How to get your hands on the BEST gaiters for hiking

The best gaiters in the world cannot be purchased from a store. They are handmade.
Seriously. And you can make them yourself.

Cowboy boot gaiters in tall (and stabby) grass

I have worn many different gaiters over the years. Lightweight gaiters for my trip to the most gorgeous dunes in America,  lighter-weight DirtyGirl gaiters for my trail running days, and others that were supposedly for hunters. All this done in my quest to prevent pebbles and stabby grass bit from working into my shoes and socks and poking holes in my skin (and maybe avoid migrating foreign body which is a very real and potentially deadly issue for dogs and why not people?). I also like to wear comfy pants instead of heavy canvas-like things and those grass seeds just love to snag into the weave of said comfy pants.

Gaiters are supposed to prevent sand, rocks, and grass from getting into your socks and maybe also prevent the bottoms of your pants from wetting out while you walk on the dewy hillsides. Typically they tie around your calf and under your shoe. They offer, at best, moderate protection from all that nature that wants to glom onto you and little to no protection from thorns, snakes, and other ankle-biters.

I was ruminating on this issue with my judicious daughter as I picked grass seeds out of my socks and shoes. Anyone who has walked across a hillside in late summer or early autumn knows the potential extent of this job. “Judi” related an experience with a sage at camp who made gaiters out of cowboy boots. Sky has had a rather storied life and brings much practical wisdom to the people at this camp in the western desert of Texas. I was determined to try this new gaiter out for myself.

For anyone who has worn them, cowboy boots are amazing. Except on dewy hillsides or multi-mile hikes, or craggy rock faces. But really, the problem is the soles which are great for saddles but not for hiking. Sky had solved this problem by combining the best part of cowboy boots with the best part of hiking shoes. I knew I had to try this for myself. Just as soon as I got all the danged seeds out of my shoes.

Get yourself a pair of boots that will fit over your calf easily. The sole size doesn’t matter.

I searched for a couple of months at every thrift store I saw for a pair of boots with an inexpensive price tag for me to cut up. I finally found these lovely boots for seven bucks and commenced to cutting.

I found that my favorite pocket knife, a Kershaw, was the best tool for relinquishing the sole from the upper.

I chose to leave most of the foot covering attached because I frequently wear breathable shoes that grass seeds love to infiltrate.

After removing the sole, slip the boot/gaiter onto your calf before putting your hiking shoe on to try on the gaiter and decide where to trim. I found that trimming was better done with scissors.

Then slide the boot down over the shoe and head out to your favorite grassy area. Does it look silly? I don`t think so, any more than any other gaiter and actually quite a bit more stylish.

That night at camp around the lovely fire you can look silly as you kick back with a beverage while everyone else is picking grass seeds out of their stinking socks.

Chillin’ and warming up after the hike

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I’m A Witch

Well, some may have suspected this all along; I am a witch. A real live witch.


To be clear, I cannot cast spells or work any magic, excepting the magic of haircolor, but I *can* find water underground. I think.
At theWashington property that is being developed, named Winter’s Hope if you were wondering, there is no city water. This is raw land, y’all, and apparently in the middle of nowhere if one was to believe the attitude of the work force in the nearest city an hour’s drive away. Getting anyone to provide a bid for work to be done is difficult once they find out the address. I suspect I will become a DIY queen before long.

First time with a Sawzall in 2017. Maybe I can be a DIY queen after all


So, as I was saying, a well must be drilled if water is to be had. And potable water is one of the requirements for obtaining a building permit so there you have it, either live in an RV forever or start drilling.
Since the property is alongside a river it seems it should be pretty easy. Then add in the fact that the property is also situated in a rain forest and finding water should practically a no-brainer, right?
Ahhh, you are too smart and paid attention in geology class.
Just because there is a lot of water in the sky and in the riverbed next to you does not mean there are tons of pockets of water below you. Apparently the magic of this area is how sieve-like the dirt is, letting water just flow through it rather than becoming a gooey swamp.
Enter the water witcher.

The water witcher teaching his craft


Yes, in this day and age there are still people who use dowsing rods, special shaped branches cut from new growth on certain types of trees, and walk around waiting for the tree branch to point out where the water is located.
Phooey, right? I know, I thought the same thing. SCIENCE tells you where to drill.


