Saturday, September 28, 2013

The swallows left and so did I

I suppose an update of sorts is in order, so here goes. The barn swallows left southwest Minnesota on September 15th. There was still a large number of them on the evening of the 14th, probably 150 or so, but the next day the wires were devoid of my feathered friends. 
I had planned to stay up north until the cold weather got to be too much in the travel trailer, but plans changed. My youngest girl's boyfriend has had a couple really bad renter/landlord experiences and has been looking for a 5th wheel to purchase and live in instead of dealing with a landlord that refuses to fix anything. He was in desperate need of a place to live after a heavy rain resulted in an inch of water running across the kitchen floor and soaking the carpet which caused mold to grow in wild profusion but so far hadn't found a 5th wheel he liked. I volunteered to lend him my little home on wheels until he found something. He accepted the offer and a flurry of packing up ensued. Heck, the barn swallows were gone, so it must be time to head south, right?

I don't like towing a trailer of any sort through Nashville during the day, there's just too much traffic going way too fast, so I left MN in the middle of the night. Driving straight through I can make the trip in 18 hours, but with 2 dogs and a cat the pace is slower, especially at potty breaks and I figured on 24 hours so I'd hit Nashville sometime after midnight. Perfect!

Dawn came somewhere north of Waterloo Iowa. It wasn't light enough yet to get a photo of the pair of holstein cows standing in a farm yard that someone made out of fuel barrels and cream cans, but a bit later I did get a shot of these folks who are outstanding in their field.
There's no other signage, so, um, yeah, I have no idea. They make me chuckle every time I drive past them though. 

I got to the KY/TN border and decided since it was 11PM I'd take a short cat nap at the TN welcome center rest area. I had the alarm set on the phone and woke up just fine, but for some reason closed my eyes again and the next thing I knew it was 6AM. Nashville at morning rush hour was NOT on my list of things to do, but there really wasn't any other option. I made it through in one piece and after arriving at the house I went about unloading everything from the truck and trailer. It's really amazing how much "stuff" you can carry around without realizing it until you have to drag it all into the house. 

After resting up for a couple days I headed to NC with the trailer. I snapped a couple "tourist shots" through the windshield of the Great Smokey Mountains before the road got too steep and twisty for that sort of behavior. 

I spent a day with the almost-son-in-law looking at RV's but he didn't see anything he liked at his price point, so we got the little travel trailer moved into the RV park where he will be living. It's a very pretty spot with a creek running through it, well kept up and mostly permanent residents of all ages with a few snowbirds thrown in. I met a few of his new neighbors and they seemed like really nice folks. The lot rent is a very reasonable $125 a month, that sure beats the $600 he was paying for the house that flooded when it rained. I joked that after he's lived in a 20' TT for a while a 5th wheel with slides will seem palatial!

For now I'm "stuck" in TN with no RV, but this is probably a good thing as it will force me to finally get the remodel of the house finished and start on the Caboose rebuild.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Lazy Sunday

Even though the forecast is for upper 80's today it's been quite cool so far with overcast skies and a couple small shots of rain. The humidity is very high though, 80% inside right now, and so far I haven't been able to find a way to dry things out inside the TT without running the a/c, which would mean putting on a sweatshirt and shivering until the sun decides to come out and heat things up!  lol

The rain is needed, but probably not very welcome for a gal I met yesterday. A friend of mine had sent a text a few days ago asking if I was interested in letting someone cut the hay on the other acreage I own. I never turn down money so of course I said yes. He hooked us up with phone numbers, and I agreed to meet her there yesterday when she got back from a trail ride with her girls.

She had said they should be back around 4:30 or 5, so when 5:30 rolled around with no word from her I got in the truck and headed that way, figuring the 1/2 hour drive would give her time to get the horses unloaded and contact me. On the way past the pond I tried, for the umpteenth time, to get a pic of the turtles sunning on a submerged log. Even with the truck just quietly idling along, as soon as I cleared the hill and became visible to them they all dove off into the water, and I thought that all I was left with was a photo of the splash as usual, but after zooming way in I can see 5 of them on the stump to the far left that hadn't ditched yet, and a couple that were making their escape are partially visible diving off the stump to the right.

