I found it at a garage sale about a month ago. It cost us twenty dollars and is probably twenty years old. Its housing is made of ugly green plastic with Stars and Stripes and the word Patriot on its side.
It’s an electric chain saw. Had I known such a thing existed, I wouldn’t have squandered two years of wood-cutting.
Everyone around here uses gas-powered chainsaws to cut timber down for firewood. I won’t ever use one because they seem too dangerous. Whether or not that’s true I’ve made up my mind. My husband seems neutral. Either way, we have some wood cutting to catch up on now that we’re not afraid of removing a limb while we’re removing a limb.
We had three huge trees cut down that have been laying on our hillside for a couple of years. We hacked and sawed off all of the branches and removed the bark for firewood but we couldn’t cut the giant trunks. They were just too big.
Enter the Patriot EL-14.
It probably has half the power of a gas chainsaw but that’s what makes it so great: less probability of bouncing off a knot and wreaking havoc with the human body. I feel I can use this thing safely.
The day we acquired our new gadget, I ran a couple of extension cords down the hillside and commenced to “bucking” one of the humongous logs. To my surprise, the chainsaw works really well for being electric.
Now we can cut the giant trunks into small sections that my husband splits into firewood. All of that wood that’s been sitting around taunting us is now thinking twice.
I feel accomplished. I can slingshot and I can buck lumber.
If there was a merit badge for rural living, I think learning how to use a chainsaw would be one of the requirements. A Carhartt jacket would be the badge, but I cheated – I bought one for myself just last week.
We currently live year round in a fifth wheel trailer. They are notoriously under-insulated for winter because they are just that: recreational vehicles designed mainly for summer camping. We have plans to build a real house but for now, staying comfortable in frigid weather requires a lot of effort.
We broke the central heater in our fifth wheel when we tried to install a propane fridge a couple of months ago (don’t ask) so we’re left with space heaters and the fireplace we installed last year to keep warm.
Earlier this month, an arctic front dipped into the northern United States from Canada. Next thing you know, it’s zero degrees and our pipes are freezing despite our anti-freezing protocol.
The area under and near the front of a fifth wheel is often referred to as “the basement”. It took me a while to figure that one out when I couldn’t find the stairs going down (ha ha). It’s the compartment where all of the water tanks, the pump, and the water pipes reside. You have to keep the vulnerable complex of Pex pipes that wind throughout from freezing. Most people add extra insulation and incorporate some sort of auxiliary heating system. The central heating ducts go into this compartment in our “home” but that’s out for now.
We put a couple of small desk-sized heater fans near the water pump and we use a heat hose to go between our 400 gallon external water tank and the trailer to keep the lines clear. Unless it’s ten degrees below. In that case, we have to remove the heat hose and bring it inside to thaw before hooking it back up. Coffee water comes from dipping the pot directly into the tank on those mornings.
We also leave the cupboard doors open between the living space and the basement to equalize the temperatures. It’s all about strategy out here. Thick dark curtains and/or shrink-wrapped plastic on windows help cut drafts.
Skirting is a standard protection used to keep wind out and stabilize the air temperature beneath a trailer. It’s a barrier running the circumference of the rig from the ground to the body. Everything from expensive kits to straw bails can be used for the purpose.
We installed a fireplace last year. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done. We used the correct components and installed it to the letter of the instructions for safety. We got a fan that is activated by the heat on top of the fireplace which blows air throughout the living space quite effectively. A bellows is mandatory for getting fires started.
We couldn’t afford a cord of wood this winter so we’ve been harvesting it from around the property. Storms have brought branches down and there are three huge trees laying on a hillside that we had to have felled in order to get an internet signal. Those have provided us with a seemingly endless supply of wood but the work: chopping, cutting, sawing the stuff to fit the fireplace – its exhausting.
We also pick up wood pallets from around town when we go down the hill. Most of them fit comfortably into the back of our SUV and they are free and plentiful.
The first thing I do every cold morning is make the fire in the fireplace and it’s the last thing I do at night. Keeping warm is so much work. I’m glad we are on our way towards spring and summer so I can complain about the heat.
