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.

Bugsville

Moving to the country means more rocks, bushes, trees and dirt for insects to occupy. Every single teeny, weeny, nook and cranny is a potential home to these critters and we are at full capacity.

If you pick up a rock and you’ll find a microcosm of bug life from funnel spiders who weave cloth-like sheets of webs with hiding holes, to ants – one colony per rock, to the occasional baby cricket or centipede.

Grasshoppers make great play toys for the cats. Stinkbugs flock to the interiors of our vehicles or occasionally find themselves stranded in the bathtub. Do not disturb or they will live up to their names – stink. They are called Pinebugs because they smell like pine trees.

Strange unidentifiable creatures occasionally creep along or fly across our paths along with some of the biggest bees we’ve ever seen.

I found a couple of dung beetles one summer, riding/pushing a piece of – well – dung through what would have been to them, a jungle. Where to? Only they knew, although my son mentioned something about navigating by sun. One seemed to be doing all of the work while the other rode in – uh – luxury on the poop ball.

You’ll be mistaken for the premier of some kind of bug attraction if you wear a head lamp. They’ll flock to you. A face mask will keep them out. I’m sure you have one of those sitting around.

Never open a can of tuna fish with a window or door open; the yellow jackets love the smell and will do anything to get at it. Think The Hills Have Eyes as you look nervously out of your window – waiting for the next wave.

The fifty flies that have been waiting outside will ride the air vacuum in if you open your door – and head straight for the head.

Black ants regularly find their way to our kitchen. I wrote a poem about them here: Ant Invasion – A Poem. Borax mixed in with sugar is the antidote.

At night in the summer you’ll hear the chirping of crickets (a sound I’ve always loved) and sometimes you can hear hornets or yellow jackets scraping the surfaces of wood, harvesting material for their paper nests.

For the most part, we’ve gotten used to living with this disposable-like population but every once in a while, one makes itself known, like yesterday, when a pinebug landed smack dab in the middle of my glasses.

Soon enough they’ll be gone for the winter. They will disappear or fly to Florida. I can just see V’s of pinebugs heading south for warmer climes. 🙂

One More Makes Three

What weighs about one pound, has no manners, is spring loaded like a moray eel, has no attention span, leaves a path of destruction wherever it goes, is currently trying to eat my husband’s headphones but is too cute to be mad at?

A kitten, of course. Cat number three.

We’ve tried really hard not to have another cat for two years now but this one was an emergency. My husband was driving to town when he saw a small animal in the road. He got out and it ran into some nearby bushes. He continued on then turned around.

Now we have the world’s cutest nightmare.

His name is Lucky (and some others if you know what I mean) because of the circumstances in which he was found. Lucky had obviously been abandoned or somehow separated from his mom and litter as he was all bones at first.

He was almost certainly feral and very hungry at first. We got him started on kitten formula right away but it quickly became obvious he was older than I first thought. He started eating our cat’s solid food on day two although we went to great lengths to adjust his diet slowly. We got him a bag of kitten chow.

It’s been about a week and a half and he seems to have doubled in size and the bones are giving way to kitty fat – and lots of kitten energy. Usually a kitten has litter mates to play with but Lucky here only has us. Lucky us.

From sun up to sun down it’s skittle here and skittle there at full speed and the claws – razor sharp. We’ve made approximately fifty paper balls for him to chase, all of which have disappeared and the one cat toy I bought went missing on day one. We’ll probably find them all during spring cleaning.

I made him the ugliest cat tower ever out of plywood, rug and a couple of tree branches. Cats don’t care how pretty their toys look. Example: the half of a squirrel one of them left behind for us last week. A head was all that was left over from the next.

So here we are with cat number three. He has moved on from the headphones and is now playing behind me on my chair. I woke up with him standing on my forehead yesterday morning.

Despite the hell that has become our lives since this little being arrived, I’m glad my husband turned around.

A New Old Family Member

Out of the barn and onto a second chance.

