From 116 to 6 Degrees In 6 Months

When we left the temperate Puget Sound region four years ago, we were tired of the year-round rain. We wanted contrast – seasons.

I can now tell the difference between winter and summer.

At the end of June, the thermometer topped at 116 degrees. Now it’s the end of December and it’s 6 degrees according to the digital thermometer in the car. That’s over a hundred degree difference.

Our outdoor thermometers disappeared so after a fruitless search at Walmart today for another (apparently everyone wants to know how cold it is), if we want to know the temperature, we have to get into the car, make sure all the doors are shut, turn it on and read the overhead display.

I was also shopping for a snowblower while out. The sidewalks in front of the stores were empty. I wouldn’t be surprised if the run on cold weather survival tools is why we couldn’t find an electric blanket either.

I knew I was gambling a couple of months ago when I purchased a plastic electric snow shovel at the local hardware store. I was skeptical but after the salesperson truthfully explained that the thing was only good for use on a perfectly smooth patio or risk chipping the cheap plastic blades, I bought it anyway.

Little did I know what was coming. This year’s a whopper so far and it’s just begun.

We’ve had approximately fifteen feet of snow in the past week (or so it seems), much more than the Patio-Pal is made to handle. It doesn’t help that it’s not ergonomically designed.

Imagine pushing a two-hundred pound golf club around in two feet of snow while depressing some sort of “on” switch lest it turn off. Some improvements were imperative.

First I screwed a bent baking sheet to the bottom to displace the weight and make it slide more easily. I then moved the extra grip to a location where it’s not supposed to be. The grip broke off after a few minutes but the sled effect actually helps. Slopes are a bit of a problem because it now wants to slide downhill, but overall, I consider it an improvement. I also taped the “on” switch to the “on” position and use the plug to turn it on and off.

Now I need about a thousand more feet of extension cord.

I might order a gas powered snow blower but I’ll give the little one another week. With winter being off to such a rare start, we may break down and order the Snow Hog 5000 Self-Propelled Deluxe before the month is up.

To keep warm, nothing beats a fireplace. I made a smaller one this year out of an old propane tank and it works like a charm. We call it The Boiler because it looks like something out of a steamship boiler room of yesteryear. We have to cut the wood into smaller pieces but it suites our needs and gives us more room in our dining/living room. Space is at a premium here.

The car has new tires and the undercarriage had a good once over at the mechanic a couple of months ago so it’s a real mountain goat. Our beloved Bridgette, the truck – not so much. She has four-wheel-drive but we’ve never gotten the hang of driving her in the snow. We won’t leave untreated gas in her tank while she waits for spring like we did last year, but sit she will, until then.

Getting around the property after a good dump is difficult (I’m talking about the snow). Step off the path and you’ll sink. I considered getting snow shoes while I was out but decided we could stick to the trails for now.

God forbid I try to forge my way out to the various security cameras who’s line of sight is now totally obscured by tree branches loaded with snow. I followed a game trail out to one today and knocked the snow off only to find the now bent branch still obstructing the view when I got back to the monitor. It’ll have to be cut. It can wait.

The hoses are frozes as they are every winter. We pump our water from the spring at the top of the property through them to a large water tank next to our RV. I’m personally tired of loading them into the hose-thawing shack and have been looking for an easier way to refill the tank.

A couple of days ago I dropped a water tank heater inside the tank and loaded it up with snow. I knew it wasn’t the most efficient method but anything seems more efficient than hefting the hoses onto the hooks in the shack. Probably not efficient but it felt like it was easier because the water was right there but frozen. Don’t worry, we use the water for everything but drinking.

The next day we dragged the hoses all the way up to the top of the property and wove them into one of the springs. We reasoned that because the water wasn’t frozen, the hoses wouldn’t freeze either. By golly, when we dragged them back down the next day, they were clear! We will try this again, but for today, I shoveled more snow directly into the tank.

This is tiring. I want a house. That is next on our list.

The water pump is on the fritz again. We’ve lived here long enough to have long-term routines. Winter always catches us off guard. The water pump freezes then starts acting funny. It cycles on and off at intervals. I adjust it with an allen wrench, it works for a day, it drives me nuts after a few more days of cycling on and off, and we head down to the RV store for a new one and the cycle begins again. They make rebuild kits; we just buy a new pump.

The bi-annual water leak in the RV basement happened like clockwork only for the first time in four years, we actually used the proper parts to fix it.

We’ve been setting up some small-scale ore processing equipment in frigid temps and snow to hell. We ordered it well before the first expected snow but it was delayed, and our plans to unload with a fork lift were foiled.

Some moderately heavy equipment would be nice right now but it’s expensive. We’ll wait until we can afford it and look for a good deal. For the most part, we live on the cheap to save for the stuff we really want.

We hired someone to bring the machines up and around back where five people took six hours to push, pull, maneuver, cut down trees, roll, come-along, pry and shed blood sweat and tears to get thousands of pounds of equipment into place by hand. Imagine pushing a small car without tires through the snow; and the job isn’t done yet.