Turkey Day is on it’s way
My Mom is acting funny
She’s on the phone I heard her groan
While talking to Aunt Bunny
My cousins (there are six in all)
Are coming with Aunt Mazy
She’s bringing green bean salad
I heard Mom say that she’s lazy
For Uncle Fred it’s garlic bread
Enough to feed his four
My Mom’s now pacing, muttering
’bout locking the front door
Plasticwear and folding chairs
Cheap cups, spoons, forks and knives
Mom says no one does their share
The husbands or the wives
Grandma Grandpa on their way
I think it’s time we pray
Clean the couch now Dad’s a grouch
He says his hair’s gone grey
Uncle Ted and Aunty Jill
Are bringing their eight too
They have a dog, spike the eggnog
Tell Mom when she comes-to
Scour the basement and garage
We’ll put all the boys there
We need more room break out the broom
It’s time we said a prayer
God help us all – it’s Uncle Paul
We’ll put him in the attic
No sudden moves speak quietly
He’s prone to being erratic
As for my Mom
Let’s keep her calm
She’s on the verge of tears
Now dinner’s done
This battle’s won
Let’s give her three big cheers
Featured Photo by Ruth Caron on Unsplash
My own photo below as seen from our sliding door.
Our property, no matter how hard we try to make it look nice, looks trashy. Until we can upgrade, there’s not a lot we can do about it.
We try our best to keep things organized but it’s difficult to make rusty metal objects, pallets, tarps and trailers appear attractive. One of our newer neighbors is building and it makes us look bad. My prospecting collection of trashy looking buckets, dirt piles, rocks, pots and pans, and holes in the ground doesn’t help.
When we’re out and about though, my husband points out other people’s properties, many of which have old cars, heaps of beer cans and other trash strewn about in order to make me feel better. This is rural America, after all.
I have a large container full of “useful” stuff. Everything’s tangled together in a mass of wire, brackets, screens, hooks, buckets, and parts of old appliances and when I grab something, everything comes out at the same time. It’s indispensable so I keep it.
I regularly go to the farmer’s dump on the hillside to scrounge for more useful stuff. I’ve found mangled tools, parts to household appliances and old vehicles and other treasures I can’t live without. I’ve harvested screen, fencing, bones (not human), marbles, two can openers, and assorted remnants of ancient kitchenware that I might a have need for someday.
Recently I got distracted on my way to repair something. I was already carrying a load of tools when I veered toward the hillside.
My son came home from school in time to see me wandering away from the dump with the armful of tools, part of a shovel, a leftover wheel from a child’s wagon, a long sharp object, an old tractor carburetor, and a candle holder – all possibly useful.
We left western Washington; destined for our new home on the range.
The morning we neared our new home driving up Highway 395, the song Runnin’ Down A Dream played on the radio as the first hint of daylight tinted the eastern sky. We were pulling our Jayco Lite travel trailer with our 1986 Ford F-250 my husband lovingly called Bridgette.
That was two years ago today.
The space between then and now has been packed with memories a person cannot make up.
Survival trumped all else the first year while we carved out a place for ourselves among the Ponderosa Pines on the iron-rich bedrock.
We still get our water from a spring we dug and our energy from two gas generators and a solar power system. I’ll be so glad when a glass of water and a shower no longer involves moving mountains.
We put up a huge portable shed but haven’t done much else because we haven’t had the money. We’re still living in a fifth wheel but plan on building a small log home when money permits.
I’m not looking forward to another winter as the fall equinox approaches although my husband’s learned how to drive fairly well in the snow and we now have a fireplace to keep us warm.
We’ve learned to live with the wildlife for the most part and our garden is two years old and full of half-eaten tomatoes (deer like them) and squash. I’m growing a gigantic pumpkin that I’m proud of and we introduced morel mushroom spores to the side of our property where we hadn’t previously seen any grow so we can harvest them in the future.
We’ve learned a lot about living off-grid and are a lot wiser but we remain humble as a precaution. Never take anything for granted and never get overconfident.
We’ve spent the past two years planting some financial seeds that are beginning to produce with big plans going forward.
Perhaps most remarkable is that we’re even starting to get along with the neighbors. That’s true progress.
I grew up in Utah in a town named Roy. My Dad passed away months before I was born but I’m told our house was brand new when my parents bought it. No landscaping was in place when they moved in so when my Dad did it himself, he left the rear third of the back yard in it’s natural state.
We had a commercial size playground set that attracted every kid for miles, four huge trees to climb – and lots of dirt.
Dirt is the perfect toy. It’s great for a growing kid’s immune system, and is superior to the most expensive of Lego sets. You can mold it, make highways for your matchbook cars, or create mud pies. The possibilities are endless for a kid with a bucket, a shovel and a four year old imagination. I spent a good part of my childhood playing with the cheapest toy on earth. I lived in the dirt.
Fast forward to adulthood and I haven’t changed.
Now that we have our own property, I dig to my heart’s content. I don’t need an excuse to grab a shovel. I look for water, gold, antiques and lava (because we live on a fault line 🙂 ).
When we first moved here, I went looking for water and found natural springs on the hillside a couple of feet down. I dug several other test holes and named them alpha hole, beta hole, etc. I’ve since had to fill them in so someone doesn’t step into one and break a leg.
