how to build a shed door when you have no idea what you are doing

I am in a stage of life where I have more available time than money. Again. My late teens and early 20s were like this, too, and when stuff broke I learned to either make do without or grab a screwdriver and start poking around until something happened. The screwdriver trick has gotten me much farther in life than I would have ever imagined. “Is that a poisonous snake?” Poke it a bit and take a look at the head shape. (I am not recommending you do this, dear reader. Even my dog knows better than to fool around with snakes. You should definitely take snake life advice from my dog rather than me, but that is a post for another day) Can’t quite reach the bowl or box on the tippy top shelf? Grab a screwdriver and poke at it until it starts to slide off. Screwdrivers are great for getting that flat lid off of a home-canned mason jar of pickles and also for banging the heck out of an olive jar lid to break the seal if you can’t get it open.

I like power tools, and yes, I did measure out the placement of each screw.

Let’s see, where was I going with that? Yes, more time. It is what we all want, don’t you think? Time, the one thing money cannot buy. Okay, besides love and homegrown tomatoes. So what do I decide to do with this time of mine? Build a door. Technically I have built two doors now. One is a barn door the don and I built together for our shed. We got the best price for the hardware from Amazon. Here is a link if you decide you must have a barn door for your own place. And when you see how easy it is to build one, you will want them everywhere!

This pump house door though, I built all by myself. the don had come out in late summer to Winter’s Hope with a plan to build a pump house while I was off in the big city with my daughters. Factors including torrential rain and a dog in a leg cast kept him from finishing it. Then I came to Winter’s Hope to manage some other projects and he asked if I could build the door and maybe get the siding picked out and installed, too. I don’t know if he was serious but the weather was so nice that I was happy to stay as long as possible.

In my Texas house I had looked at replacing a door. Long story short, it was going to be more than I wanted to get into because of old house settling and the area around the door jamb needing to be redone. For this, though, I do not have to fool with all that. I sat down with a glass of wine and start drawing out the plan. I know that the exterior of the door will be covered with siding so that part is easy. And I can certainly build a rectangle and brace it. Well, shoot, let’s get on it then! Well, maybe tomorrow because I have heard it said you need 8 hours from bottle to throttle and using a circular saw is probably in that same class.

it is actually a full size door, the wrap is covering the top half in this picture

When measuring the door opening, measure several points, the top, middle, and bottom. Never assume it will be square, which in building parlance means even all the way around. Square, in this instance, does not actually have anything to do with cool you are.

Here I am going to cut the OSB to the size of the door opening minus 1 inch. I am not tall enough to reach across this whole 4 foot sheet so I will make a race to run the saw along.

a race is when you have an edge to run the saw along. it usually results in very straight cuts… usually

Hmmm, that worked pretty well until I couldn’t reach any further. If you are short and can’t reach the whole way across, I would recommend lowering the board so you can kneel on it. If I had it to do over I would get some other boards and make a mini table to set this down at almost ground level, then make the race and just kneel on the board as it was being cut. That would give you more control than over-reaching and having the derned saw veer off and screw up your perfect cut.

Oh well, it is fixable. The veer is only a little wobble so when I frame it out, I can make the adjustment. This side of the door does not have to be visually perfect since it won’t be seen. Good thing I was wearing my lucky scrunchie. Luckily.

I had all these 2x4s laying around because, yeah, I am that kind of person who has quality wood left over from other building projects. It used to be that I had extra jewelry and lipsticks just laying around in my purse but now, in my new “western frontier” life I have wood. But dern it, where the hell are my hand tools? Shoot, I left them at the other house. Is this what it is like to have two homes? Kind of like when you are seeing someone and it starts getting serious and you sleep over for a few days at a time and then can never find anything because your place is a mess from never staying there to clean and half of every outfit is at a different location.