There are often 20 or more sliders sunning there, although the tree, which was taken down by beavers several years ago, has been getting more and more waterlogged and sinking deeper so there's not nearly as much surface area for them to bask on. I'm afraid in another couple years the tree will be completely submerged, and I have thought about putting some form of floating dock out there for them, but I don't own the pond and haven't talked to the owner yet about my plan. I also startled a couple of the ducks into flight as I crept past the pond in the truck...

 and managed to snap a quick shot of one of the red-tailed hawks that hunts along my road.

Taking back roads and wandering slowly, I stopped at my friend's place to feed his cats since his son had forgotten to do it before they left for the weekend. There's usually a whole herd of farm cats at his place, but they must have all been hiding out from the heat when I was there since the only ones that showed up to eat were a tortoise shell mama and her two half grown kittens. Whenever I stop at my friends' place they're always trying to give me kittens, and I always politely decline. This little calico girl really is adorable though.

Her brother looks like a pretty run-of-the-mill orange and white kitty when peering at me from under the truck, but he has the most amazing dark orange spiral markings on both sides.

My friend tried to foist a kitten or two off on me a couple weeks ago when I stopped to buy some sweet corn and green and yellow beans (his wife market gardens, all non-GMO organic produce) and I was strong, firmly saying NO. The little calico female is sure adorable though, isn't she?  I don't need another cat, Mr. K is doing great in the travel trailer, and there are 3 fat orange boys at the house in TN who belong to my daughter, and I don't think any of them would take too kindly to a rambunctious little kitten racing and chasing through the house (or camper).

I actually found myself looking at puppies online the other day. I DON'T need another dog, either. But my Dane and the Yorkie are both getting up in years, this may very well be the Dane's last summer.  I was drooling over a drop-dead gorgeous Smooth Fox Terrier, 16 months old, pointed and being shown until he finds his new home. Smooth Fox and Danes were the two breeds I was vacillating between 15 years or so ago, and at that time I decided on Danes since I knew the time would come when I couldn't deal with a giant breed dog any more, so do it while I still could. IF I was to get another four-legged friend it could possibly outlive me, I have to concede  I'm not getting any younger,and a small dog or a cat can easily live 15 years or more.  But isn't that calico a cutie??

After leaving my friends' place I continued on toward Kenneth, MN. The soybeans are beginning to turn yellow in a few spots, and I saw the first person out chopping silage. Harvest is just around the corner, and winter won't be far behind.

Kenneth, MN is just like dozens of other small, dying towns in the upper midwest: it has a population of a bit under 70 souls, and that hasn't changed too much in the nearly 3 decades I've lived near there. Businesses haven't fared too well though. The bank closed not too long after an armed robbery, followed more recently by the hardware store/gas station and the grocery store, now the the post office is the latest victim of rural economics and the flight to the cities. There is still a great small engine repair place that I frequent, and a small bar and the grain elevator, along with a Lutheran church. There is a stop sign in the center of town, but if you blink you may miss it. The town, not just the stop sign.

As I drove through Kenneth I saw a horse trailer turning in at the house on the edge of town, and figuring it was Heidi I went ahead and drove up to the acreage to unlock the gate. I had to put up a gate to stop people from dumping their garbage there. Unfortunately, even though I brought every Master lock key I owned with me, none fit the lock on the gate. I made a quick trip to the neighbor's to see about borrowing a bolt cutter, and he had to run into town to get it from his shop, he's the small engine repair guy.  By this time Heidi had the horses unloaded so I stopped and introduced myself. 

