Back in that Idaho paradise Just as spring began to show up on the Olympic peninsula, I left for the second winter of Idaho, aka April. The drive east across Washington was at a meandering speed, taking time to see all the historical roadside stops and scenic overviews. Why do we make false deadlines? I know I’m not the only person to rush past all the wonder trying to get to some place I’ve decided was going to be great. I slowed down at one spot and did some post holing to enjoy truly gorgeous views and saw several other vehicles pause, take a peek and then go one. Much of the coolness in the world can’t be experienced from the car, I’m here to tell you.Look at this waterfall with all the ice alongside!
And Mt Rainier- who do you think wears the regal white coat better?
I looked into lodging but ended up choosing a campsite in the forest. I had a truckbed full of stuff and I know one can’t leave all that out in a city and the weather was SO lovely and millions of stars. Monty loves a campfire story, as long as it isn’t a scary one
Here are a few photos from the drive to Idaho. I’m heading back into Hell’s Canyon now to find that wild asparagus from last year!
For a few glorious days I got to see what warmth and natural
Vitamin D was like. It was as if the Olympic Peninsula weather had a nasty
breakup from Winter and went out on a rebound date with Spring. There were a
few days of well-above-freezing nights and afternoons that hit 70 degrees;
truly such a lovely dalliance. Alas the OP realized that maybe it wasn’t done
with Winter just yet and rainy-day 50 degrees returned to try and make things
Dazzled by the sunshine and digging out T-shirts, shorts, and, oh yes, a razor (I had sort of let No-Shave-November drag on a bit), I was again smitten by this northwest paradise. While walking in the sunshine I was remembering a hike I took late last summer. I’ll let this be a bit of photojournalism.
How does an Idahoan get anything done? There’s so many delightful distractions from the To Do list during the summer. I am a firm believer that one should strive to have accomplishments each day AND that one should absolutely not miss out on the amazingness of the world while in the pursuit of checking off that To Do list. Maybe you should have two lists, a To Do list where you get to feel productive and a Tah Dah! list where you allow time for the miracle of the world to unfold before you.
I had some lucky inside info from the don on a location of a fig tree. Figs in Idaho? This place never ceases to surprise me. I was able to find the tree and so much more! I surmise this spot must have been a former homestead along the river and a tiny orchard was planted. First I saw the fig tree, its leaves are unmistakable, even if you have never seen a fig tree before in your life, even if the only exposure to a fig leaf might be the pictures of Adam and Eve with a leafy bathing suit, you will instinctively know a fig leaf when you see it.
Wasps also like figs.
As you might remember if you read the Ponderosa Pinecone picking blog story, the wasps here have well earned their reputation for being aggressive. I was disbelieving of this reputation at first because the wasps in my yard in Houston were so mellow that we never had a negative encounter, even if I accidentally bumped them or soaked them with the water hose. The wasps out here in the harsh and wild West are just plain mean and will sting you just for breathing. Luckily these wasps on the figs are virtually drunk with the sugar and can hardly stay on the fig they are eating. Yes, those boogers eat figs. They poke holes in the figs and nibble until in a sugar coma. Look here.
So this is probably a good time to mention that whole “figs aren’t vegetarian because they have dead wasps in them” thing. I am not an expert on fig varieties but as far as I can tell, this is just a common fig that doesn’t need another tree or wasps to pollinate (lucky for it because I don’t know how many miles to the next fig tree it might be!) And these wasps are not the fig wasp I saw pictures of on Google. You can tell by the head shape, these are just normal mean wasps that will sting you as soon as look at you- except for one thing… they are apparently happy drunks
Since they are so satiated with sugar, the wasps hardly even notice me or Monty and so we were able to safely pick all the figs we desired.
The grasshoppers also were hanging around the fig tree. The grasshoppers eat with more gusto than the wasps. I identify more closely with them in the eating style department.
Near the fig tree was a tree with a fruit hanging on it that I hadn’t noticed before. I grabbed a fruit off the tree and opened it up because for some reason I had an inkling it might be interesting and low and behold…
Although doesn’t the walnut fruit look kind of like a small apple? But it pulls away cleanly and leaves the giant nut we love to eat.
