inks, the scale with the now-cloudy digital readout, the essential rose oil, and thermometer away but the food processor unit is now sitting in the hot sun, still oozing – destined for the garbage can.

The moral of my story? Life ain’t perfect but at least my hands are soft.

Cougar

We share this place with all sorts of wildlife: turkey, deer, pheasant, skunk, rodents of every variety, bear – and cougar.

A family (Cowheadguy), has a small farm about a half of a mile down our almost mile-long easement road. It’s a type of micro-farm and he has (we know he has cattle – The Totem), goats, chickens, a dog and kids.

About four days ago, a cougar jumped or dug underneath the ten-foot fences he has around the various pastures and killed all four or five of his goats and a calf. I feel bad for the animals and for the family, differences aside.

Another neighbor of ours came over to warn us and said the sheriff’s department and/or Fish and Game has set up a trap for the animal with motion-sensor cameras. They will signal a man who is on call to come and deal with the cougar should it show up again.

In the meantime, I got permission to set up one of our security cameras on my neighbor’s property, trained on his entrance and a little down the road where the cougar might be traveling. I set it to audible alarm and to take a snapshot should it be motion activated.

The same neighbor, who has shot at the cougar and missed, thinks he’s found a game trail wherein it’s coming through his property. I set up a trail cam down there but so far all I’ve gotten is a house cat.

Yesterday, the neighbor informed me the cougar had gotten a bunch of chickens on Holdmybeerguy’s property just above us. Within a few hundred feet of our front door.

We’d already told our son not to walk around at night with his flashlight until the cat has been removed from the area, however that may happen. He carries bear spray if he even goes outside after dark. We do also.

I set all of the cameras to take a snapshot with motion but had to turn the audible alarms off because with all of the cameras, something like long grass (which I cut), or the damned spiders that are constantly weaving webs in front of the lenses, sets them off every few minutes.

We’re hoping this thing is taken care of soon. For all of us, including the neighbors we don’t get along with. At some level, we’re all human and have to come together for the common good.

Holdmybeerguy Now Has Dogs Or Someone Visiting With Dogs

What would you do?

The barking began two days ago. It’s worst in the evenings – and goes ALL night long – NONSTOP. I want to emphasize this isn’t intermittent and it’s LOUD.

The first night it started at around 11:00pm with the racket still echoing over the hillside when I finally went to bed around 2:00am. Last night it started even earlier. They were still barking at 2:00am when I finally fell asleep.

I woke up to the cacophony at 4:00am.

I tried to use high frequency noise after the first few hours yesterday but nothing. I discussed things with my husband – the fact that once again we were in a position wherein a totally thoughtless neighbor had backed us into a corner from where we had to react.

We considered giving it a couple more days in case this was a visiting relative of Holdmybeerguy and live through it rather than end up in yet another confrontation rather do something immediately.

We asked ourselves what kind of person lets their dogs bark continuously most of the night without a care in the world. I sure don’t know, but when I woke up at four this morning my mind was made up.

I was pissed. No more.

I walked up along our shared property line and looked for the source of the noise and saw a small pen set up with one or two medium to large dogs inside with one running around outside the cage. All of ’em were barking.

I yelled across their property for them to quiet their dogs then turned around and added “you have one hour before I call animal control”. Realizing it was pretty early, I quickly decided it was more prudent and reasonable to go down the work-things-out-directly checklist before I made any calls.

I went back to our trailer and scribbled a note telling them to quiet their animals and that I’d be more than happy to meet to discuss the matter in person because we have to sleep sometime. I taped it to the post along their road with Gorilla tape. Two tiny pieces of paper from a notepad with extra wide industrial strength adhesive tape bigger than the note. Maybe I was trying to make a statement.

That was about twenty minutes ago, then I came in to vent.

What would you do? How long would you be willing to listen to three dogs bark all night long before you approached the owners, called animal control or the sheriff?

This is the guy who stole one of our UPS packages and ripped a full grown tree out of the ground with a chain right on our shared property line where we had trees that could have been damaged. This is also the guy who threw huge chunks of asphalt all over the easement when it got muddy making it almost impassable so I’m thinking that aggressive, swift action is the way to handle this situation.

Wish me luck. I don’t like confrontation but you have to show people like this that you’re not going to put up with their shit. Incidentally, we love dogs and have owned them. We don’t right now because we don’t have a fence as a guarantee of keeping them from wandering. As for the barking; no way in hell would we ever allow that kind of behavior.

Why us? Why the neighbors from hell?

I wish I had a nice poem for this one but I don’t think I’d be able to find enough expletives that rhyme.

The Case Of The Disappearing Vegetables

Linda’s plate was full of food
To her Mom it all looked good
Little did her parent know
All those green beans had to go
What to do, there was no pooch
No furry friend who liked to mooch
Steak and salad with tomatoes
Great big pile of mashed potatoes
But the bane of that great feast
How to slay the veggie beast
Thinking fast she ate the rest
Put her magic to the test
Laid utensils side by side
Under which the beans she’d hide
Lined them up all in a row
Till not one of each did show
Said “I’m done”, picked up her plate
To the sink she made her break
But with Mother on patrol
Into sight one bean did role
Cross-hairs of a pointed finger
Turned around, she didn’t linger
Brought her plate back to the table
Linda ate her vegetables

From a poetry blog I have https://wordchef.press/

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.

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.