yet another addition to my hammer collection

Okay, I refuse to buy another set of tools so let us see how far we can get with said screwdriver and my Leatherman multitool. Dang, I left my hard sole shoes at the other house so there goes that idea for a hammer. (i really do have a little hammer shaped like a ladies high heel shoe) Maybe I can make do with a tree log for banging the braces into place and squaring up the door. No, I’m going to need something more than a log to affix siding, I am not a caveman, for goodness sake. There is a reason cave people lived in caves, you know. It was not until hammers were invented that they could affix siding to a hut, until then it was caves. I, for one, am not going back to caveman life, paleo be damned. Okay, yet another hammer is added to my collection. But that is it. Having 12 black skirts is one thing, that is normal. Having 6 hammers is getting close to needing medication.

For the frame of the door I ripped the 2x4s in half, making them 2×2. Though of course, the 2×4 is not really 4 inches wide due to planing. Doesn’t matter, this door is going to be braced with the 2×4 so this outer frame can be smaller. Ripping with a circular saw is not something I enjoy. If you have access to a table saw, use that. But probably if you have access to a table saw you do not need to read an article on amateur door building, so there is that. Ripping just means cutting a long strip off a long board. Go slow and it goes pretty well. Then measure the door sides and cut the frame boards to length. I made the top and bottom pieces first, clamped them in place, and screwed them to the OSB. Then I put the sides in, screwed them to the OSB and to their adjacent boards, and finally added the big guns of braces.

When you are screwing into OSB there will be some spots that the screw just spins and spins. It is like that part of the board strands are so randomly oriented that the screw can’t get a foothold. When this happens just take a breath and hold the screwdriver in place letting the screw spin. Do some kegels while you wait, the middle-aged you will appreciate this, trust me. Sooner or later the screw will start going in and you can move on to the next step, and have a better awareness of your pelvic muscles while you do. Can you say win-win? You could also drill pilot holes but then how would you get your exercise?

Breathe and squeeze. Repeat

I built this door 1 inch smaller than the opening. Yes, on purpose. I want the siding to be able to hang over the edge of the door slightly and the door opening because I am going to use a vertical board siding. There is a half inch opening on each side of the door so the siding can stick out 1/4 inch over the door and opening and give it protection from the rain and hide the weatherproof wrap. I placed a piece of OSB on the floor of the door opening to lift it up off the threshold, lifted the door (by myself, I’m kinda buff that way!!!) and hand fit the door into place. Another piece of OSB on the side away from the hinges kept that spacing, too. Now to get the hinges on. I started with the middle hinge because it was the easiest to reach. Prior to setting the door up, I marked where the hinges would go, making sure the long part on the door would be screwed into the bracings. This is why I made the three bar brace instead of a Z brace, because I am using three hinges that I want attached to the 2x4s. I am determined, this door will not sag. I had a saggy door on the shed at my house in Texas. I would fool with the two hinges all the time and it was always out of whack. No more, I say! And the door on Brighty gets a little out of whack sometimes, which is common for an RV. I mean, an RV is a house that is meant to wiggle. And when Brighty’s door gets out of whack, you know what I do? Yep, I grab the screwdriver that sits just inside the door and give it a whack. I f-ing love screwdrivers.

How nice, perfect margins, the hinges and closure are installed. All is well.

How nice that this job is finished. The door fit in perfectly and I can call it done until the siding gets delivered. In the meantime, I’ll build a threshold out of some flashing I have lying around. Ideally the threshold would not have a seam but a bead of caulk will suffice and I can use up the stuff I have rather than buy more. This is just a pump house, after all.

Well, that was fast. I actually was not expecting the siding to be selected and done until the don and I were back out here this winter. But I kinda know a guy with a saw mill and he decided to go ahead and do a rush job on getting the wood milled. Well, I guess I can try my hand at putting up wood siding.

Measure, cut, nail. That easy!

