Saturday, December 19, 2009
... and digging...
Actually, our first item on this new agenda, was to rent a Ditch-Witch, a great machine that digs a trench four feet deep by eight inches wide. Four feet deep is the standard code to get below the frost line so the water lines don't freeze, and eight inches wide to accept all pipes and electrical needed to get from here to there. A great machine, when the ground was right.
We laid out the line we wanted to follow, taking the most direct route possible. Logical. We started from where the lines would go into the house, curved it to redirect toward the woods. The pipe being used was flexible, to a point, curves had to be gradual. From behind the house at the entrance point, the line curved across the parking area and into the woods. There we stopped. Pete went down to where the well was, while I tied a tape line to a tree where we had stopped and then walked toward him, letting the tape out as I went. We looked at the line, and made a few adjustments for obstacles. Trees. Rocks. But eventually, we had a workable line.
We took the Ditch Witch and set it to dig, starting at the house point. By the time we got close to the woods, perhaps 75 feet, a lot of the trench had caved back in.... sand, fill from the construction site. Pete pulled the blade up. We were discouraged. He moved to the edge of the woods where the ground was virgin, and the digging went well from there. The machine cut through roots, spewed out fist sized rocks. Wow. Great. He got to the edge of the woods near the well, and shut the machine off. The Ditch Witch job was over. Now started the hand digging.
Know how deep four feet is? Chest deep to me at 5'4", but to dig that deep, that 8" trench now had to be body wide, and enough room to move with a shovel. That trench was now 18" wide. And chest deep.
And we were on a time table.
I tried clearing out the sandy trenches first, but they still caved it, and it was discouraging, so I struck out on the fresh ground, that 20' patch between the sandy area and the edge of the woods where the trench started again. It was hard going: rocks, tree roots, hard pan. I wold use the shovel, then have to switch to a hand spade to dig out a rock; or stop and cut some tree roots with the pruning shears. By the time I had the trench 3' deep, waist level, my legs were badly bruised by brushing against the hundreds of roots, small and large, that protruded into the new ditch. The next morning I could barely walk, I hurt so bad. My bruises had bruises! On top of that, it had started raining over night, a slow, steady drizzle that lasted for days. Miserable. Faced with getting down into that hole, I couldn't help but sympathize with Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, when he had to get back into the leech infested water to continue pulling the boat to freedom. He didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do it. But I had to. I'm tough, yet I was almost thankful for the rain that hid my tears. I finally finished that stretch, and joyfully pulled myself out of the muddy hole. I needed a break. We had been digging for four days straight, I was tired, I hurt, I ached, and I still had the sand portion yet to clear out. I quit. I went into the house, heated some water for a shower, fixed a cocktail. After I showered, and put on clean clothes, I put more water on to heat for Pete's shower, fixed another drink and one for him, then ventured down to his project.
He was about as discouraged and bedraggled as I was. His trench was shorter, but the rocks!! He was digging out boulders!! I presented him with his drink, and with gratitude in his eyes, he heaved himself out. We sat there for awhile, sipping our rum & cokes and decided we could finish tomorrow.
The next day, with renewed and refreshed spirits, we began again. The continuing rain loosened the sides of the sandy ridges even more. At least that digging was easier, and NO tree roots poking me. After a few more cave-ins, one that trapped me to my knees, I got several 2x12's to five me a stable edge (see picture) and things went much easier. It was still dirty, muddy and messy, but at least I was seeing progress. Once I finished that section, knowing it likely would need touching up when we were ready to lay the lines down, I walked the line, clearing areas, measuring depth. Several times I had to lay on my belly, reaching down in that 8" trench with a spade, to clear an area, remove a rock, whatever needed doing.
Early in the afternoon, we were ready to roll out the pipe and the power lines. Leaving plenty of slack on both ends, the black PVC pipe was laid to rest. Then we filled it all back in... that was difficult, after days and days of back breaking labor, we were filling, visually nullifying all that hard work. But we were one step closer to having water in the house!
Friday, December 18, 2009
One thing that is normally done when selecting a building site is to do a 'perk test', to make sure the ground will have adequate drainage for a septic system. This we did. No problems.
The next thing to do is drill a well, to make sure you have potable water near the building site. This we did NOT do. Big Problem. The house was built and we were living in it for four months before getting the well drilled. We had called long before, but in that area, well drillers are scarce and in high demand.. AND had to abide by road restrictions for all but a few months out of the year, because of the weight of their rigs. We were put on a waiting list. During those four months, one of made trips, sometimes daily, to the artesian well three miles away, filling five gallon containers for drinking and washing.
