The last week of October was one of the toughest and most demoralizing weeks I’ve had in a long time. I made it through my first cold winter weekend with snow then was blasted by a wind storm on the 30th that wreaked havoc on my loose pole barn roof, forced me to remove my RV insulation skirt, and damaged my solar panel, taking away my primary source of power.
I felt completed defeated and nearly convinced myself this idea of trying to live in my Airstream this winter was futile. I say nearly because if there’s one thing I know about myself it’s that I’m stubbornly persistent and I don’t give up easily.
The first week of November dawned bright and sunny and was a good excuse to start over with a brighter perspective. I swung by the post office Monday afternoon to check my PO box and had an unexpected package. Opening it was a wonderful surprise.
In the flurry of the last few weeks I had completely forgotten that right after I closed on my land I bought myself a Henry print of a Sasquatch in sunflowers, appropriate I thought, for when I’d eventually build my new home in Twisp. The poster made me smile and came with a bonus sticker: “I believe in you!”
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more appreciative of such a timely affirmation! I put the sticker in the front entry of my Airstream so that every day I can look at it and remind myself: “I believe in you!”
It was perfect.
Though I lamented the loss of my solar power on such a sunny week, warmer temperatures meant less reliance on the furnace, which meant less power. I managed to get by just fine using the generator only a couple of hours per day. I spent my week working, enjoying the sunshine, getting out for much needed trail runs, and eagerly anticipating some of my first contractor appointments.
When I first started looking for land, I ideally wanted something that already had a well or even septic, but alas, I found nothing that called to me or fit in my price range. I ended up taking a chance on a piece of undeveloped land that spoke to me and was filled with fantastic energy. I knew it would be a tougher, longer road but one that I hoped would be very rewarding.
I admit that I’ve struggled a lot with buying undeveloped land. As a staunch conservationist I really didn’t want to be yet another person buying up land to develop for a home. After talking to a number of people though, I was convinced I could build consciously and put both the land and its wildlife first. I’ve chosen to work with a local builder that does their manufacturing completely in-house by hand and builds environmentally friendly and harmonious homes.
I’ve vowed to keep most of my land undeveloped and have already done a huge amount of property cleanup and barbed wire removal. I have a plan to work with a local native habitat expert, install bird nests along a lot of my fence posts, and do my best to give back to nature with my land.
With all of that said, trying to develop undeveloped land is a big project and I have a long road ahead of me. Last week I was able to slowly gain some traction on figuring out the bigger picture. It’s going to be a process, that’s for sure.
Waiting for water.
There is a perfect spot on this land—flat, level, and clear of vegetation—that is tucked back and away from surrounding properties. It would make an ideal building site and I doubt anyone around me would even know I was there!
The biggest challenge is that it’s the furthest spot from the most likely location for a well, meaning I will need to figure out how to get water piped a long distance. I’ve been working with a local well driller who is planning to come out and make a well drilling attempt before the ground freezes, but my window is closing rapidly.
In the meantime, I had both septic and power contractors out to take a look at the land and size things up. Twisp PUD identified a few places where I can pull power to the land. While it’s certain I’ll bring power to the property, I’m still deciding whether I want to pull power all the way to my building site or keep it exclusively solar. Right now I’m leaning heavily in the solar camp but it was good to understand my options so I can start to make some informed decisions.
As far as septic? I was told septic can be put anywhere on the land, so that’s good news, but I can’t yet get a perc test where I want to build because there’s no road for equipment to get there. Ultimately, where the septic goes is dependent on where the well goes. And where the well goes might inform where the power goes since I’ll need a pump to push that water a long distance.
And so, I got a lot of information and moved some chess pieces around but the linchpin for me right now is water. I need a well on the land before anything else can happen. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can still get a well by winter but as I’ve learned in many, many lessons already, this timeline isn’t completely up to me. Everything will happen when it happens and there really isn’t much I can control about that.
Small moves and big wins.
Last week I continued to chip through small land tasks as I could between work and contractor visits. I kept slowly removing barbed wire and cleaning up junk from the property.
Then on Thursday, those pesky north winds returned and my pole barn roof went back to banging. I texted a contractor who had visited the previous week and he told me he had finally tracked down a 40′ ladder and could come by to fix it. I tell ya, when I saw his truck pulling onto my property that afternoon I’ve never felt so grateful!
Despite the winds, he climbed 40′ up the ladder and put enough nails into the roof to stop the banging. My fear of ladders is legendary and this guy 40′ up in wind made me sweat bullets! I couldn’t even watch!
But it was done! My roof was no longer banging!!!!! Wow did that feel like a huge win.
Then a new little problem.
