Archives for category: home life

Beautiful spring day in Union Valley.  The apricot trees are blooming. Mary and I have been ridding the surrounding forest of dead and down trees as we do every spring, preparing for fire season, for “The Big One,” (may it never come.)  We also widened the gap a fire would have to leap across our road to get into the trees near the house.  In the process we cut, split, and stacked a full cord of wood to add to the four cords we already have left over after the recent winter.  I suppose there are worse problems than having too much firewood so I’m not complaining.

Mary can get “down and dirty” clearing debris from the forest.  I mean that as a compliment.  Some times though, I think she gets a little carried away with her rake.  No fallen pine needle on the forest floor is safe from it.  She cleans the forest as if it were a kitchen counter.  

Seriously though, we make a great team working in the woods.  In recent years we have made a lot of acres fire safe – or at least safer.  If we ever are faced with a fire in August pushed by a 20 mph wind from the west even our best efforts may not be enough but it won’t be for lack of trying.  I call her Ranch Woman when she does this kind of work – dressed as she is in blue jeans and a sweatshirt.  She may not be roping cattle like some Montana rancher’s wife but only because we don’t have horses and cattle.  

You know, I never liked prissy girls and I guess that’s why I’m braggin’ on my Ranch Woman.



You can still buy a magazine called Mother Earth News but it’s not the Mother Earth News I remember from the 1970s.  Back then it was full of do-it-yourself, back-to-the-land articles like how to convert an old truck into a water pump or how to tan hides using goat urine.  Schematics of neatly sectioned homesteads like the one above were a regular feature.  Those drawings really struck a chord with me.  Something about those neat rows of corn, compost bins, and tidy greehouses attracted me like heaven on earth. Now that I think about it, they probably were a major contributing factor to the particular path I followed through life.

Not that I followed the path singlemindedly.  There were numerous distractions along the way.  But the idea of developing a piece of land and harvesting the fruits of that labor have always  powerfully attracted me.

And so it was that Mary and I started talking about a garden last winter.  I’ve had a lot of gardens over the years but not recently.  The problem in Union Valley is critters.  This place is crawling with rabbits, moles, voles, turkeys, squirrels, bears, and deer.  Especially deer.  Deer have nibbled our roses and fruit trees into oblivion year after year.  The last garden at our house, my son’s, was denuded in a single night by deer just as he was about to harvest.

Mary and I schemed on how to outsmart the critters with chain-link fences, raised beds and electrified deterrents.  It all started to sound like something we might need to mortgage the house for so I went back to square one.  What I came up with  is the modest layout in the following photo:

By using scrap lumber, cinder blocks, and home-made hinges we’ve kept the cost at $100.  The frames are covered with plastic deer netting.  The bed is protected from moles with a steel mesh bottom.  The frames are hinged so that the garden can be tended from either side.  Last summer we installed gutters on all the roofs that feed barrels from which the rain water is pumped to larger storage tanks.  We hope to water the garden exclusively with rain water.

Home-made hinge.  The pins (bolts) can be easily removed from all the hinges on one side of the bed so that the garden can be accessed from either side.

Home-made hinges, scrap lumber – the old Mother Earth News would be proud of me.


Rachel’s  $100,000 House

A few days after we returned from our Great Divide bicycle trip, we got back to work on Rachel’s house.  The picture above was taken just before we left in mid August.  The structure was complete but it was pretty much unfinished inside.  It has taken us since mid October until now to do the finish work.

Rachel used the furniture and appliances from her mobile home.  She thinks she might buy different furnishings once her bank account is replenished but the old stuff will have to do for now.

Here’s a look at the interior as it now stands

Living Room


The  Kitchen

The Grand Staircase

Rachel’s Bathroom

Rachel’s bedroom occupies  a modest section of the main floor.  Sonny’s bedroom and bath occupy the entire top floor.  This photo shows about half of his gargantuan bedroom.

Moving-in Day turned out to be about the worst day of the year for such activity.  Wind speed at nearby Mission Ridge was clocked at 133 MPH.   It wasn’t that bad down at Rachel’s house but it was bad enough. The combination of wind and rain and mud had Rachel near meltdown as her possessions were dragged through the mud on the short transit from the mobile home to her new place.  We put the heavy stuff in the bucket of my Bobcat for the ride over to the house.  Even with 4-wheel drive, the Bobcat was slipping and sliding in the mud like a toboggan on ice.

When Rachel came to me some time back and asked how much house she could get for $80,000, I answered

“Not much – unless you want to do most of the labor yourself.”

Well, she didn’t do all the labor herself (she got her dad to do the lion’s share) but she was a ready helper and together we probably did 90% of the construction ourselves.  They say about half of the cost of a house is the labor.  That sounds about right since a house like hers would probably cost about $200,000 these days.  In addition to saving a ton of money, doing the work ourselves gave Rachel a sense of ownership that she never could have by simply hiring someone else to do the work.  As for me, I always get a special thrill from “beating the system.”

We all think the finished product is spot on.  It’s spacious and comfy.  Her view is gorgeous.  Best of all, it’s paid for!  No mortgage payments in Rachel’s future.

She is glad to finally move in and I am glad to move on, to…….loafing around.  It has been a busy year!


Let’s see……..where was I? We were just starting our northward migration through Nevada when I last posted an entry to this blog on April 8. We had planned to make a leisurely journey but on our way across central Nevada we encountered snow flurries and high winds (it’s amazing how high most of Nevada is) so we made a beeline for Chelan. We were a little anxious that a pack rat or some other forest creature might have set up shop in our living room during our absence but the house was completely undisturbed when we got there (whew!).

We’re thinking we will probably stay down south until May next year because, as usual, April weather in Chelan is capricious. The wind is howling through the pines as I write.

I was down in the garage working on a little carpentry project this afternoon when I looked out to see Vera on guard against trespassing turkeys (photo above.) There is a flock of wild turkeys that regularly crosses the hillside below our house and Vera has an ongoing feud with them. First thing in the morning she runs out the door and into the forest where she picks up the scent of their passing and locks on. For some reason these trespassing turkeys enrage her. She cuts loose with an enraged round of barking and then disappears into the depths of the forest, nose to the ground. She had better watch what she wishes for; I suspect any one of those wild turkeys is more than a match for her.