When the well rig finally showed up in mid-August, we were delighted! They set up beside the house so the water would be close, the lines short and the power needed for the pump, minimal. They began the drilling, the clanging. The incessant clanging.... My hours were filled with this teeth rattling, mind numbing steady beat. Hour after hour. Day after day. I found lots of excuses to be somewhere else. When the reached 265 feet without hitting good water, they suggested they try 'priming' the well. The only water available was from the creek a mile away, so they filled a portable reservoir and tried... and tried. Finally giving up. I had one day of peace, on day reprieve, and they were back. And we really lucked out that they returned, as the owner wanted to move on to the next job!! They had already spent a week with us and he was giving up! His sons were working our job and refused to leave until we had water, thank goodness!
During the one day they were gone, and all was quiet, I took a walk, relishing the peace, taking my chakra divining rods with me. My own inner sense took me back to where it all started, on that path to the seasonal creek and the little waterfall over fallen logs. There was water here, that was obvious, but where could we tap into it?? I started down the path, rods extended, they swiveled and spun... then they stopped, joined in an "X". I found a few rocks to make a pile so I would know the spot. When the guys returned, I showed them where I wanted them to drill next. The rig was moved and carefully backed down the old logging road... and the started once again on the clanging and clanging.
To amuse ourselves while all this was going on, Pete and I discovered that the now abandoned, dry well near the house, had an echo. An echo that changed pitch with the size of stone we dropped down it and it bounced off the sides of the pipe. Like little kids, we spent too much time dropping pebbles, having fun,.. until the crew sealed the pipe. Bummer.
On the third day of the new site, they struck water at 89 feet. We were ecstatic! and that lasted until they said that now we had to dig the line or pay them to do it, at substantial cost. The distance? Just over three hundred feet, which also meant that the pump to carry the water from the well to the house, would have to be a large, deep submersible. Another bummer.
So we started digging...........
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Stepping out of the normal posting here, to add something I find relevant to being a Self Reliant Woman.... being an Alpha female.
Alpha's in animal packs are a bit different than in human packs. As in wolf packs. there is one alpha male, usually the strongest/oldest, and one female alpha, usually his mate. There may be a Beta, but he knows his place, and may or may not take over if something happens to the Alpha.
I've watched my chickens. I have 12 hens and 3 roosters. Only one rooster is the alpha, and all the hens accept that.. and so do the other two roosters! I need only one rooster to keep the hens happy (and the eggs fertile when I'm ready to incubate), but I've kept the other two for this first winter, to insure I have a rooster in the spring. The alpha keeps the other two away from 'his' hens and will attack if they try to jump one of the girls. There is also an alpha hen.. she gets to eat first if the choice food is limited (table scraps) and will chase the other hens away. If the alpha male does, one of those other two roosters WILL become the alpha. It's called the pecking order :) ... however, when *I* enter the coop, *I* am alpha over all of them.. I am the giver of food and the protector.
Going to human 'packs', there can be several alpha's, but only one main alpha. The alpha is who all others defer to look to for decision making, and that isn't always the strongest, but usually the wisest. It's not necessarily the one who takes physical action. Someone mentioned Rambo, and yes, he was the alpha within his group (or alone), but remember his commander (Richard Crenna) was HIS alpha! Think of a county (hey, I'm rural... lol)... A county has many townships. The county will often a manager, but so does each township. Alphas with a higher alpha.
What I see coming, are small towns, like Jericho. Now, Mayor Greene was an Alpha. Even when he was no longer mayor, he was STILL the alpha, as those who really needed decisions still went to him, not Mayor Gray. Anyway, the mayor would be the head alpha, but the lower, functioning parts of the town, would have their own alphas. In MY little town, our alphas are the Fire Chief, the head of the EMS unit, the guy who owns the store, the custodian/handyman of the town, and the Supervisor. The Supervisor was elected, and so far is doing good.. why? because he let's the other alpha's function as alphas within their own 'kingdoms'! In a true time of crisis.. take a guess who the real alpha will be? (I'm not going to answer, I'd like to see the guess's in the comments).
Most Alpha's are leaders because others follow them. I am the Alpha in my family. My parents understood this. I am the fourth youngest of five.. but I was always the one the others turned to.. when it came to 'core family' issues. They might be alpha's within their own family, but not when ti came to the core family. My mother chose ME as her executor before she died, and I became the head of the family when she did. Now, I don't exercise that dominance with my sibs, unless I have to... like when decisions had to be made regarding her estate, and MY word was final.