By now my collection bag was getting heavy. I do make a point to only take no more than 10 per cent of the food on a wild tree so the animals who can’t go grocery shopping have plenty to eat. Even so, my bag was getting full with the figs and walnuts when I spied a tree with little orange baubles dangling from it.
Drawn to it, I stepped under the tree and plucked one of the salmon-colored beauties. Admiring it for a moment, I ripped it open like a hawk on a starling and checked the seed. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a plum or perhaps an apricot. Once I saw the seed, I tasted the flesh. It was bright and tart and I still couldn’t be 100% sure if it was plum or apricot. Or could this be a rogue plum-apricot hybrid? It was textured like a plum but tiny and orange and tart like an apricot. But the seed lended itself more towards plum. I might have taken a bit more than the 20% on this tree. Plums are famous for having the whole tree ripen at the same time and you have about 36 hours to harvest them or they fall off and rot. Okay, maybe a bit more than 36 hours but it’s not far off the mark. Ask any plum grower. And these guys WANTED to come with me. They were literally falling off the tree and hitting me on the head and shoulders trying to leap into my bag. And they were so soft and squishy and at the peak of ripeness this very moment. It was heavenly and the wasps hadn’t discovered them or maybe they just didn’t have the sugar the figs did so I was all alone picking, or perhaps the better word would be ducking, the plums.
Now Monty, who was not as impressed as I with the extraordinary bounty of the river valley, was getting rather thirsty. However, being the protective fella he is when we are out walking alone, he wouldn’t leave me to go down the 50 feet to the river and get a drink so we walked down together. It was so lovely on the river with the cool fall wind blowing gently balancing the sunshine. I could have stayed there all day.
The wonders never cease! Right near where I parked my car was a group of pear trees and, as luck would have it, there was plenty of fruit on them that was within my reach.
Coming up from the river I came across a blackberry bush. Around here the berries are ripe about July to August and this is in late September so these were well past ripeness and were actually dried on the bush. I picked a few and they were delicious! Kind of like Nature’s fruit leather and I didn’t mind all the seeds in the least, it was sort of like chia seeds. I was entranced by the yumminess, enough to brave all the tiny thorns that are so stabby so I grabbed about a half cup of the dried berries. I probably ate as much or more while collecting.
And if all that wasn’t enough, then, in a cool spot on the walk back I spied a blackberry bush that had berries just beginning to ripen! Honestly, this is the most amazing spot, just when you think you have a handle on it, another surprise rounds the corner.
Here are a couple of photos of the bounty from this Eden.
This one includes some items from the don’s garden. It’s a
great time to be a vegetarian!
Gosh, all that remembering has made me hungry!
My days now will be divided between Idaho and Washington.
Both of them are coastlines, if you look far enough back in the geologic
record. I am quite lucky to have such extraordinary beauty surrounding me and
these current cold and gray days are just a time to remember the bounty of
Just a quick note to share a smile. This tiny town on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula has seen some tough days after the logging slowed. A book, The Final Forest, by William Dietrich discusses the challenges that this town and other logging towns face. Forks was lucky enough a decade ago to become the mecca for fans of a particular vampire romance book and was utterly inundated with tourists. While the Twilight tourism has slowed appreciably, there are still many references around town to the story and its characters. This little town has definitely got a sense of humor! This was in the local hardware store. FYI, the bike did get sold.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That is all I can think sometimes when mulling over life with this little white city dog out here in the rural wild west. Monty is a great urban dog. He loves dog parks, loves restaurants with outdoor patios, and loves meeting people. His fur, what there is of it, is thin and short and perfectly suited for warm cities and cute winter coats.
Naturally he also enjoys the freedom of this forest life, going without a leash, pooping wherever he wants, all the great smells and chasing a forest critter every now and then. But his body is not designed for such living. His bare tummy gets big scratches and he gets wounds from sticks that poke out as he runs past, and most recently he tore a nail. Have you ever torn a fingernail way up high into the quick? I mean WAAAAAYYYY up high? Were you able to rip it off yourself or did you have to get someone else to do it? And remember how much it bled and how sore that finger was for days and days? Well, turns out the same thing can happen to a dog. Here was the chain of events. The neighbors dog came over to play
The two dogs are running around having a great and rambunctious time as we trek through some woods
Then suddenly Monty comes up to me and says, “Owwwie!” and holds up his paw.