This style of siding is called board and batten. It is perfect for this situation in that the wood is still quite wet. If I had access to having it kiln dried, that would be ideal but I do not. And people were putting siding on structures long before kiln dried wood was available. I can expect this wood to shrink a bit as it dries and the battens will cover that shrinkage. One advantage to having dried wood, I discovered, is the weight. Wet wood is much, much heavier than its dry counterpart. This weight was really only a big issue when it came time to reinstall the door. The door now weighs so much that I cannot maneuver it very well! Phooey! Due to the weight the door keeps knocking out the wood on the threshold that is used as a spacer for installing, something that was not a problem without the siding attached. I tried using shims but they all broke off when the door would be adjusted. Maybe a metal shim… an axe is like a metal shim. After some fooling around trying to use the axe to wedge up the door into place I realized that this is not a one person job at this time. Let the wood dry a bit and/or get a second person to help lift the door onto the threshold. I thought about removing the siding, installing the door, then reattaching the siding and maybe just cut around the hinges or something. Unfortunately the wood splits when trying to get it off and thank God I thought to practice this on a back piece first. No, the job will just have to be not-quite-finished until I get that cute assistant of mine back here and that is that. Dang. It still looks pretty good.

Monty is cute but he isn’t that good at carpentry.

I hope that you have been encouraged to try something new today. Even if you do not know how, see if you can figure it out. Screwing up is part of the process!

Please note that is an Amazon Affiliate. If you follow a link from this post, you may purchase the recommended item at no additional cost to you yet I will make a small commission. I mean, ain’t nobody gettin’ fat and happy on this but it does encourage me to keep writing.

DIY $100 Truck Bed Camper

Do you have a truck and enjoy camping in the outdoors? Are you also either a minimalist, have little storage area, or on a tight budget? Read on, fellow outdoors-person. Have I got a solution for you!

I love camping and traveling. Many of the lovely undeveloped camp areas in my newly adopted northwest home are little more than pull-outs along the steep and winding mountain roads. Finding space to pitch a tent can be challenging. I do have a pull-behind RV (read about the RV rehab on Brighty here) but sometimes I do not want the responsibility of pulling an extra 20 feet of trailer behind me. The fuel mileage is also a consideration. As a friend said, with an RV it isn’t miles to the gallon but gallons to the mile. For a quick and no-fuss getaway, being able to sleep IN the truck would be ideal for my situation. I have spent almost a full year researching the issue of truck bed camping, some factors I considered for my truck camping solution were:

  • Waterproof and weather proof
  • Ease of set up and take down
  • Minimal storage footprint
  • Cost (under $100.00)
  • Space to live and cook inside in case of inclement weather

I have had the good fortune to spend many nights in a pop-top camper that slides into the truck bed. It is probably the primo way to camp for comfort and convenience. They are mostly waterproof, are easy to set up, and have fabulous living space inside. However, these campers are very expensive, averaging $20,000+ new and used ones cost around $15,000. Additionally, a camper requires a protected place to store it when it isn’t on your truck.

A Pop-Up Camper fits perfectly into tight spots but they are $$$!

Another possibility is to buy a topper or cab for the truck bed and build it out. I researched the various toppers extensively and determined that a topper is not a good fit for me because I actually need to use the truck bed for throwing stuff into and unloading. Stuff like gravel or mule manure for which I use this easy unloader which fits over my tailgate; neither of these items works well with an installed topper. Toppers are not very waterproof or road-dust-proof, either. They seem to always have a leak at this corner or that window. While they are removable, it isn’t a simple job to take it off, load the truck with poop or gravel or bikes or 8 foot long boards, then clean out all that stuff and put the topper back on properly aligned to minimize water leaking and dust infiltration. Toppers cost around $2500 new. You can find used ones for certain trucks, especially older trucks but you still have the leaking issue. Still, this is a very popular avenue, especially if you already have a topper.