I AM an ALPHA. I have always been an Alpha, even when it was only me. One of the major issues with my previous relationship (Peter), was just that. It started with Alpha male & Alpha female.. as it should, an equal balance of power. Even though I was use to being THE alpha, I was willing to let him have that spot for the sake of peace, as I was still the Alpha female. However, he wasn't content with that. I was always a 'threat' to him. He had such low self esteem, that he had to relegate me to a Beta position, even when there was no other alpha female. I couldn't accept that, for very long. It takes two alpha's.. a shared leadership of the household. Our household fell apart.
Even my ex-husband, my sons father, accepts my alpha role in our family, and after 30+ years of being divorce STILL has me on his account and in charge of his will. He knows that my decisions within our family will always be for the good of the family.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The curtain of white
Billowing in the wind
Blinding to what lies
Beneath or beyond
The forecast the night before called for 6-8 inches of snow. Not anything the four-wheel drive Jeep couldn't handle with ease. It was parked about half way to the house instead of out by the main road. Loggers were working between us and the county road, and agreed to keep us plowed out to that prearranged point. It was a good arrangement for everyone. My car wasn't in the way of their big trucks, and it wasn't so far to snow shoe out.
A week or so earlier, the generator had failed and was now in the repair shop. The generator's primary function was to pump the deep well, without it, there was no water for us. This was not a big issue, just an inconvenient one. We lived without running water for four months when we first moved here... But that was in the summer. There is an artesian spring about two miles up the county road that runs all year around, never freezes, never runs dry. As I did back in the beginning, I began to make regular trips to the spring to fill five gallon containers. I would snowmobile to the car, load up the containers and drive to the spring, having a dislike of running the snowmobile on main road. Since I could melt snow for washing and flushing, five gallons lasted longer.
It was Wednesday night and Pete and I agreed that 6-8 inches on top of a plowed road wasn't enough to worry about moving the car further out, even if the loggers didn't come back until Monday. So I settled into bed, with one more thing on my chore list for the next day.
By morning though, there was already 12" of new snow and we were in a near white-out condition. So much for accurate weather forecasts!! The major thing facing me, was that we needed water. If it hadn't been for that, I would have never even put my boots on. The radio was now calling for a Winter Storm Warning, with heavy accumulation and additional 'lake effect' snow possible. Seems there had been a wind shift, and it was now coming off Lake Superior. I knew the Jeep should be moved, but 12" might be pushing it. The decision was to run the snowmobile out to the county road a few times to create a path for the Jeep. This was also the year Pete's back was giving him trouble and he could not risk the jarring ride of the snowmobile. I had to go... even though I was new to handling the sled. I was confident. I was tough. I was terrified.
As I rounded the curve in the road approaching the area where the car was parked, I knew this was going to be difficult. Even though the snowmobile was fairly new, a long track model and supposedly capable of wondrous feats of travel, Pete told me never to stop in really deep snow, I might not get going again. I passed the Jeep, buried deep in snow and drifts, and headed toward the bridge.
The small logging bridge crossed the creek, a small river actually, and the road then has significant slopes on either side. With snow falling fast and more snow being blown upward in my face by the sled, I started the downward slope to the bridge. A quick glance to the other side almost took my breath away. There was no definition in the road at all. None. It had completely filled in from drifting, which meant there was much more snow than a mere 12". I crossed the bridge at the moderate speed I felt was safe, and with my mate's advice in my mind, began a mantra of "don't stop - don't stop - don't stop". I aimed between the trees where I knew the road was somewhere beneath all that snow, and gave the sled as much gas as I could and still maintain control. I was enveloped in a cloud of icy white. I drove blind for what felt like an eternity, and was in reality maybe 5 seconds. I was now at the top, in an area where the loggers had recently plowed, and once again had only 12" beneath me. I felt giddy with success, yet overwhelmed that I'd have to do it again.. going back. I continued toward the county road, slowing to my normal speed but never stopping. I would turn around and go back home. The Jeep wasn't going anywhere today... and I shouldn't have either.
Another curve in the road and there is someone plowing!! Maybe I would get the jeep out after all. A few words with the young man at the wheel, and he headed for the bridge! It was interesting to notice that he was plowing as he went.. without dropping the blade.. Not a good sign, but then I knew the snow was deep. I turned around and waited in the plowed area as I didn't want to get in his way. I waited, and waited. He should have been back by now, so I slowly moved the snowmobile forward, being very conscious that he might not be able to see me through the blowing snow. I had no worry. A few hundred yards more and I saw him... walking. He had gotten his truck stuck next to the jeep. His plan was to walk out and hitch a ride. Having just turned around at the main road, I knew the county plows still hadn't been by and there was no traffic whatsoever. Even his recent tire tracks were no longer visible. I convinced him to come home with me and use our cellular phone to call someone. I had never ridden someone before, as I had only been solo sledding for two weeks! Seems it was to be a day for firsts.