Sheesh, that is a bad tear. Maybe if I clip the nail a little shorter it will be okay.
Nope, still hurts and Monty doesn’t want to walk on it.
Here is where I realize that as his human it is my job to address this issue. So, as any person would do, I call the vet so she can fix it. Fiddlesticks, the vet is only in town on Wednesday (hello, life in a rural area) so we will have to wait 4 days for an appointment. Ummmm, I don’t think that will work. I could drive 80 miles and almost 2 hours to the next town that has a vet but that also seems excessive, so maybe I can just Google this and see if cutting the REALLY nail short is do-able. I also check with my mom and sister for their opinions. Naturally they do have opinions and, as luck would have it, they contradict each other. After a few more moments of fretting I decide to channel my sister’s badassness and just be my own veterinarian. It’s starting to rain a bit so probably inside is the best place to work. After spreading a canvas on the bed to protect from muddy paws, I get Monty situated, feed him some treats, then look at his paw again to see if maybe there is a way out of doing this next step. I have trimmed many a dog’s nail and infrequently cut it a bit too short. If you have, then you know they squeal, rip their paw out of your hand, bleed a bit, and look at you accusingly while you feel like Judas with the nail-clippers betraying their unconditional love. But what if you PURPOSEFULLY cut deep into the quick? Ah, so this is why people pay doctors to deal with this stuff, so you don’t have it on your conscience. I really do not feel like wearing my big girl panties today but I guess I’ll go put them on and take care of my dog. My sister said not to equivocate. Just get the nail and cut it. So I channel that matter-of-fact attitude, grab the nail and cut the damn thing.
Holy redrum, Batman! I knew there would be some blood but I never imagined this! I had a cloth ready but didn’t know it would spray the walls! I wonder if that will come out? I also wonder if Googling “how to get blood spray patterns out of walls” will raise any flags? And that nail bled like a mofo, I spent over 40 minutes applying pressure (and taking pictures with my free hand) while Monty recited lines from Mercutio’s death.
And now to try and keep this puppy bandaged while the wound scabs up. Yeah, my dog hates me now.
Fortunately the nail healed up just fine after a week or so and Monty was back to roughing it with his pals. But just show him a pair of dog clippers and he gets PTSD and hides under the table. This is going to make nail-trimming day really interesting. I wonder how filing his nails would work?
Do you think dogs think about the past? I wonder if Monty ever thinks back to his city days where he went to restaurants and shared furniture with a cat?
I would like to think that even though, or perhaps because, the days are no longer predictable and each moment brings a new experience, Monty is digging his new life. Certainly the freedom of going outside without a leash and having uncountable acres of trees and hills and creeks to explore bring a huge amount of interest and enrichment to his days. His personality has expanded and he surprises me sometimes with his actions and antics. Sometimes it can be nice to be predictable for a little while but, for some of us at least, too much predictability can be lethal to our creativity.
But it would still be nice to pay someone else to do the dirty work.
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.
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.”
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…
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.
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)
and attach. I chose to stay rustic on the bolt attachments that echo the other metal accents in Brighty.
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.
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.
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?
Yowza, December 2018 was a blur! After beating a fast retreat from the wintery Norther Rockies with my Southern sandals-in-December tail between my legs, I made it to the one and only big city with the best food and winter and proceeded to try and squeeze an entire year of living into just a few weeks. Needless to say, by Christmas I was whuupped from the over-indulgence in visiting, eating, drinking, and all the other carryings-on.
the don came down to see the town I had been bragging on so much and that, too, was virtually non-stop action of sights, friends, family, and food. Fortunately we did not encounter mosquitos but any Gulf Coaster knows the perils of the December mosquito, so much so that Medicaid rightly provides spray.
It’s all about prevention, y’all.