Tents that are made to be set up in a truck bed exist. I got to see one at my truck dealer. Maybe if MSR made one I would have faith it would last through a hearty storm and winds. You could maybe fit two sleeping bags inside it but you would still be stuck cooking outside. It costs around $300

Finally I decided to build my own truck bed camping system. Inspired by the frequent references to the pioneers who blazed trails to homestead this area, I began to think of life in a covered wagon. Certainly I could adapt my truck to a covered wagon! I knew it would need side walls, easy enough to build a wood frame; lots of trucks around here have lumber frames for transporting wood logs that were cut in the forest. Next stretch a waterproof cover over the walls, and better add some sort of peak to let rain and snow slide off and not cause puddling on the roof. That would take care of the structure. I can build a sleeping platform and mini-kitchen for living.

I lucked into a pile of wood on BLM land that was about to get burned. Some structure was apparently decommissioned and dismantled. I scavenged almost all of the wood needed for this project. A super bonus was the wood had already been fully cured and the plywood outgassed all it was going to. My lumber rack was built entirely out of this scavenged wood and there was plenty left over to build a kitchen sink and sleeping platform. The lumber rack would probably have cost about $20-30 if I had to buy the wood.

Leah the Tundra with her new lumber rack.

After some deliberation between wood vs PVC pipe for the roof structure, pipe won out based primarily on how easy it would be to store. The pipe and holders cost $10. It is a simple action to arch the pipe for the roof structure and for the porch cover.

Finding a cover was a little harder only because I really wanted to keep this entire build under $100. I ended up using a 16×30 tarp that was cut down to 16×20. I would have preferred Tyvek or maybe ripstop waterproof nylon to make my own cover and put the grommets exactly where I wanted but one has to make do sometimes. The tarp cost $50. I used bungee cords to hold the tarp in place and also have some rope in my camp kit in case I lose a cord.

With $60 already spent, I decided to take my “Hillbilly Camper” out for a test of concept run. I made a simple and slightly-precarious sleeping platform for me and devised a way to extend the platform for my dog to sleep with me. He is the best heater for those long winter camping nights and his very short fur and stoic temperament means I can snuggle my icy feet into his tummy without him moving away. I made a lip on the edge of the sleeping platform and, using the sink as a base, put a piece of plywood abutting the sleeping platform. Since neither of us are violent sleepers, this set up worked well for a test run. Plenty of room inside the camper to move around and I can almost stand up straight inside it. Sitting on the platform was quite roomy and would allow plenty of space to cook or read.

Since it was such a nice evening, I cooked on the tailgate and then we sat outside and enjoyed a campfire. It was perfect for burning all the grass seeds and burrs that accumulated on my snow boot laces. However, not every night will be so fine as this one. I built this sink and counter for those icky times. The “Kitchen” was made from all recycled materials. The sink came from Brighty’s demo, the wood from the BLM pile, and the bucket for gray water collection was hanging around. The side counter is hinged to fold down when not needed. Upgrades are planned but this is the down and dirty cheapest way to make a kitchen. One upgrade will be to install a faucet (also saved from the demolition) and use a foot pump to get water flowing. This upgrade will be used only during the warmer months when I don’t have to worry about freezing water lines.

When it was time to turn in, I folded the tarp over the porch awning and held it closed on the inside with small bungee cords. The temperature at 6:30 that night was 37F. The Mr Buddy Heater quickly warmed the small space up to make it comfortable while I read and got ready for sleep. I ran the heater for about 5 minutes on the lowest setting and that was sufficient for the evening.

I had placed two mats on the sleeping platform for cushion and insulation. These in conjunction with the wood worked perfectly for keeping the dog and me warm and comfy. The next morning I appreciated the previous evening’s foresight in placing the JetBoil and coffee-making needs next to me. I didn’t even have to get out of bed to get a cup of coffee.

Breaking down the camper was just as easy as setting it up. Being curious how it might manage in rain, I did an accordion-fold on the tarp as it hung over the lumber rack and removed the pipe. I then tucked the tarp over all the camp gear and held it in place with a cargo net. This technique would help prevent all the bedding and kitchen gear from getting soaking wet in the event of rain during a travel day. I think that, provided no items were on the floor of the truck, everything would stay dry.