Our truck Bridgette has a new companion. 

Last week we brought home a 1941 Chrysler Windsor sedan.

My husband has a passion for the classics and has always wanted one. He’s not sure yet whether to restore it to it’s original condition or modify it. There’s a lot to consider such as current resale values and whether or not he’ll keep it for his own.

He found the car on Craigslist for a deal. Right now it looks like a deal. A lot of rust, rotted plastic, spare parts in the trunk, the skeletons of seats, frayed electrical wiring, and a lot of evidence of rodents now sits in a spot under a tree on our property – but it’s a piece of history.

chrysler solar

They truly don’t make ’em like they used to but sixty nine years of exposure to the elements, driving, and human influence will take a toll. All we know about it’s past is that the guy we bought it from bought it from a guy who’s father owned it. It would be nice to learn more. I still have to run the VIN or serial number through the database to see what comes up.

The lines are rounded and my husband says it looks like a gangster car. I guess there were a few produced for the military (don’t quote me on that) but generally, there was a break in automobile production roughly between 1941 or 1942 until the end of World War II during which the United States focused its production on tanks and aircraft. This vehicle may have been one of the last of its kind to role off the assembly line before the pause.

Picking the Chrysler up was a “gas”. It was parked in the back of a pole barn where so many relics end up, on a carpet of dried cow manure behind a 1950’s Pontiac. We had to inflate some tires and cut some brush back to clear the way for both vehicles.

The owner hooked a chain up to his car and we pulled the Pontiac out and to the side and waited for the God Fearing Brothers tow company to arrive. They were in church so we bided our time till the afternoon.

A good tow truck driver can maneuver a school bus out of a Walmart parking lot on a Black Friday without touching another vehicle and God Fearing Brothers didn’t disappoint us on this muggy Sunday afternoon.

The operator backed up his rig, hooked up our antique to a winch and coaxed the reluctant sedan out of it’s spot in the shadows and cobwebs and onto the flatbed for the trip. It was strapped down and all hatches inspected for the freeway speeds and the wind and off we went.

I learned there’s a phenomenon wherein once these beauties are pulled out of a barn and parked atop what might as well be a parade float, they gather attention as they fly along the road. People see them and we were told they don’t always make it home on their maiden voyages. It’s not what you think; they get noticed, followed, and bought before they reach their intended destinations!

chrysler dash

The God Fearing driver said we had what may have been a potential buyer on the hook on the way home but they continued on straight as we made the turn onto the last stretch of road to the property. Almost.

Long story short, we got the car home and rolled off the truck into it’s new spot in the shade without incident and there it waits for the portable canopy I ordered.

I haven’t seen much of my husband since.

 

 

The Garage Sale

A poem

This is based on a true story.

The Garage Sale

Here’s a cautionary tale
A five year old, some change, a sale
The neighbors had way too much stuff
Seems she didn’t have enough
Mom and Dad were sleeping in
The day was young for Deon Lynn
Asked her dozing Mom and Dad
Could she borrow just a tad
Took the money went and shopped
Got some more and didn’t stop
Back and forth between two homes
Deon with her cash did roam
Bought up all the brickabrack
In a corner made a stack
She was proud of her good taste
With great care her stash she placed
When her parents did arise
They were in for a surprise
In the corner of the room
Deon’s stash shown in the gloom
Fruit arrangements painted bright
So gaudy they emitted light
Everything no one desired
Our child happily acquired
Destination curb no more
Now it sits behind our door
The crowning glory of the lot
Was a velvet painted clock
Next to this amazing piece
Plastic bird that had no fleece
Centerpieces blinding flowers
There they sat they now were ours
Deon beamed she was so proud
Everything she bought was loud
We thought fast we had to act
How to deal with this with tact
Course we told her it looked great
It was time to decorate
To her playhouse it all went
Where its time with us was spent
Her taste improved as she got older
Beauty lies with the beholder

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.