Since Monty is not allowed to fly commercially, I drove down to Houston in my beloved Pearl, a 2007 Toyota Sequoia. It was the last year of this model and I still believe it to be the prettiest of all SUVs. Pearl was equally at home in the city or on country roads camping and acting as an RV. Her only challenge was the 2 wheel drive thing which wasn’t a challenge for most of her city-dwelling, summer-camping life. And even the one time she went to the snow it was in a relatively populated area with treated roads (and filled with people and stuff so she weighed quite a bit, too). Yes, until this rural living thing happened, Pearl was my jam. But then I did make a change and decide to try northwest country living and 2WD was not working out for me (as mentioned in a previous post). The hunt for a 4 wheel drive was on, and while I’m at it, maybe a truck, too. Most everyone out here drives a truck. They are good for hauling wood that you just cut in the forest to heat your home which is the only heat-source, btw, a not-uncommon thing out here. Trucks are also good for pulling trailers, whether it is a cargo trailer, horse trailer, or boat trailer. Oh, and did I mention I was also shopping for a cargo trailer? So yes, a truck it is. My oldest child was quite vocal about the idea of me driving a truck, “I just never saw you as a truck person.” Turns out I am not really a truck person. It was hard to get excited about truck shopping. My decision coming down to what would have the best resale value in a couple of years if/when I got tired of truck life and wanted a different vehicle.
And so I present to you Leah.
Her name comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible story in which Jacob makes a deal to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, only to find after the wedding that he has been fooled into marrying Leah. In the purchase of my truck, Toyota’s brochures made it appear that the Ensuite system would have a navigation by map. When I test-drove the truck and mentioned the navigation, my salesman said that it would connect to my phone and I would download a specific app and then navigation would show on the screen. Fine. I LOVED the nav system in Pearl and it was quite my habit to glance at the map frequently.
I took possession of the truck and traded in my Pearl on Christmas Eve. On the morning of the 26th I was back at the dealer because I could not get a map to show on my screen. A couple of hours later I was sick to my stomach and asking to have Pearl back because it turns out that particular feature is not even available on this truck. And they wouldn’t give me Pearl back. I could probably have tried a law suit but in the end it just wasn’t worth it to me. Pearl had over 200,000 miles and a recurring emissions issue which cost over $900 to fix the first time.
And so this truck’s name is Leah.
I am reminded that Dante wrote of Leah and Rachel in his poem about Pergatory. In his dream just before he reaches the paradise on Earth he sees Leah and Rachel, who in this poem are symbols of the active and thoughtful aspects of living, respectively. One translation has it as, “in my dream, I seemed to see a woman both young and fair; along a plain she gathered flowers, and even as she sang, she said: Whoever asks my name, know that I’m Leah and I apply my lovely hands to fashion a garland of the flowers I have gathered. To find delight within this mirror I adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel never deserts her mirror; there she sits all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing, as I, to see my hands adorning, long: She is content with seeing, I with labor.” (Purgatorio, Canto XXVII, lines 97-108, Mandelbaum translation)
So in Dante’s poem, Leah represents the worker, the active part of the full life and was envisioned just before he entered the Garden of Eden or Paradise on Earth. That’s not a bad namesake.
Leah did a darn good job of getting me to my own little paradise. With the help/guidance/bad-ass-ness of my sister, Leah pulled the new cargo trailer filled with heavy outdoor furniture and other outdoor living items. And some clothes, and some kitchen items, and a bicycle… On the way I learned to tow a trailer at 70+ miles an hour on freeways. We were blessed with good weather for the first day but then rain and then freezing rain and then icy snow on curving mountain roads in the dark. Yeah. I didn’t drive that last part. I managed light snow on curving mountain roads up to about twilight and my sis was talking me through it, what to do if I hit a patch of ice (scream? No, fight your instinct and turn into the slide. Ummm, it takes training to fight your instincts and I have definitely NOT been trained unless there is some Jason Bourne shit going on here. Nope, upon reflection definitely no memory loss that could be tied to some secret mountain-ice-towing-assassin stuff. My only memory loss was that weekend in Mexico and some homemade mescal, back when you could safely get drunk in Mexico and not fear for your well-being.) Thankfully I only hit one or two tiny patches of ice and it felt a lot like hitting that gumbo clay back home after a gully-washer, just a little wiggle and the wheels were back to being best friends with the pavement. Of course, I was driving about 35-40 miles per hour on a 70 mph road so cars would occasionally pass me. Fine, let ‘em. But come dark, I was not going to drive. I am a person with extraordinary good luck but even I know when to fold. So the BadAssSis took over for the night. Or at least the hell-storm part of it and I drove again somewhere in the middle of the night with only rain. We did 2400+ miles in a weekend with only a 6 hour layover to sleep. Like I said, she’s rock hard bad ass. I’m more on the squishy side but can tag along sometimes.