I have already started on building a proper sleeping platform that will accommodate either a dog or another person without any wiggles in the legs. I will share that when it is completed. For now, I wanted to show you how a decent truck bed camper can be made for less than $100.

Please note that is an Amazon Affiliate. If you make a purchase via one of the links in my post, it will not cost you anything extra and I will make a small commission. Every product is something I actually have purchased and used. Check out the link and use Amazon to review and compare products.

The tarp above is the size I wish I had gotten. I bought one from Walmart and had to cut it down so I do not have grommets on one side.

DIY Holiday Decorations for Free!

Yes, you can be holiday-decor ready for free! Or almost free, it will cost you a few glue sticks and some thread, floral wire, or fishing line.

The sweetest little house in the woods gets ready for the holiday season

There is nothing so vociferous as a new convert. You know this is true and if you don’t, just go talk with someone who just started:

Yoga, eating paleo, eating vegetarian, stopped smoking/vaping, joined a fitness bootcamp, found Jesus, renounced religion, became a parent/grandparent, or, in my case, adopted a minimalist lifestyle.

Yes, I am a recent convert to minimalism. This is in part because 95% of my stuff is 3000 miles away from where I currently live which helps the learning curve A LOT. This conversion is also in part due to living actually IN nature. My previous home was in the heart of a very large metropolitan area, an area known for worshipping MORE and NEW. Shopping was a recreational activity and fashion was held in high esteem. It was and is part of that culture to consume everything and save very little. But here in my rural home, I walk among the costs of that consumption. I see entire mountainsides denuded of trees, experience the cost of trucking items to the store, and most heart-wrenchingly, I see the pollution from various manufacture plants roiling across the canyons and prairies. I do not protest these practices but I can reduce the necessity of creating more. I can make do with less.

Minimalism, however, does not have to mean leading an ascetic life. It is part of the enjoyment of living for me to have pretty things to delight my eyes and warm my spirit. As such, with the holidays just around the corner, I choose to brighten my home with small touches. The winter nights are quite long up here, with daylight lasting about 9 hours right now, and the sun so low in the sky that my yard does not see any sunlight on the semi-rare cloudless days. I am not alone in this need to decorate as humans have been decorating during the winter for many thousands of years.

There are a couple of ways to get natural decor items. Easiest is to grow your own. An evergreen tree, a holly bush, and a few flower bushes that dry nicely will go a long way. If you have a national forest nearby you can get a permit to collect items. These permits may be free if you follow specific guidelines so check with your local forest office or online. I am lucky to have a few acres of backyard forest in which to collect.

Not everyone is so lucky to have a backyard like this. Exactly why we need to preserve our public lands!

Next you need to expand your idea of what constitutes decoration. Down south I used lots of dried and fake magnolia leaves, dried and fake fruits, and lots of shiny ribbon. Here I have changed to a natural look since bronzed and glittered pomegranates and magnolia blossoms do not exist on the mountainside. It is also good for your brain to have to come up with creative solutions, much better than soduku.

Below is a simple tutorial on creating a holiday swag and a wreath to enhance your decor and bring a bit of nature’s beauty into your home. You can personalize these basic instructions to fit your decor by making small changes to the items you incorporate into your designs.

For the Swag

After a lovely and healthy walk in the woods or in your garden, lay out your materials and heat up your glue gun. Here I have a couple of different evergreen branches, some pinecones, some holly, beargrass, some dead branches that have lovely white lichen that resembles snow, and some dried white flowers. You may also wish to check with friends and neighbors for cuttings from their yards. Who knows, you may be doing them a favor by thinning out an overgrown bush! Certainly our side yard bushes were happy to have me thin some of the tangle going on here! I got super-lucky and was gifted some lovely holly. Find and use what is available in your area. Tip: a padded envelope makes a nice cushion for kneeling on a hard floor.

You can do a trial run of layer items to get a feel for what to place where but don’t get too exacting. Things will probably change as you go along.