Do you ever meet someone you feel like you've known for a long time? Heidi and I hit it off right away and spent quite some time talking about politics, the weather, life and everything else under the sun. We discovered that we both have "caretaker" personalities, both have worked in long term care facilities where we loved the old folks but not necessarily our co-workers, both grew up on horses, both take in strays and abused/unwanted critters of all sorts. I did show her the pictures of the cute calico kitty...  lol  Her hubby was just getting dinner ready to throw on the grill and she invited me to stay, but I declined. After talking for quite a while longer, one of her girls came out and said dinner was ready, and by that point I said yes, I was starving, lead me to the food!  LOL 

We talked until late, and I never made it back out to cut the lock off the gate so I left the bolt cutters with her and she was going to return them to Dave. She was hoping to get the guy to come today to cut the hay, so I'll go back in a few days to see if they've baled and hauled it off yet then put a new lock on the gate. Here's a couple pics of the acreage from the driveway turnoff. There's a very healthy row of 100 year old lilacs and a few black walnut trees that I transplanted 20 years ago from my ex-father-in-law's farm in SD, a couple plum trees that I planted which have never borne fruit, and an apricot tree that did fruit twice that I know of, along with an old granary with a large hole in the roof and a basement full of garbage where the old house burned down. There was never a good grove of trees, they had all succumbed to Dutch Elm disease when I bought the land in 1989,and there were only a few struggling apple trees left in the "orchard" north of the house. And time marches on.  

Friday, September 6, 2013


Personal websites are dangerous things, just ask me, I have 3 of them. Sure they start out simple enough, maybe just a place to put some photos to share with family and friends, but before you know it those few dozen photos have started breeding when you're not looking and turned into a horde of  thousands.  My first website dates back to 2001 when I was selling on eBay and wanted a place to host my own photos. I not only uploaded photos to use on eBay, but also used it for hosting pics that I posted on the many forums I hung out at, for avatars, for songs I was sharing with a friend, for short movies I took, for a large database of Great Dane pedigrees complete with photos, for things I didn't want to lose if the computer crashed, and the list goes on and on.

The second website was started a few years later for my second eBay selling ID. It eventually became the place to put all my motorcycle related things -  rally and grand tour photos, strange places and interesting things I saw on my journeys, ride reports. I also used both websites at various times to back-up my desktop computer.

I started blogging very recently. After a very short time I changed the name of the blog. Then my web host sent an email saying they were having a heck of a sale on new domains and hosting packages, so now I've gotten a new domain and will eventually migrate this Blogger blog to a self-hosted Wordpress blog. Oh joy! I thought I'd just move everything off the two original websites and close them down, it would save a couple hundred dollars a year in hosting fees. Turns out that's easier said than done. There are literally thousands (if not 10's of thousands) of items in hundreds of directories on the two sites. Most have terrible names that give no clue as to what they actually are, so I'm downloading everything one directory at a time just to see what they are. Oh look, there's a picture of my grandson the day he was born! Or, why in the world did I think that joke was funny?  Or, awwwww, puppies! Or, who are those people in that photo, and where was it taken? Who took it??  lol

Because I used the websites as a way to back-up the desktop before I reformatted it, some of the photos and other files exist nowhere else, therefore I don't want to just delete them without seeing what they are. This whole download thing is made even more problematic by the fact that I have satellite internet with a low bandwidth limit. I can do a few directories a day and then I'm at my limit. Hopefully by the time the hosting comes up for renewal in a few months I will have transferred everything to my laptop and saved the things I really want to keep to an external drive or to the new website. At that point I get to try and learn how to run a self-hosted Wordpress blog. Seems the older I get the harder it is for me to get new information to stick in my brain.

In the meantime, here's some of the wildflowers growing along the driveway taken a few days ago, they're actually hosted on the new website.  lol

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Interesting Craigslist items

I love old and antique "stuff" and occasionally I come across something really unusual. Like this 1880's Sheep Camp/Sheep herders wagon that is listed on Craigslist.

"Antique sheep camp on a 1927 dodge bros chassis...probably originally built in Casper, Wy...
The interior configuration is exactly as seen in their earliest models. I have the original wheels but they were in such poor shape and finding tires (?) So Land Rover fit the bolt pattern....
$7,500 507-865-4661 Serious buyers only, please!"

This is pretty darn awesome, wouldn't it make a neat tiny house?

Or how about this setup? I've never seen anything like this before, basically an entire kitchen in one piece.