Here’s a couple of photos. This is Leah and the trailer safely parked in Texas before the big road test.
Here is Monty all buckled up for safety. Dogs can be seriously hurt in car accidents if they aren’t secured. Also, you do not want 60 pounds of muscle hurtling around your head.
Yes, there really is a Weed Police. It was here that the weather intimidated me. To my credit, just before reaching Weed, California I saw not one, not two, but THREE cars that had slid off the road, one a roll-over. And these cars were visible because they slid into the center median. The poor bastards who weren’t so lucky to slide towards the center of the highway slid right off the mountain. I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy Weed. Maybe next time.
And here is a photo oh, maybe an hour later. Yep, had it been me driving in this bit of road hell, Leah the Toyota would have been FORD (found on the road dead). That sign reads, “Sharp Curves Ahead.”
And finally, here is Leah enjoying the brand new driveway, if a 900+ foot stretch still counts as driveway, of the parcel of land that the don and I are developing on the western edge of Washington.
And one last photo, here is Brighty. If you will remember, her job is to be a winter home while the development occurs. She sat for a couple of months alone and, unfortunately had to bear some pretty harsh storms by herself and did not get out unscathed. But that is a story for another time.
Wish you were here!
Oh, and here are some photos of the drive down from Idaho to Texas in early December 2018. For your viewing pleasure.
I am putting together a post on Brighty’s update but was rudely interrupted by… winter.
So, when did snow become a threat? As a Gulf Coast person snow was a delightful novelty, hoped for each year but only because the below freezing temperatures that made you have to cover up all the citrus trees and hibiscus in the yard came rarely and didn’t stay long. I remember the year we had 3 nights in a row that dipped below freezing and my lemon tree really took a hit. I actually had to buy some lemons after that because so few made it through the freeze.
So imagine my delighted surprise the first time a few snow flurries drifted around the mountain house. Everything so fresh and clean and the world seemed like a little snowglobe. Ahh, winter. I LOVE having four seasons!
Ummm, wait. It has been cold for like a week already. I totally do NOT have the right clothes for this! Ohmigosh, the little creek by the house has ICE. Ice y’all. On the creek, where there is running water. And the dirt isn’t soft anymore and the wood bridges are very slippery in the morning. Holy moley, the pond up the hill is completely frozen over. And it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet!
Ummm, maybe I should think about leaving for Texas a little earlier than originally planned. Well, except the don invited me to his family Thanksgiving and I really want to meet this group of people. Well, it was said that last year this time had days in the 70’s so it should be fine. And that will give me more time to figure out my route back to Texas.
Well, rats. The jokes on me. Ice, snow, and I actually got stuck the day after Thanksgiving in the snow on a hill no steeper than an ADA ramp. Yep, couldn’t get anywhere. I’m probably going to die out here in the snow. I’ll probably hit a patch of black ice and go shooting off the highway down a mountain and get trapped in my car to die from exposure and in a puddle of urine.
Well, so that didn’t happen. YET. I didn’t exactly panic, though I’m sure I had every right to, when the car wouldn’t move forward and the back wheels just chittered around. Lucky for me, the don came to my rescue and moved my car to a safe place where I could safely drive it in the daylight.
Which is how Pearl got all CBGBs. For a sophisticated car, she sure looks tough with these bad boys on. After that near-death experience I went straight to the tire store and bought these chains. No more getting stuck on icy roads for me! I’m not going out without a fight, doggone it.
Well, truth be told, I’m a lover not a fighter and I heard it said you can’t beat a Russian winter and I figure an Idaho winter might put up a fight, too. So now I am on my way south to get to a climate which isn’t trying to kill me and for which I have the proper clothing. Flip-flops in December? Yes, Please! Update on Brighty will follow once my fingers thaw.