And yet, as I began the process of finding someone to drill out here, I learned that there have been a few dead wells drilled nearby and some bad feelings between people due to this fact. I would feel bad, too. Well drilling is expensive! At present it is about $8,000 for the first 60 feet of well drilled. This is just for the hole in the ground, not a pump or anything. If they don’t find water, you have to move everything somewhere else and try again, and pay again. And moving a huge drilling rig isn’t that easy on timbered land, you have to have a solid road for it and all. Thus, knowing where the best spots for drilling are that are alongside a road with ample space to work unhindered by 100 foot trees is going to save you a bit of cash.
It took a couple of weeks, maybe longer, to find a living water witcher. You can’t find them on Google, let me tell you.

C’mon, we all secretly admired Endora’s take no B.S. attitude


Now I’ll be honest, I am a bit cynical when it comes to hocus-pocus stuff. But might as well have someone with a bit of experience say “drill here” than me just use my designer’s eye of saying, “I think a little pump house would look super-cute right over here.”

So one day, a sunny one none-the-less, a fella shows up with a few branches tucked into his back pocket and proceeds to walk up and down the road. I don’t know if you can be both open and cynical but I was trying. I was watching his hands pretty closely to see if I could detect any change in how the branch was being held. Then he offered to let the don try. “This oughta be interesting,” I thought. Well, here, I’ll just show you what happened.

the don is also a witch

Finally, I took the branch into my own hands. What the heck, it works! I slowly walked the roadside tightly grasping the branch and it began to turn down toward the ground all by itself!!! I would not have believed it if I had not actually experienced it as a cynic. We found a few spots on the property that the dowsing rod says have water. Now to just get a drilling company out.

To be completely honest, I also went to the adorable library in Forks and got pretty much every single geology book they have, and it is a surprising number, I’ll tell you! I had hoped to shore up the witching with some science but alas, while I am captivated by the forces that created this paradise, it has not been of use to find a well. Maybe that is why there are still witches in this day and age.

And now I can count myself among them!

Weathering the Storm

Weathering the storm

When last we met, Brighty had been brought to her winter home on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, a place known for its typically mild winters. Actually, the OP winters are so boring that the temperature logs look like a flat line and the reporter has to use a thesaurus to find new ways to say “mild and rainy.”
Typical doesn’t mean always, though. On or about the winter’s solstice a tremendous storm ravaged this area with wind gust like a hurricane. Hundred-foot trees were so harshly bent over from the wind they were no taller than thirty feet! Or so the locals told me as I was not in attendance, being safely ensconced in the humid embrace of a Gulf Coast December. Brighty held her own in the maelstrom except for a tree branch that pierced her roof at what appears to be a 60 degree angle.

Kind of hard to tell from this photo but that is an arm-sized branch piercing the tarp and roof of Brighty

 

And here is what that hole looks like from inside.

Fortunately no one was inside the camper when this branch came through as it was directly over the kitchen sink, and being over the sink helped alleviate some of the flooding from having a hole in the roof. It is now patched but not painted. I have to think on the painting issue because I had personally custom mixed the ceiling color and do not have any of the custom mix leftover nor do I have the colors I had used to mix. I’m thinking this particular portion of the ceiling will just have to be slightly different. I mean, it’s not as if anyone is looking at the ceiling, right? (I totally heard that, Taeri.)

 

Keeping a roof over one’s head
To add a layer of protection from rain and flying branches, the don built a temporary roof over Brighty. I like the play of rustic tree poles sourced from the property with the corrugated aluminum. And oh, the rain sounds so nice on this roof now! It boggles my mind to be able to do this solo but that is what he did with only a ladder, a few tools, and a generator. Here you can see the shed as it is being built. Brighty has her wood stove burning hot to help dry out and next to Brighty is the truck camper, which has come to be known as “the guest house.”

The shed roof beginning construction

 

Brighty and Leah with the finished shed

This unusually cold winter has let us realize how very drafty Brighty is. No risk of “new house syndrome” in here. Additional insulation has been added to cabinet areas along the kitchen wall since the propane appliances require an opening at the upper level of the appliance for oxygen and an opening at the lower level of the appliance in the event of a propane leak. Propane is heavier than air and sinks to the lowest level available so this allows it to exit the living space and disperse rather than killing the occupants. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.

A different sort of bubble tea…

Soapy water and propane lines in the workings of the antique Coleman stove.

Actually, it is a very good thing because within a day or so after I arrived I could smell a bit of propane in the morning. Unlike that famous movie quote, I do NOT love the smell of propane in the morning. My very sensitive sense of smell helped me locate the source of the very tiny leak and then a soapy water solution verified what my nose told me. It is a very tiny leak but I am taking a no-tolerance policy on this situation.