His name is Gordy. A nice young man, fair haired, blue eyed, typical Finnish looks that dominated the area, mid-twenties, friendly, funny, intelligent and turns out he's the logging company forester. Which means he's the boss in the field! A good person to know when there's logging going on all around us.
Gordy warmed up by the cook stove, had something warm to drink and called his crew to come get him. since the Jeep wasn't going anywhere for several days, I decided to load up the five gallon containers on the small detachable sled I use, and go to the spring on the snow mobile. There certainly wouldn't be any vehicle traffic for me to worry about today. I took Gordy back to his truck and continued out to the road.
There may not have been any traffic to be concerned about, but it was still one of the most nerve racking rides I've ever made. The plows still hadn't been by and the snow was getting deeper by the minute. As I approached the spring, I realized I couldn't turn around! Although the snowmobile has reverse, backing up in deep snow would only bury the treads. I had to continue almost another mile to an area where I knew there would be adequate room to make a circle. I still had some maneuvering to do, but finally got going in the right direction.
As I pulled up to the spring, I realized I hadn't seen another person the entire time, hadn't heard another sound, not even another snowmobile. I left the sled running, in the middle of the road, and filled four containers, strapping them down when I was finished. I prayed that extra 150 pounds being pulled wouldn't bog me down too much. I had to go even slower to keep the attached sled from fish-tailing and tipping over. Half way back to my road, I was passed by two other snowmobiles. Now that didn't surprise me. Snowmobiler's around here are fanatics, and drive way too fast for me. They left me in a spray of snow, blinded once more. I believe in wearing a helmet, but the snow was falling so fast I couldn't keep my visor cleared and had to push it out of my way. My face was quickly getting numb.
Back on my logging road I breathed a little better and felt my anxiety loosen. Familiar territory. Gordy was still digging around his truck, using a way too small shovel, wondering where his rescuers were. After explaining the conditions on the county road, it didn't take much convincing to have him join us again back at the house. He was cold, wet and approaching hypothermia. With the additional weight on the seat, the traveling was actually a little smoother.
Gordy helped me unload the water, and then stood by the cook stove once again, shaking, trying to warm up. I hung his damp but warm jacket and wet gloves by the stove to dry. Another phone call revealed the crew answering his first call had been stopped by the county and sent back - to get a bigger truck. An hour or so passed, a few more calls, another cup of coffee and dry clothes and Gordy was ready to try again. The young man was undaunted by all the snow! But then, he was born here, and this was only our second winter. I found a pair of hunting socks for him to use, they were old, but thick and dry. He slid his foot back into the still wet leather work boots, boots that were fine for walking in the woods, but not meant to stay dry in deep snow. I had shown him to wrap his feet in plastic baggies to keep the wetness away from the dry socks. I did warn him that lasts for only while, then it seeps through. With his knit hat pulled low over his ears, insulated canvas jacket zipped high, dry gloves and soggy shoes, he followed the snowmobile trail back out to his truck. His back disappeared from my sight within a few yards. I found out later, that by the time he walked back to his half buried truck, his feet were wet again. I felt badly that I hadn't driven him out, but the two trips had exhausted me and I was now paranoid abut getting stuck. I figured I had used up my good luck for the day, maybe for the week.. even the month!
The snow stopped sometime on Friday. The official total was 30" in less than 36 hours. Up in the hills where we were, it was much, much deeper. The blowing and drifting made it worse. It had brought the County to a stand still. That is still the worse storm I've seen to hit here.
I saw Gordy again later that summer and he told us how long he'd had to wait for someone to get him. Hindsight told me I should have just given him a beer and dinner and had him spend the night, to worry about escape the next day. Now a good friend, he stops by regularly.
Gordy came by yesterday. He has cancer. He's not yet 30 .......
(Note: years later, Gordy is well. He had surgery and treatment, and is cancer free. Married with a little girl now, he still has my socks! lol)
Forty some inches of fresh snow left me marveling at the beauty around us. Grateful I had laid in plenty of supplies, we settled in to enjoy the isolation. I wasn't ready just yet to tackle the monumental task of shoveling the residue of the storm off the roof. By the first of March that year, there had already been over 200" of snow, and the season was far from over. The area was setting new records with every snow fall. The roof could wait, but not for long.
A week later the repair shop called: the generator was terminal, we needed a new one. The selection was made, the price was paid and the unit was loaded in the back of the Jeep.