I am going to have to give the UPS man a Christmas present because I have ordered so much of the items needed to rehab Brighty via online shopping that he is at my house at least every other day. And some of it has been rather heavy. Thank you, UPS! I do make every attempt to shop local, even asking if items can be special ordered which does take longer and costs more but I believe it is important to support local business. It’s just that many times the stores say they can’t get the particular item, and for the special needs of this rehab, RV stores with an online presence are the only option. So, thanks again to my friendly guy in the brown truck!
Finally, the propane lines are in and I can start installing the insulation and paneling and then install the kitchen cabinets! Woohoo!
Well, the lower cabinets anyway. I still have some AC wiring to install and check so the permanent install of the upper cabinet will have to wait. But it is still progress. and the sink I ordered has arrived as has the water heater and the water pump. I did a test fit for the upper cabinets because I wanted them to be flush with the ceiling and I could find no definitive info on how to achieve this. Surprise of surprises, it worked the first time! I also realized that absolutely nothing on Brighty is square or straight. She has curves even in her straight lines, like how is that possible?
We also received the new fridge (that was delivered by freight which I am sure the UPS guy was very appreciative). It can run on AC power or propane. We had a bit of discussion, the don and I, on what size to get. I won’t say who wanted what but one person wanted the largest fridge possible and the other thought maybe a smaller fridge and a cooler would be the way to go. It was agreed to get the largest possible and with assurances that it would definitely fit through the door. Crap, the fridge is just 3/4 of an inch too wide to fit through the door. Maybe removing the door frame will help. Whose idea was it to get such a big fridge anyway?
I took a long weekend off to go bow hunting with the don. This is a real departure for me because I do not hunt and do not eat critters. Not on purpose, that is. Anyone who has gone for a jog on warm summer morning along a lovely wooded trail a few times has probably had the experience of jogging up a hill and fallen into the open-mouthed breathing bug-swallowing morass of ickiness. If you can except the accidental bug, I fall into the category defined by a non-hunting friend who said, “I could have taken the shot but I realized I just was not hungry enough to where killing the bird would make a difference for me but it would certainly make a difference for the bird.” And he stopped hunting. I make my own choices about eating animals but if I ever got hungry enough, I would eat one. So far I just have not gotten that hungry. Lucky me! Plus, I have tried a bite of an animal if it was offered and novel and, to be honest, no critter has ever tasted all that good to me. If eating a critter, whether cow or elk or snail or frog or turkey or duck…, if it had the same explosion of joy on my tongue like an amazing guacamole or piece of chocolate or superb cup of coffee, well, maybe I would not be vegetarian but no bite has ever done that. So why bother killing it if it is not fabulous? Elmer Fudd is the only vegetarian hunter that I know and we all know of his lack of prowess with a gun. I personally would not hunt with a gun, it would feel too much like being an assassin, but seeing how much Monty likes the elk meat and how well his allergy-ridden body does on this type of protein, maybe I will take up bow hunting. To feed my family.
I am a tremendously curious soul and, while very opinionated, I tend to not judge that which I do not have any experience. I have known a few bow hunters. Stories of spending days following a particular animal and strategizing to get close enough to shoot, well, they sounded perhaps more sporting than the hanging out and assassinating that rifle shooting seems to be. Again, I fully recognize that I have zero experience and am in good company with having an opinion on that which I know jack shit. When the chance to go bow hunting came along, I decided to “give it a shot” and get a little experience.
Here I am, all camo-ed up. My first day as a bow-hunter and I totally look the part.
This kind of hunting requires a bit of hiking around and watching to see where the elk are moving about. This apparently changes from year to year and getting into a position where a shot can be made during the early morning or twilight-ish times the big guys get going takes some intel and planning. Have you ever heard an elk They make a weird sound for such big animals, kind of like a squeak.
So a few days is spent walking and observing quietly and making sure not to scare any of these critters. Funny enough, there were quiet a few elk on other hillsides. Here is a herd with a pretty big bull and his cows and even a baby elk. They do not look that far away but it would be a good full-day hike to get over there so moving camp would be required.