A bit of soapy water to show exactly where the leak is in this line of connections on the virtually antique stove and some special goo to seal it and voila, no more carbon monoxide issues. One of the bonuses of working on this project was its proximity to the truffle salt and the lovely truffle scent that wafted around once the propane issue was addressed.

 

Repaired and firmly sealed- no propane will escape under my watch!

KonMarie DIY

Naked cabinet and drawers

One thing that was very fun on the kitchen was making my own cabinet pulls and drawer handles. There aren’t many designs that “spark joy” in this department, if the drawers had recesses to open by hand I would not have even bothered with using hardware. I also wanted to minimize pointy edges since the chances of brushing up against the drawers and cabinets in this narrow RV are pretty much 100 per cent.

 

 

I finally hit on the idea to make them myself from leather! I can post a tutorial if you wish but here is the gist of it. Cut saddle leather to length, drill holes in cabinets (the scariest part, imo)

Totally the scariest part. Measure twice, maybe 3x, well maybe make a template, and measure again. Sheesh, you are getting weird, Susan, just drill the damn thing and you can always fix it or buy another door.

and attach. I chose to stay rustic on the bolt attachments that echo the other metal accents in Brighty.

DIY leather cabinet handles

Spice of Life
File this under the “Hmmm, didn’t think that through, I guess,” tab. First off, let me say that the don and I think the recessed spice cabinet is a brilliant idea that works well for cooking in a tiny kitchen. There were a couple of hiccups along the way, though. Knowing it would be just a matter of moments until i knocked a spice bottle into the pan bubbling away on the stove, I opted against putting shelves in the spice cubby and instead went for magnetic containers. Naturally this required lining the back of the cubby with a magnetic material. So far it is a no brainer, right? And then, having just acquired an air compressor with a fun assortment of nailers, I VERY thoroughly attached this metal to the cubby back. Oh boy, did it look great! Shortly after admiring my work I realized the fridge had been pulled out some reason or other and needed to be slid back in. Hunh, it is kind hard to slide in. i don’t remember it being difficult before, is it hung up on something? Well phooey, what on earth could be the probl…. Oh shit. Can you, dear reader, guess what the problem was? Maybe this photo will help.

Fridge on left with the narrow space bit of wall that became the spice rack

 

and another view

Yep, you hit the nail right on the head. I neglected to consider how long the nails were that I was happily driving through the back of the cubby were and I freaking nailed the cubby to the fridge. For all that is holy, PLEASE don’t let me have just ruined this $1400 refrigerator, please God. After a sleepless night spent berating myself (a useless waste of time and a terrible habit I should give up for this coming Lent), the offending nails were removed. Actually, lest you think I did it, the don pulled the nails out as I fretted and it was no easy task, the nail removal and the fretting. Thank you, God, for protecting us DIY idjits from ourselves. I fully expected the fridge to deflate or implode or start spewing propane upon nail removal but crazy enough, it still works. However it won’t slide all the way in, whether it is a bit of fallout from the nailing issue or what, I don’t know, but it is a little reminder to measure twice, nail once. And the spice cubby ended up working out okay.

Spice cabinet with magnetized spice containers.

Everyone wonders, no one asks…
Toileting. It’s a question that is pertinent to everyone but no one wants to ask about. We decided to go with a more environmentally-friendly toileting situation. Most RV black tanks (the tank the poopy water goes into) have nasty chemicals to deal with the contents until they are dumped at some facility. We didn’t want to be adding to the poisoning of the earth if there is alternative options and so began the education and quest for something better. Better than digging a hole in the ground (I can only do that for so long before my cushy urban princess says enough) and better than using toxic chemicals. We chose to use a design that is popular on many sailboats and tiny houses, the composting toilet for indoors. I won’t go into it here since you can Google it and see lots of info. All I can say is that it actually works! We did a DIY for about $20 -$30 rather than buy the $1000.00 version. The only challenge, and it has more to do with living in a tiny space, is the lack of privacy. One either learns to time their body workings or just… go with the flow. And now the toilet area doubles as a coat closet. It feels a bit like entering Narnia when I try to go pee but all those coats do add to the feeling of privacy so that is a plus right there.

Okay, enough of working on Brighty. Let’s get to work on developing this property and putting a house on it! I’ve watched TONS of houses get built back in Houston so I’m practically an expert already on this building stuff. Right?

Heh-heh. Right.

 

Brighty Part 2 of ???