We have to build a shed around one of the machines now that it’s in place. Try that in a blizzard. We’ll need this stuff up and running by spring because we bought a historic gold mine and a couple of other claims on forty-five acres over the pass. It was one of those things we really wanted and lived on the cheap to get.

Spring, some exploration (not in the mine itself without expert help), and some sampling will tell us whether we purchased just some beautiful property or a little more…

There goes the water pump again. I give it two more days.

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

Winter Lurks

I now dread the once magical time of year.

I used to love the snow.

As a kid living in western Washington, we rarely got it. When it did snow, it was cause for celebration. One of the reasons we moved was the year-round rain but after one winter here, we are cured of the love of snow.

We now live in a land of extremes between hot and cold. Fall and spring seem fleeting here. The blistering heat, wildfires, and droughts of summer quickly give way to cooler temperatures and sprinkles that seem to last a few days and fall is done.

Our first winter here was brutal as we weren’t prepared. The cold crept into our travel trailer through every tiny crack and we had to put up insulation along the walls of our canvas pullouts. I remember lying in bed one summer night while we were still on the road when I realized with horror that we might have to spend the winter in a cardboard box with cloth walls on the ends.

I was right to be anxious.

Our water pipes froze and I had to systematically hunt down drafts and cold spots and cram whatever I could find into crevices and holes to keep warm. With the water pipes frozen, I had to wash the dishes outside in ice-cold water I’d gotten from the spring.

We couldn’t drive our truck up our almost mile-long driveway because our four wheel drive was broken so we had to trek back and forth along it’s length with our groceries, gas and propane tanks.

I wrote a poem about winter that year: Cold.

Cold

I’m not looking forward to all of the work ahead of us to prepare.

I made a to-do list last week. We have to put plastic over the windows, skirt the RV, take down the tent we never used after I set it up last summer, hang all of the extension cords, and stockpile the wood.

Today we bought an ax to dispatch the trees on the hillside for firewood.

I worry a lot about winter but I remind myself that we’re better prepared than last year and I try to focus on thoughts of sledding, making snow sculptures and of course, Christmas.

Although I’m not looking forward to the cold weather, I’m looking forward to sitting by the fireplace and writing while the snow falls outside – and being able to wash my dishes inside.

December In March

Really?

I wake up at three in the morning, open the door to the RV and what am I greeted by? Spring crocuses? Nope. The sound of songbirds (although not likely at this hour?) Nope.

Try a foot of new snow on the doorstep. It’s March, for Gods sake.

Did spring lose it’s way and accidentally pass our driveway? Nope. I can see that the city down the hill is coated in fresh white. The county too. As a matter of fact, large┬ásections of the country are experiencing an identity crisis of seasons.

I don’t know if it’s global warming or the natural long-term patterns of the planet but the thermometer reads zero-degrees and our pipes are frozen again. No water for coffee until we thaw them.

We managed to stay above twenty degrees for most of the winter until March – and more snow is forecast for Monday through Wednesday coming up.

The cats and I went to scrounge for some catnip in the garden this morning but it’s buried under four feet of snow. I dug a trench to the last remembered location of the wilted heap and began to dig. This should be easier this time of year.

I scooped out a bit of the magical kitty herb and excavated my way back to the driveway, cats in trance behind me. For a half a second, I considered shoveling the whole garden then wondered “what was I thinking?”

The wilted mass that is catnip.

Water’s been mission-impossible for the last week in the below-normal temperatures. Needing to refill out water tank, we’d drag the frozen hoses inside, filling up our RV with loop after loop of frozen rubber to melt the ice, then drag the thousand-feet of tangled, anaconda-like mess outside only to have them freeze up again by the time we had them strung out and ready to siphon water.

The water pump is freezing at night again and no water means no coffee unless we go outside and dip the coffee pot directly into the water tank.

We got the car stuck in the snow trying to back out of the driveway. I made things worse when I jumped into the driver’s seat and confidently backed into a tree. Our tires are really worn so it’s off to Walmart to have new ones put on or we won’t be able to get back home.

At least they have coffee.

The Winter Garden

A poem.

The Winter Garden

Silent and still, the garden sleeps.
Crooked fence posts stand sentry, starkly contrasted against the brilliant landscape.
A single glass totem sits, tilted and topped with snow. Temporarily forgotten.
Barbed wire sags lazily, resting in wait of it’s required vigilance.
Remnants of ragged twine dangle loosely, motionless.
Brittle and greyed corn husks defy the authority of the commanding white mantel, escaping it’s grip by inches, in denial of their demise, unaware of the life they shield at their feet.
Folding topography of ripples and mounds an intimation of the graves of last year’s remains.
Tatters of tomato vines and pea plants leech nutrients into the soil, preparing a bed for their progeny.
Seeds slumber under the shimmering arm of winter, sheltered from harm.
Life quietly awaits instruction from the Almighty God to resume.