And these guys must have had some intel of their own because that hillside they would traverse for the next few days was not near any access trail to be able to get the mules near to a kill and pack it out. Being able to get the “harvested” animal out is an important part of hunting and having to backpack a several hundred pounds of raw meat sounds nigh on impossible. No wonder this bull was so big, he is pretty smart!
Hanging out waiting for an elk to cruise by was one of my favorite parts. the don would get his different elk call whistles out and see if there were any elk nearby. It was really cool when one would answer and a bit of call and response would go on. I found the waiting a great opportunity to meditate and to practice being in the present moment.
See, hunting is kinda fun!
Bow hunting requires getting very close to the animal. If we had been using a rifle, there were quite a few opportunities to kill but with the bow you have to be more patient and get in very close. This trip resulted in no kills so that worked out fine by me. All the fun, none of the blood and guts. the don was not concerned since he had plenty of meat left over from last years kill, so much so that he passed on a couple of shots because the bull was so big the don wanted him to go on and make more baby elk. I am thinking that could be a nice set of antlers to find next spring!
A storm began to roll in after lunch. The winds picked up like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. Monty and I were hiking around just enjoying the scenery and not worrying about being stealthy when this line of clouds came in so we began to head back to camp.
No photos of the food on this trip. It was good but not as amazing as other trips because the don felt that campfires were not conducive to keeping elk nearby so cooking was done backpacking style in a single pot on a stove. It was still nice to have the mules to carry all of the gear and if you got tired of walking Stella would carry you for a stretch. She is becoming one of my favorite mules of the seven due to her relatively calm disposition. We also share a distaste for the antics of the two rambunctious boy mules I call Thing 1 and Thing 2. One afternoon I came back to camp and saw only one mule instead of three. Expletive. Stella and Thing 2 pulled their pickets and took off. It was just me and Monty and the choices were clear:
Leave and pretend I didn’t see anything. Come back well after dark and after the don would have returned to camp.
Go find the don and interrupt his hunt so he can help track down his got-derned mules
Find those fu*#ers myself.
I was concerned the mules could get tangled in their pickets and get hurt. This explains why I, a person with no mule experience and who is rightfully afraid of these powerful and sometimes unpredictable creatures, chose number 3. A smarter person would have been more concerned that she would get hurt trying to deal with two runaway mules but my heart bleeds for all creatures, great and small. A bit of panic started to rise in my gut as I looked up and down three possible trails and searched the hillside for signs of mule tracks. I could see no obvious path they took. With the last bit of sensibility in my head I asked Monty to find the mules. Monty is the best dog in the world because even though those mules are not friendly to him no matter how much he tries to be nice, he nosed around and then took off down one of the trails. I don’t even know how Monty knew what I was asking but he led me straight to those recalcitrant critters. Now I had to lead them back all by myself. Thing 2 is not usually very cooperative with me but he may have sensed that I meant it when I told him one misstep on his part and I’d tie him to the nearest tree for wolf food. We all got back to camp without further incident. Shortly after our return little Finn, the puppy, came running up. Her new trail name might be Ranger because she goes off on her own so much. About 45 minutes later the don showed up. Other than me drinking hard liquor at 4:00 in the afternoon, nothing seemed amiss.
The day came for us to head out of the wilderness. No elk were harmed on this hunting trip and the sun played peekaboo as we walked out. the don and I took turns riding Stella although he would lead her when I rode since I’m not skilled in mule management. I can ride horses but these mules aren’t trained like a horse. No bridle, no formal riding training, and they question authority with every step. Wrangling one of these guys on a steep hillside is not on my bucket list. I am learning to be around them but I’m still pretty scared of them in unfamiliar situations so the don led while I rode. On the really sharp drop-offs though, no one rode. The mules are very sure-footed and do well picking the way along the trail but I wouldn’t be on top of one!
And so ends the saga of the other great vegetarian hunter. I am happy to shoot elk with a camera and to walk around the lovely hills. If only tacos grew wild I would surely take up hunting with a habanero-tipped arrow.
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).
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 also made stops to look at flooring and fabric.
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.
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.
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!