Pete met me at the parking spot, once again cleared out by the loggers. He had made a ramp of 2x4's to get the new generator out of the Jeep and onto an old, flat plastic toboggan that had also been braced with 2x4's. The idea was for him to pull the sled slowly with the snowmobile, while I walked beside keeping it from tipping over. That lasted about fifty feet. I was jogging along side and the snowmobile was in danger of overheating from even that slow speed. With sudden inspiration, I motioned for him to speed up, and I hopped on the back of the little toboggan, holding onto the generator rails. With my legs and knees flexing like pistons, I adjusted my lower body to the unevenness of the trail while using my arms to hold the generator level for the short ride to the house. I was mushing!
We ad overcome yet another trial in our new existence.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Quite often when someone thinks of a house in the woods, the image that is conjured up is of a one room log cabin, small, cramped, maybe even of a dinky 'tar paper shack'. Our home was far from any of that. The elegance of the house often shocked first time visitors!
Peter and I had many long hours of discussion regarding our new house. What it looked like inside and out, what functions it provided, inside and out. e drew many plans, discarded most of them, and finally settled on a very basic design, with internal modifications to suit our personal preferences and needs.
We started with a house design of 40x25, to give us 1000 square feet of living space, and as we were putting that on a basement, actual usable area was double that. The building site we had selected, put that basement into the side of a hill, creating a walk-out feature that turned out to be extremely valuable to us through out the years. The house was a basic one story ranch style with a long covered porch. Our builder suggested we make the dimensions 40x24, even number divisible by 8, a standard building measurement. With everything in eight foot increments, that eliminated much labor of needless cutting and fitting. The front of the house, where the porch would be, faced south, and that porch took on the size of 40' long by 8' wide.. it was a wonderful porch. A fabulous porch, one we spent many, many hours on.
I have always had a preference for open spaces and large kitchens. I love to cook and spending alot of time in the kitchen would make it a focal point in the home. The kitchen was combined with the main living space to utilize the heating benefits of the cook stove, and to enhance the openness of my otherwise small kitchen. That area, on the east end of the house, was 15x24 and contained the large stone fireplace and living room, the kitchen plus dining space: approximately one third of the house. A nine foot atrium door opened onto that front porch, while a six foot sliding glass door opened to the back deck. On the east end was a 4x6 custom picture window, which, perched over that walk-out basement entrance, gave us an incredible view of our woods, and in the distance, Lake Superior. The cook stove was installed with it's own chimney against the north wall, next to the sliding glass door. With the addition of a mobile island, I had ample work space with abundant natural daylight.
The other end of the house, tucked into the hill, was the master bedroom, 12x24, with another six foot sliding glass door that also opened onto the front porch, plus a large window on the west wall for cross ventilation. The north side contained a closet, but it wasn't just any closet! It was 12 feet wide and 5 feet deep, held both dressers and double layered clothes poles on either side: his & hers! My first walk-in closet.
In the middle of the house was an additional small bedroom 10x10, plus 3 foot deep closets, one that opened to the bedroom, one that opened to the living room. Across the hall that connected the two ends of the house, was the bathroom. I've never had such a large bathroom before! Other than the usual toilet and sink, there was 'garden tub'... extra deep for soaking, faucets in the center of the tub rather than at an end. Plus an extra large shower stall. The tub was for the occasional long soak, since it took forever to fill! Showers were for everyday use. The shower was unique in itself, as in all the years we lived there, we never had running hot water. Seems that one year, Pete decided that "we didn't move to the woods for you [me] to have conveniences"... guess running hot water was a luxury only I would enjoy. Anyway, the shower stall had a shelf high up on one side, accessible from inside and outside of the shower. This is where the five-gallon bucket was hoisted, once filled with hot water. A short hose fitted at the bottom with a sprinkler head, provided 'sprayed' running water, by means of gravity. I learned quickly how to take a full shower, including washing my long hair, in only five gallons of water. It might have been functional, but I missed having water pressure.
In the basement, we installed two wash tubs with a ringer mounted between them. Laundry day was every day. Without running hot water, I had to heat water on the stove, take it to the basement and add it to the cold water from the tap. My hands quickly became raw from the cold. During the summer, clothes hung outside on a line strung between two of our large maple trees, and during the winter, items dripped from the lines over the tubs, then finished drying on a wooden rack next to the wood stove in the kitchen. Doing laundry by hand is a real drag, and it got old real fast. Part way into the first winter, we started taking our wash to a laundromat in town.
In the basement also, was the wood burning furnace, and this was Pete's to keep going, as I had the cook stove to deal with. One corner of the basement was Pete's work shop for his stained glass, and the remaining corner was my pantry shelves, 200 square feet of floor space.. a Preppers dream!
The house was attractive and very functional.