"For sale--Dwyer kitchenette. 3 burners, refrigerator w/freezer and sink. Perfect for basement, garage or hunting lodge. Brown with stainless steel top. Outside dimensions 5' 3' long x 2' 1" deep x 3' high. Instruction manual included. Bret (605) 359-0086 Sioux Falls" 

Upon further reflection on yesterday's post regarding music (reflection that included a close encounter with some Bushmills 1608,  I've come to see the error of my ways. After publishing the blog post I actually opened up Winamp and my poor elderly Asus laptop nearly choked to death on the playlist, but recovered and did it's best to perform. I very rapidly realized part of the reason I very seldom listened to music on the computer is due to the extremely poor sound quality squeezed out by the tiny feeble speakers built into the Asus. A search through the house for my Creative I-Trigue speakers ensued, and after a brief period when I feared they may have been left in Sturgis last month they surfaced and were dragged to the travel trailer.  Note to self: the Caboose will have numerous electrical outlets strategically placed where they are needed. Second note to self: the Caboose will have a kick-ass built-in audio system for times when I want tunes. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mundane tasks and low tech

Today was one of those days - filled with mundane tasks - that just sort of slip away from you with no effort at all, and at the end of it you wonder where it went. Yes, even if you live in an RV you still have mundane tasks to perform. In my case, the day started with window screen repair. With the cooler weather the past few days I've had the windows wide open to take advantage of the cool breezes and listen to the birds when I've been inside. Yesterday afternoon I noticed a sizeable population of flies in the TT, way more than could be explained by the occasional culprit  sneaking in the door when I go in or out. Further inspection located the problem... a large grasshopper was eating the window screen! I didn't get a mug shot of the suspect, although I do have a crime scene photo of his handiwork.

This is his accomplice who acted as the look-out and drove the get-away car... I think he's smirking at me...

While I can't stop an onslaught by the vandals if they decide en masse that my window screens are the latest delicacy on the menu, I can at least stop the infiltration of the flying hordes. After rummaging around in the house I found a roll of 2" wide clear packing tape. Two pieces, one on each side of the screen, closed up the hole, and the TT has been blissfully fly-free ever since. Note to self: the Caboose will have METAL window screens impervious to grasshopper jaws.

The second mundane task was washing out the foam filters in the ceiling a/c unit. This is a monthly chore, not a big deal since the cover pops off with only a 1/4 turn of two retaining screws, but definitely not something I can put off for too long with Mr. K living inside. The filter/screens get clogged with cat hair fairly rapidly due to cat hair's tendency to float skyward with virtually no provocation. Judicious use of the FURminator brush has massively cut down on the amount of cat hair running rampant in the TT, but what remains still seems to gravitate toward the a/c filter. There are no photos of this joy-filled and exciting activity, just use your imagination.

The final mundane task was doing laundry. Laundry has never been high on my list of favorite things, and packing up dirty clothes and heading into town to waste and hour or two of my life at a laundromat is even further down the list of things I want to spend my time doing. Since this whole living-in-a-20-foot-travel-trailer thing is basically a trial run for living full-time in the Caboose, a sustainable and not-too-terribly-unpleasant way of getting my clothing clean has been something I've been thinking about for some time. Obviously I'm not going to have the space (or weight carrying capacity) to have a washer and dryer in the Caboose, and I have a very strong aversion to laundromats. I'm not against doing laundry by hand, after all I'm an aging hippie/self-sufficient/back-to-the-land'er sort who once spent a year living with no electricity and 3 kiddos under the age of 5 (think two of them in diapers, plus the ex's three older kiddos spent summers with us), so just having running water is actually a luxury.

Enter the Breathing Mobile Washer, a descendant of the Rapid Washer which was a common household item back in the early 1900's, somewhere between the age of the washboard and the age of an actual mechanical washing machine.

I have one of the original Rapid Washers lurking somewhere around here, but the galvanized tin has broken away from the handle and rust has set in, so using the antique one was out of the question. I ordered a new Breathing Mobile Washer from Amazon, and this thing works  perfectly. I got one whose handle wants to come unscrewed from the plastic assembly, but that was fixed with a few wraps of teflon tape. A clean 5 gallon pail is the perfect size for most things, just put a gallon and a half of water or so and 1 teaspoon of laundry soap in the pail (I use homemade laundry soap, 1 finely grated bar of Fels-Naptha, 1 cup washing soda and 1 cup borax), add your clothes and plunge away like you're churning butter.