Brighty’s rehab continues… after a brief interruption called work (and a prayer that my cellular internet access doesn’t drop me this time)

With Brighty’s demo mostly completed and a relatively time-sensitive bit of work to complete out in Forks where Brighty’s new home will be, I had to put on hold any more rehab work. I made the most of the trek to the Olympic Peninsula by stopping at stores in the Seattle area that are not available in my current location. One of these stores was IKEA. After having done some research into RV cabinets it appeared my options were IKEA or DIY. Not feeling too up on my carpentry skills, I opted for Ikea (okay, I’m tired of hitting the caps button) since they promise my dream room for cheap (well, about $700).

IKEA-so many options

After availing myself of the online planner and a less-than-inspiring call to customer service, I took myself to the physical store and met a young lady whose creative thinking and extraordinary patience and product knowledge almost reduced me to tears of gratitude. Planning a kitchen that has curves and wheel-wells was stretching my skill set but Savannah saved the day. May blessings be heaped upon her! When we realized that I was outside the delivery zone and the cost of freighting the cabinets to me was utterly exorbitant, Savannah even figured out how to adjust so that every necessary thing would fit in my vehicle. Did I mention what a God-send she was?

I like the gray cabinets but what flooring should I choose? What says “I love pale colors but live with dogs”

I also made stops to look at flooring and fabric.

Hmmm, I love the embroidered fabric. I wonder if it is too late to train Monty not to get on furniture?

The design scheme is coming together with a base of gray and off-white and accents that can change with mood and season (read purple). There were lots of choices but I am still looking for that balance in fabric options that says both “day at the spa” and “day at doggy daycare” and doesn’t involve covering the couch with towels.

Alas, the foundational work must be completed before the fun designing can commence. And so we find the author precariously perched on 12 foot boards spanning the top of the camper scraping off old caulk to prepare the roof for a desperately needed waterproofing. There are no pictures of this in part because taking a selfie while balancing on a rocking trailer seemed somewhat difficult and in part because I didn’t want any evidence of my foolishness were I to get hurt. I’m pretty sure my insurance policy has a clause about jumping out of airplanes and tightrope walking on decrepit trailers. But I did take some video of the “BEFORE” roof while installing the fans that replaced the old vents.

Since Brighty has seen some rough days, it will take a few liberal coats of special elastomeric paint, butyl tape, and caulk to help weatherproof her roof. Fortunately, a timely rainstorm showed me the places that needed extra attention and so it goes.

the don had experience installing the faux wood flooring so he devoted some time to that. I did a little bit, just enough to learn how to do it but in such a small area it really was not a two person job. Plus, you can only have one boss on any project and, well, he is the don and I have never been employee material.

More foundational work to be done before the “fun” decorating was the running of new electric lines. Luckily I found the electronic schematic for the trailer so all the dangling wires should make sense.

This should make things easier!

I have a passing understanding of house electricity but have never done anything with DC nor have I done anything with connecting the AC and DC so that either or both lines can be run depending on what power is available. In her previous life Brighty was either DC or AC with no connection between the two but, as mentioned above, I am going to wire her differently. My time at the Flying S Farm, while disappointing in the lack of education provided and the quality of work that existed (pretty sure the place would have burned down from the frequent electrical shorts were it not for the 300+ inches of rain each year), did excite in me a quest to know how DC power to an AC house (as with solar energy) could and should be done. In Houston the solar energy collected by those few who brave the cost is wired directly into the existing grid. I knew of no one who was actually off-grid there. I had a lot of studying to do and am so grateful to live in the time of the internet. I learned much about size of wire for particular applications, how much loss of power is acceptable for certain types of “circuits” (only 3% for critical like the propane and CO detector, up to 9% for non-critical like the fridge or water heater), pure sine and modified sine wave inverters (the thingy that switches DC power to AC- you have a tiny one on the cord for your laptop), convertors, battery chargers, generators, and on and on. Suffice to say things got real mathy real fast.

First things first- put in some new fans to help rid the stinky “funk” in Brighty

Okay, time to get back to work. I’m going to be better about updating the blog on Brighty’s makeover. I am joining a local writer’s club to make sure I am not getting caught up in the doing and forgetting to write and record everything!

Wish you were here!

Hello, Brighty!

Homeless no more! Well, I guess technically if the whole world is your home, then you can never be homeless. But philosophical musings aside, I bought this vintage trailer and am jumping on the vintage trailer rehab bandwagon. Unlike some trailers I have admired online, this one needs some major rehab due to water damage and, also unlike those parked “glamping” trailers, it must be actually roadworthy. Some of those photos on Pinterest with the regular fridge, barstools, granite counters, and other apartment furniture just do not make sense if the trailer is actually moving. I learned that a trailer moving down the road is equivalent to a house withstanding a 3.4 Richter scale earthquake. That is a lot of wiggling!

