We had been having a very mild winter with the exception of brief visits by the polar vortex.  It was so mild that winter break seemed more like fall break – the landscape was brown and dull, bare trees and drying grasses.  My kids’ schools were only out once or twice due to weather and my own school had no snow days at all.  We watched with fascination as Boston was pummeled by winter storms and ‘thanked our lucky stars’ that we’d escaped winter.  Not strong believers in the prognostication power of groundhogs we pooh-poohed Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of another six weeks of winter.  Seed catalogs were arriving daily and we were pretty sure that spring was just around the corner.

So when I bid the students goodbye on Valentine’s eve and told them I’d see them after the weekend, I didn’t expect there to be a week of snow days plus two sets of weekends before I saw them again! Apparently winter was only delayed, not cancelled!

goats and greens

Mind you, I like winter in general.  I find it easier to keep warm in the cold than cool off in the heat, it’s pretty and nicely delineates the year, providing a clean, icy break between green seasons.

snowy farmBut winter in a ramshackle rural setting definitely adds to the challenges.  We’ve been out of water for some weeks already – a bit of a hassle to haul jugs of water, heat water for washing dishes and flush manually by pouring into the toilet bowl from two gallon jugs at the same time – but nothing we can’t handle.  Add wind chills in the double digits below zero, snow that defies 4-wheel drive and frozen septic pipes and winter becomes significantly more of a headache.

water runGranted it is easier to haul water bottles on a sled over snow but the septic issue is really annoying!  The house has begun to take on a “eau de porta potty” smell and we have to make sure that the water we use (to wash dishes for example) is tossed out of the back door rather than disposed of down the sink.  Any water added to the system will eventually back up in the tubs and we’ll have fetid pools of disgusting liquid.  I don’t know of any answer to this issue other than a thaw! Unfortunately it looks like we’ll continue with below freezing temperatures for the next week.

Posted in cold, septic, snow, water, winter | 2 Comments

I blame the lady at the BMV for Old Blue’s demise

Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.

Hunter S. Thompson


Old Blue, some of you will recall, is our 2003 Dodge Caravan, our little engine that could, the used mini-van that I picked up to replace my Honda Accord when our family grew to five back in 2006. It came to us with 60,000 miles on it, originally from Florida it had been traded in at a strip mall auto place in California, and we gave it a real run around – to Colorado, back to California, then across country, pulling a U-Haul trailer behind it to Indiana.  We were even thinking about a trip down to Florida at some point.  We put another 160,000 miles on it and had our share of minor, and not so minor issues over the years but it’s been a good car.  Yes, the paint was a little faded, it had a rusty dent where the tree had fallen on it and the right rear bumper wasn’t as rounded as it once had been but all those blemishes, along with the self-designed Woman on the Verge bumper sticker just gave it character and made it easier to spot in the parking lot of the grocery store.  It had seen a lot of life changes and even sheltered us for a time when our world collapsed around us. My teenage learned to drive in that car.  It was a member of the family.

Then in January I accompanied my teenager to the BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) for her driving test.  I chatted with the woman behind the counter, remarking on the lovely mild winter we were having and told her that thanks to the pleasant weather my daughter had been able to get in extra practice.  I wouldn’t let her drive, I said, if we were having a lot of snow like last year.  She said, “Honey, she lives in Indiana.  You aren’t doing her any favors not letting her drive in snow.”  So today, the kids having been home for the entire week due first to snow and then today to bone chilling cold and being stricken by a bad case of cabin fever, I said yes, when my daughter asked if she could drive over to her friend’s house for the afternoon.  We’d been to town the day before and the highway was clear and dry so I cautioned her about the local roads, reminded her that ice forms on bridges and said to give herself extra time to slow down. Text me when you get there, I said.

She called half an hour later, crying.  My heart stopped when I heard “Mom, I crashed!”  When she calmed down she told me she was making her turn off the highway onto the local road, when she hit ice and slid straight into the guardrail. The airbags deployed (I think that was the worst of it – shocking and painful – her face is sore and abraded) and the guardrail did its job.  She was lucky that she was already going slow – if she’d gone through the guardrail there was a steep drop into a v-shaped gulley and the car might have rolled.  As it was, due to the age and miles on the car, more than the actual injuries to it, the insurance company appears likely to ‘total’ it.  The insurance will cover a rental for a couple of weeks but with a blue book value of about $1200 and a deductible of $1000 it looks like we will be hard pressed to replace Old Blue!IMAG2242

The important thing is my daughter is okay.  She was worried that I would be angry but I told her that I was just sorry that she had to go through such a traumatic experience. I reassured her that like with everything else we would just roll with it.  Hey – I already have my next emergency all lined up – we still don’t have water and now the septic system appears to be frozen and is backing up! Onward!

Posted in breakdown, car, driving, winter | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sometimes Size Does Matter

I’d like to rearrange my room.  It’s not really working well for me – the bed blocks access to the closet and dresser so I end up piling clothes on my chair and desk.  But after spending some time with a tape measure and graph paper I’ve come to the same conclusion I had when I arranged the room in the first place.  The only way to rearrange (short of hanging a hammock from the ceiling and frankly, judging from the experience I’ve had hanging things on the walls, I’m not sure the ceiling wouldn’t collapse) is to knock out a wall!

Which got me thinking – is it possible to add on to a mobile home?  So I did some research and the answer is theoretically yes.  The internet (love being online again) is full of articles, plans and photos like the one below that make it seem (relatively) easy and I do have two ‘free’ months in the summer.  AdditBook1Then again I wasn’t even able to get our front porch rebuilt and I’m notoriously incapable of even hanging a picture straight.  Building is not my forte and although I’ve been known to attempt to do things I’m not qualified to do I try to limit my disasters to those of small to medium sized proportions.

In addition to lack of skill and know-how our current home is not exactly level. Our erstwhile contractor/con-men left it so skewed that interior doors would slam shut unless propped open by a door stop and while our relative did his best to fix the faults he lacked the proper equipment and while the house ended up being more level it also is just a bit torqued.  And that was before it sort of settled into the ground. So now cracks are developing (have I mentioned before the incredibly cheap material these places are constructed from?).wall crackOn the other hand, in my fantasy home addition this is the wall that would get knocked out :-)  If I could I’d like to add a 8-foot (or so) addition running lengthwise along the entire back of the house which would make my and my youngest daughter’s small rooms long and skinny, enlarge the living room to the point that we could curtain off a section for my son to give him more privacy (we can’t add another bedroom as our septic system is only permitted for three bedrooms – oddly it doesn’t matter how many people or bathrooms you have, just bedrooms), create a dining area and a mudroom/laundry room.  My older girls have the master bedroom and the oldest is headed to college this summer so I don’t see the need to enlarge their room.

Although there are organizations that sell pre-fab add ons such as and Aluminum Fabricators, most don’t serve our area or they just offer single room additions. I suspect we would have to find a local contractor to build the addition I have in mind.  I haven’t even begun to estimate the cost but I suspect it would be substantial.

But this is all wishful thinking at this point.  On my salary it’s not possible to save much, if any, money and in addition to ongoing problems with our water system, the latest being a cracked water pump and an inexplicably empty cistern (another crack?) that has left us without water for the past week, we have other basic needs like gravel for our mud driveway that are more pressing than extending our house.  Still it would be nice to be less cramped, have more storage and comfortable spaces, so I will continue to dream and doodle floor plans!



Posted in DIY, home repairs, housing, tiny houses | 10 Comments