I used an evergreen bough as a base and placed some holly and some lichen branches along the bough to get a rough idea of placement. A few snips to trim the holly and branches helped them fit without being too perfect. These garden nippers are an absolute necessity! You may also wish to use some gloves if working with prickly things. I finally gave up working with the gloves and just accepted the occasional “Owie!” that is inevitable in this kind of project. If you think you are going to get through the entire holiday season without having to deal with a few pricks, well… think again.

Start gluing! Begin gluing the bottom layer first. If an item doesn’t seem to stay glued to the foundation, tie it down using the thread/fishing line/ wire. If using thread or fishing line, place a dab of glue over the thread to secure.

You may need to scrape off a bit of bark before gluing sticks. Just use the backside of your nippers or a fingernail to clean off the area that will be glued.

Keep building the layers up. Adding pine cones worked best for me when I tied a thread around the base of the cone and then attached that thread to the swag using a good helping of hot glue. To attach the bear grass “tails” I tied a bunch of grass together with thread and then glued that to the back of the swag.

Bear grass makes a lovely tail

For the bow To turn rags into ribbons, tear the rag into strips and tie as if making a bow. You can go very simple by tying the ribbon on the swag like in this photo.

But why stop there? I like big bows and I cannot lie… Usually I would have used a wired ribbon to make a bow but since I do not have any on hand, I had to figure something else out. Here I glued bear grass inside each loop of the bow to give the loop some heft.

The Wreath- Everyone’s Favorite

Everyone loves a wreath no matter what time of year. For this winter holiday wreath you can use some branches thinned from a bush or small tree. I prefer new growth branches as they are fine and easy to bend. The size of your wreath will also dictate the size of branches. A small dinner-plate sized wreath will necessitate finer branches whereas a large picture window size wreath like this one allows for branches that are as big around as a pencil.

Clear a space large enough for your working pile and your wreath and begin by placing some of the branches in a circle approximately the desired finished size. After you have them in place, tie some fishing line (I think this stuff is the best) around the wreath leaving the long spool end attached and place a dab of hot glue on the knot. Now wind the fishing line around and around the wreath as you hold the branches in place. Finish by knotting and gluing again.

You may choose to leave the wreath bare for a clean and sharp look, sometimes less is more. But not in this case. I began layer holly and lichen branches around the wreath, tucking them into the fishing line that is already in place. I found some branches with tiny pine cones and added then to the wreath along with some dried white flowers. After I was satisfied with the layout and everything was tucked in to the original fishing line, make a second fishing line wrap in the opposite direction to lock the branches into place.

Voila! A lovely holiday wreath to showcase the natural beauty of your area.

And, shoot, since that hot glue gun is out, why not make a few little touches inside with the left over bits? Hot glue some leaves and berries onto glass candle holders, stick some branches into a cool bottle or vase, and tuck branches here and there in your bookcase or mantle. Then step back and admire your handiwork as you sip a bit of eggnog*.

*What? You haven’t started your eggnog yet? Lordy, get a move on! You are running out of time to have the very best eggnog ready. Check out my dairy-free version here.

Here is a listing of the items recommended. You probably have all of this stuff already but just in case.

Disclaimer: is an Amazon Affiliate. If you click a link in this post you will be taken to Amazon. If you choose to make a purchase from one of my links I will make a small commission and it will not cost you anything extra.

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!

How to Be Your Own Veterinarian…Sometimes

Lordy, lordy, lordy.

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.

Looking dapper in the December 2017 Houston, TX snow

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

Can Monty come out 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.

I’m not in the mood to pose for a picture, my foot hurts

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.

Blood INSTANTLY sprayed everywhere! Actually, faster than instantly. It sprayed blood almost before I cut the nail.

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.

Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man
Not so deep as a well nor wide as a church door but tis enough

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?

Seriously? What am I supposed to do with this? Coats are one thing, socks are another
And it still hurts

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?

Remember back when I was a city dog?

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.

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.