I started my work day early Friday so I could enjoy a sunny afternoon run with Hudson. It felt so good to get out and run a few miles and this week had already felt immensely better than last. I was getting out more, worrying a little less, slowly chipping away on things, and making some progress with contractors. I also met many of my neighbors, all of whom have been incredibly welcoming and kind.
That evening as Hudson and I stayed up a little later than usual watching a movie in the Airstream, I heard a strange noise I’d never heard before. Is that…. scratching coming from under my kitchen cabinets?
Suddenly a mouse ran across my floor.
“Oh shit!” I yelled!
Yep, there was a mouse in my Airstream. Gosh darn it. I’ll be the first to say I’m a total bleeding heart when it comes to animals. Nope, I’ll never be the kind to set a mouse trap, that’s for sure. But I also had serious concerns about this mouse chewing through essential wiring.
That night the low was forecast only just below freezing so I opted to leave my furnace off, hoping it wouldn’t entice the mouse to burrow a hole into my ducting. I posted my dilemma on Facebook and more than a handful of people told me to go buy Bounce dryer sheets and stuff them everywhere.
“Mice hate it” they said.
Really? Bounce? I didn’t believe it.
A huge victory!
Saturday morning I woke up early, made a beeline to the grocery store, and bought Bounce fabric softener sheets. I got back to the Airstream and stuffed them everywhere. It was obnoxious. If it didn’t repel the mouse it certainly would repel me!
The weather was so sunny and gorgeous that I could think of nothing but being outside. I was supposed to get a new replacement solar charge controller today to hopefully fix my broken solar panel, but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to take another look.
I traced the wiring from my solar panels back to the ZAMP port on my hitch sidewall. I rechecked the fuse and it was fine. I traced the wiring back to the batteries. Suddenly, I found a wire tucked into the battery box with a second fuse.
What in the heck was this?
It clearly originated from the ZAMP sidewall plugin. I pulled out the fuse and held it up to the sun. There was an unmistakable scorch mark in it.
This fuse was blown.
“OMG!!!!” I thought. If I replace this fuse will my solar panels work?
Earlier in the week while I was looking at the fuse box in my Airstream I saw that it had a few spare 15 amp fuses, so I ran inside, grabbed one and plugged it in. I hooked up my solar panel and almost couldn’t believe it when it started working!
Are you kidding me!?!!?
I sat there in disbelief, completely dumbstruck. My solar panel was working again! On a clear sunny day!!!!
A string of successes.
I’m sure glad I took full advantage of that beautifully sunny Saturday morning because by midday the skies had turned cloudy and out of nowhere those pesky north winds started roaring again.
From about noon last Saturday until late Sunday evening I was pummeled with 20-30mph north-northwest winds. This wind storm lasted substantially longer than the previous and was unrelenting.
This time though?
My pole barn roof was repaired and not banging.
I had done extra work taping and securing my RV rigid foam insulation and by the time the winds subsided more than 24 hours later, I hadn’t lost a single piece.
And, my solar panel was tied down to the tongue of the Airstream to prevent any more wind accidents.
Though I didn’t sleep a whole lot Saturday night thanks to the wind, I was feeling pretty victorious about surviving this round of weather. By Sunday night I was tired from Saturday’s lack of sleep and crashed around 8pm. Temperatures were already in the low 20s and would dip to 15, the coldest night I’ve had yet in my Airstream.
The furnace ran off and on all night from 5pm until 7am and I worried if my batteries would survive. But guess what? By morning they were doing just fine and showing a 60% charge. The Airstream was warm, the pipes were fine, and Hudson and I were plenty cozy.
Thanks Mother Nature. I think?
I suppose now I’ve been able to reframe my thinking about that rough week in late October. I battened down the hatches and learned a lot about wind and cold protection. Surviving both 15° temps and 20-30mph winds for over 24 hours sure felt like a huge win! I guess I had Mother Nature to thank for the lessons.
By the end of the weekend it was clear that the first real sustained winter weather was on its way in a matter of days. I knew this time would come when I’d have to make a decision whether to hook up and head to the RV park for the winter or stay here on my own land.
Heading to the RV park would certainly be easier. I’d have shore power and full hookups with showers and laundry on site. I’d have a lot less worry about batteries going bad, pipes bursting, or some other unexpected disaster. Naturally though, I never pick the easy route.
I’ve made the decision for now to dig in my heels and stay. Being on my own land is magical. I have a pole barn for shelter. I get to wake up to beautiful views of Mount Gardner and I have a peaceful, incredible, gorgeous 10.5 acre backyard full of wildlife. Hudson and I can play frisbee everyday, watch the deer, and slowly get to know this beautiful place.
I’ve learned a lot and I’m about as prepared as I can be. I’ve stockpiled 80 pounds of propane, 10 gallons of gasoline, and 50 gallons of water. Now I’ll just have to wait and see what Mother Nature has in store for me next.