Recently, our spring had begun to dry up due to drought so I began eyeballing a spot I suspected may have been an old well. I’d previously dug down a few feet then left it alone but I decided to do deeper in search of more water.
My husband and I spent a week clearing vegetation and moving the piles of rock that were already there, away from the hole. We spent day after day digging by hand and with a pick ax and shovel until one day I heard my husband exclaim excitedly “look at this!”. I looked down and saw water squirting out of a crack in a rock – under pressure.
We now had a strong new water supply.
We set the pump in and we’re back in business! It’s producing about a hundred fifty to two hundred gallons a day. Plenty for ourselves and our garden. I felt a great sense of relief and was glad we’d decided to go through with the backbreaking project.
I’m still digging – mostly for gold. I currently have about five or six holes that I lay boards over to keep people from falling in.
Maybe it’s time to get the water out and make some mud pies.
I believe some activities put the brain in a meditative state and when I go out to look for my lost slingshot balls, I often find myself in a sort of trance.
I think the universe or God or the Tao – take your pick – speaks to us in symbols so if I apply that to me looking for the balls, I come to a few conclusions:
They’re hidden but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist (or do they exist only when observed)? You can walk past one and not see it only to have it become visible when you turn around and look at it from a different angle.
What we see depends on our point of view. I believe that is a fundamental precept of the universe.
Is this force one thing viewed from an infinite number of perspectives? Has God created us to experience time and space through ourselves? Am I full of shit?
My daughter once said to me “if you want to know what’s going on in your subconscious, take a look around you”. That makes sense if we create what we think.
I believe everything already exists at the same time but we see only what we choose to see – like tuning the dial on a radio.
Looking for my slingshot balls helps me to access frequencies I don’t normally use, therefore, slingshotting must be Godly. 🙂
Morel mushrooms are highly sought after and are currently going for forty-plus dollars a pound.
They’re apparently hard to cultivate but we got lucky – you see, they already like it here. They grow on our property. Just not enough to sell but enough to make mushroom “slurry” out of. A slurry is a kind of spore soup used to propagate more mushrooms.
We’ve been tossing around the idea of farming mushrooms since we moved onto our almost four acres of land in eastern Washington a couple of years ago. We were thinking of growing oyster or medicinal mushrooms but our tight budget, the need for snow-load rated greenhouses, and a lack of knowledge have kept us from moving forward.
Then I had a great idea – the mighty morel!
I’m no expert on them but my husband and I have been harvesting them for a couple of years and know they bring a pretty penny – dried or fresh. The biggest problem is that they only grow once a year – in the spring – and for a very limited time. May is morel month but we only find them for about two weeks. You have to know where they grow and we haven’t yet found any good spots locally.
The competition seems fierce.
We’ve been up and down many forest service and DNR (Department of Natural Resources) roads looking for them but not a one have we seen – until we get back home. Turns out we are fortunate to have land that is naturally host to morels.
In our area of the Pacific Northwest, they grow around Ponderosa pines in slightly grassy to semi-spongy areas and often along roadsides. My understanding is that the mycelium (which lives under ground), have a symbiotic relationship with certain tree roots. The mushrooms themselves are the fruiting bodies of the organism.
We dried out the few we’ve found and started the spore slurry. This is the first time I’ve made the mixture and the idea is to soak the mushrooms in water that has had salt and molasses added in order to germinate the spores. The molasses feeds the rapidly reproducing spore population and the salt keeps the bacteria away.
After soaking the slurry for twenty-four to forty-eight hours, you spray or pour it around host trees where, theoretically, they’ll search for roots to become roommates with.
I was stirring the slurry with a wooden paddle when the thought came to me that if they like wood, why not add pieces directly to the slurry then bury them under trees? The thought is that the spores will find and start a home before they are planted. This will be an experiment that won’t show results for a couple to a few years when the mushrooms grow – if they take at all.
If this works, we might eventually have enough mushrooms to harvest to sell.
For the time being, we’ll have to content ourselves with the ten to twenty we find each year.
We were lucky to discover natural springs at the top of our property and spent the first year digging the main hole and a trench down the hillside to a place near our trailer.
In the process, we moved a lot of mud and rocks. It looked like a bomb had gone off.
Mounds of material littered the ground from the top to the bottom of the area where our spring lay. It was so ugly, I decided to clean it up in order to bring back the natural beauty that was there when we arrived.
I began a restoration.
Surprisingly, it went faster than I anticipated. I raked the rocks into piles and picked up the stragglers by hand and before you know it, the place began to look natural and pretty again.
I started last fall and got about a third of the work done. This spring, I finished but I will leave the rocks in mounds where I hope the plants will begin to grow again eventually.
I can’t wait until next spring to see how it all looks.