Her name is Brightwater Dive, a play on the name of the private road on which she will be parked this winter. She was born in 1971 and is a Kit Companion model RV trailer. I call her Brighty and am excited to share the journey of her remodel with you. If you have any suggestions, please do let me know! I tend toward a romantic sense of style and am stretching those boundaries for this project with at least a passing nod toward crisp spa-like minimalism and dirty-dog-proof sleekness. We will see how it goes…

Can you believe all this for only $600.00?

So here she is just 10 minutes after I bought her. My vehicle can pull her with no problem. Towing weight is certainly a factor, which is why there will not be granite counters or tile floors, but as long as I make good choices on materials, Brighty will stay well under the recommended weight for towing that my vehicle can safely manage. I have never trailered anything but it doesn’t seem that hard. I mean, I have pulled little kids in wagon a lot and how different could this be

Famous last words… I am pretty sure I heard the demi-god of RV trailers say, “Hold my beer.”

So about 30 minutes into owning Brighty I discovered at least one big difference between kid wagons and RV trailers. No photos of the next part because it was a little traumatic for me. While driving along the 2-lane highway in the middle of Nowhere Eastern Washington there was a terrible explosion and the right tire literally exploded. It must have been something to see because the people in the vehicle behind us stopped to offer help. The tire blast bent a part of the trailer frame next to the wheel and blew off/up the fender cover. I cannot imagine the force it takes to bend this metal. I looked for the fender cover and it could not be seen anywhere along the road, nor was there any appreciable pieces of tire. Then getting the lug nuts off to change the tire was a chore. the don brilliantly came up with the idea to use the hydraulic jack he brought to apply steady pressure to loosen the damn things. He put on the spare (thank God there was a spare!) and then he checked the tire pressure; sheez they were terribly over inflated! No wonder it blew up. The previous owner had let us use his air compressor and tire pressure gauge to inflate the tires and the measuring device must have been horribly off. An interesting side note, out of all the people who passed us on that Washington highway where Brighty sat keeling over due to the embankment (there was no hazard lane), the only two people who stopped to either render aid or see if they could help in any other way both looked, how to say…, a bit rough around the edges. All those people in nice cars and apparent access to dental care just stared as they zoomed by, not even bothering to scoot over in the lane to give Brighty some space. One chick, absorbed in her phone, had less than 6 inches between her car and Brighty as she hurtled by.  A pox and infestation of fruit flies on the lot of them! “Well Toto, I guess we are  not in Texas anymore” In Texas a woman standing on the edge of a highway with an apparent vehicle issue would have several people stopping to render aid and probably, once the flat was changed, enjoy a beer and discuss bar-b-que recipes too. Oh well, that is that.

As soon as Brighty got to the RV makeover spa, aka the back yard, her tires were removed and I bought new ones. When I took the old tires to the local tire store, the young fella working there exclaimed with delight when he saw the rims. Apparently these are not the original rims but are off of a vintage Camaro so Brighty will have a bit of sporty to her! Hmmmm, maybe I need to look into more chrome-plated accessories. I know they say beauty is only skin deep but Brighty’s gonna need a bit more than a cute personality. Here she looks pretty much worth the $600.00 I paid for her.

Beauty is skin deep, they say. Here Brighty waits for new tires.
I think a bit of scrubbing will get these rims to shine. Also showing is the sole remaining fender cover- like how am I going to get a match to this?

So here is her interior. Classic 1971 color scheme, just missing the shag carpet.

Classic 1970s Harvest Gold. Yeah, that’s gonna change.

We knew there was some water-caused damage as the floor was soft in one spot. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the next thing coming?

When some of the siding was removed, the water damage became obviously rather extensive. The final decision was to rip out the whole kitchen and bathroom as those two walls were completely rotted. How Brighty made it down the road without collapsing on herself is beyond me! I learned a lot from the demolition about how these RV trailers are built. Just leave everything you know about building construction at the door; all you need is a mondo staple-gun and an inside-out attitude. These guys are built by putting furniture and then walls together to form what I would think of as supporting walls, the so-called framing and skin come last. Hunh.

Here she is demo complete, with some repaired flooring and walls.

All the while, I’m envisioning how I want Brighty to look. I decided it would need to happen in stages; it could be totally overwhelming to go from party dump to chandeliers in one step. And she needs to be livable by October. Sadly, the closest big hardware/homeware store is an hour drive away and is not a very good representation of Home Depot. I have to go to the west coast anyway so am going to go by the Ikea in Seattle. Wish me luck!

“OMG, what have I gotten myself into?”