If you're doing this indoors you can use the sink, or if you use a pail and don't want to worry about splashes you can cut a small hole in the pail lid for the washer handle to go through and any splashing will be stopped in it's tracks. Somewhere around 100 strokes seems to do the job. Wring everything out, and refill the pail with clean rinse water. Plunge the clothes again, wring again, and hang to dry.

Really large items like a comforter or bulky jacket obvious won't fit in a pail, but the bathtub should work fine for those items. The washer pulls and pushes water through the clothes and cleans at least as well as any fancy expensive washing machine does, while using a fraction of the water and soap, and no electricity, plus a load of wash takes only about 5 minutes. And the whole outfit stores in a very compact space. How's that for low tech?

Speaking of low tech, the aforementioned cooler days and open windows came to an end today with the return of warmer temps, forcing me to break down and turn on the air conditioning. This camper has a basic roof a/c, while the 30' KZ I lived in last year had ducted air and heat. Both units are/were incredibly noisy, effectively drowning out any sounds from outside the TT. I realize it's the fan/blower that causes most of the racket, but have been reflecting on how intrusive that noise is when a person is otherwise surrounded by solitude. I'd much rather be listening to the wind moving through the trees, or the birds, or the crickets, or the coyotes singing. I love music of all types, and have over 1000 albums converted to mp3's and stored on an external drive, but I very, very rarely  hook it up and listen to it other than stuff I load to my Fuze player and listen to occasionally when I'm driving. Television is another thing I just don't get. I don't have one in this TT, I did have one in the bigger KZ last summer but only turned it on a couple of times to watch a bit of the Olympics. At the house in TN I maybe turn it on once month and watch recorded episodes of Nature or Nova, or occasionally Austin City Limits or Bluegrass Underground or Live From Lincoln Center.

Last summer I was surprised to get an envelope in the mail from Nielson, the ratings people. They enclose a couple crisp new dollar bills to entice you to fill out the survey and log in detail the shows you watch. I hope my response skewed the ratings at least a miniscule amount the since I'm sure it wasn't the typical litany of mindless sitcoms or soap operas or 'reality shows'. I turned on the tv exactly once during the survey period, and then only to watch the weather as there were severe storms/tornados in the area. It makes me wonder what is missing in people's lives that they need to fill every waking moment with sound or inane drivel from a radio, stereo, mp3 player or television set. Or what voices in their heads are they trying so desperately to drown out?  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cats, birds and coyotes

I finally got photos of the stray cat that's been hanging around, I can't get close to her but snapped a couple pics through the window today.

So far I've been able to restrain my self and not leave food out for her in the hopes she'll decide this is not a good place to live. Mr. K showed up here about 7 years ago, and I managed to not 'feed the cat' for almost 3 weeks before breaking down and buying a small bag of cat food. He was very friendly though, approaching me for tummy rubs whenever I went outside, and had been neutered so I figured he belonged to someone and had just wandered a long way from home. I kept telling myself "Don't feed the cat, he'll go home if you don't feed him." Needless to say he never went home. lol This girl is another story completely. I've seen her several times at the edge of the grove, but when I call to her or try and walk toward her she fades away into the brush. today was the first time I've seen her up closer to the truck and trailer. I DO NOT need another cat! Although she would fit in well with the fat boys, my daughter's 3 cats, they're all orange.  lol

The barn swallows will be leaving soon, in fact it seems many of them are already gone, having left in small batches over the past week or so. Normally it's one mass exodus... one day there are hundreds perched on the wires over the yard, and the next there are none to be found anywhere. They are one of my favorite birds, I've always said I want to come back as a barn swallow in my next life. They are so fast, acrobatic and graceful, unlike the sparrows that remind me of stodgy old folks tromping about, swallows look like they're loving life .

It's rare that I get a decent photo of them, I not quick enough to focus before they dart in a different direction. Even using auto-focus doesn't help much since they're so small and quick and change course in the blink of an eye.

  As I was finishing up this blog entry the coyotes were singing outside. Here's a brief soundtrack. Coyotes