A New Campsite

We’re at Ann’s house for a few days

We moved the Casita from Mom’s house to Ann and Cecil’s house this morning — just in time for lunch.  Ann had prepared an absolute feast for us.  Mom joined us for lunch after church.  It was like having two Thanksgiving Days in one week.

Sheba, Sunny and Bo. Cookie is hiding from Sheba somewhere. 🙂

Gail and Mike left yesterday morning.  They are stopping to camp in Louisiana on the way home.

The dogs are getting along great with Ann and Cecil’s dogs, except that Sheba is too exuberant for Cookie, the black lab.  Cookie is discreetly staying out of the way to keep from being pestered to death!

The days have been very warm and sunny.  We start out cold in the morning.  Then it gets comfortable.  And then it just flat feels hot for a few hours.  It’s supposed to go down to 30 degrees tonight, but it’s supposed to warm up with nights in the high 40’s and around 50 next week and days in the 70’s and 80’s.

Sheba in the late afternoon sun

A few plumbago blooms remain. Unfortunately, my camera wouldn’t pick up the intense blue of the flowers.

Sheba chasing scents in the back yard




Back at Mom’s

Japanese honeysuckle blooming in late November

We arrived at Mom’s house Monday afternoon.  Gail was here waiting for us, and Mike had already headed to Jacksonville to visit his children.

We are parked in our usual spaces under the big live oak tree in front of Dad’s old shed where the electric outlets are.  Last time we were here we tripped a breaker, so Gail is plugged into Mom’s back porch now.

Two of the horses next door

Mom, Hope, Gail and I have had a wonderful time visiting.  Gail and I sat outside until late this evening enjoying the warmth and ambiance of the propane campfire.

Ann has gone to Jacksonville to pick up AJ, and our baby sister Jeannie and her husband will be here tomorrow, too.  Cecil and Ron had a good time visiting this evening when Cecil got off work.

So we are home again, and all is right with our world.  🙂

Our camp — Gail’s van and our Casita on either side of Daddy’s shed

Sheba has spent the day barking at the horses next door, who completely ignore her.  Sunny enjoyed playing with the neighbor’s little chihuahua.

And to my absolute delight, Sheba has not jumped on anyone since we got here.  She still wants to, but has finally learned that people like her a lot better when she doesn’t!

Inside Gail’s van

The shower in the Casita is draining well now, so that’s a relief.  But the furnace is making funny noises like the fan is hitting on something, so I’ll take the cover off and see if I can see anything loose tomorrow.

I just love Gail’s van.  If I ever have another RV, it would be so much fun to get a van and build the interior to suit myself like she did.  It feels so cozy and homey inside!

Another shot of Gail’s van



Playing with Fire & Primitive Skills

My first DIY backpacking stove, built around 2001 or 2002

As much as I dearly love camping in the Casita, at times I truly miss backpacking and primitive camping.

The Pocket Rocket. (image from Amazon)

I’ve enjoyed making a lot of stoves over the years, from hobo stoves to tuna can stoves to various alcohol stoves.

I fell out of love with alcohol stoves while hiking back in 2003 when I was caught in a surprise snowstorm.  The wind was whipping, I was freezing, and was trying to get water to boil for hot chocolate.  Normally 3/4 ounce of alcohol would bring my little .7 liter titanium pot full of water to a rolling boil in 5 or 6 minutes.  But since I didn’t have a decent windscreen for my stove, I used up 4 ounces of my precious alcohol fuel and the water was nowhere near boiling.

A couple of days later I stopped into an outfitter’s and bought a Pocket Rocket stove… and it’s jet-like blast of high pressure isobutane fuel assured me of boiling water on demand.

But I hated having to worry about where I’d be able to find my next (expensive) canister of fuel.

Solo Stove — wood burning gasifier hiking stove (image from Amazon)

I was lurking at a hiking forum the other day, vicariously reliving the good old days, when I saw a new-to-me hiking stove mentioned.  It’s heavy for a backpacking stove — 9 ounces.  BUT you need NO FUEL since it burns sticks and twigs.  And in the East, that means a limitless amount of fuel is always available — free!  (Add an Esbit tablet, piece of wax, or Wet Tinder to get wet wood going.)  It has a fire grate up above a solid stainless steel bottom so you don’t leave any trace of your fire on the ground.  And it burns so completely that all that is left is white ash.

So I’ve got the Solo Stove in my Amazon cart…. until I can talk some sense into myself and delete it as the unnecessary item it is.  But man!  What a COOL TOY!!!!

And remembering the stoves and how much fun I had with them reminded me of all the fun

Primitive bread (like chapitas) with no yeast and no oven.

I had learning to do primitive cooking over coals.

Cooking directly over a fire gives you very little control over the heat — and it coats your pots and pans with a nasty layer of soot.  But I learned that if I built a small fire and let it burn until I got a good bed of coals, then moved the fire over with a couple of sticks exposing the coals, that I had a perfect outdoor “stove.”  A pan placed in the center of the coal bed would get very hot and quickly bring water to a furious boil.  Move the pot out from the center and I’d have medium heat.  And if I wanted a simmer, I just moved my pot to the edge of the coals.  And when you cook on coals instead of over fire, you get NO SOOT on your pan!

The first oyster mushrooms I found on our property

Thinking about all the fun Ron and I had building campfires and cooking over them naturally led to reminiscing about our adventures with wild edibles.  I got interested in studying wild foods in the late 1990’s.  It took a few years to become proficient at being able to make decent meals from foraged ingredients.

Then I started getting bored with roots and veggies, nuts and berries, so decided that wild mushrooms would add a nice touch to my wild meals.  So I plunged into intensive mushroom study.  I was very fortunate in that David Fischer, author of Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America, was extremely approachable by email and cheerfully helped me positively identify photos of my earlier finds before I dared to eat them.

Chanterelles found in the Talladega National Forest

I used to like to hike out into a national forest with no food except salt, sugar, coffee, tea and a small bottle of olive oil, and eat only what I could forage.  The first day was always a little scary, but after that I would just keep finding good things to eat so the problem would be to not gather so much that it would be wasted. (Except in winter, of course.  I would starve to death then!)

There were also experiments with all kinds of primitive shelter building.  My most elaborate was a wickiup, pictured here partially built.  Since I didn’t have good thatching material on our property, I cheated and bought hay.  😀

Wickiup building in progress

I think that what has made all of those experiences resurge in my memory is the knowledge that, due to health problems, I won’t ever be able to backpack again.  I guess that’s something everyone has to come to grips with as they age.  Some of the good times are forever gone.

But it has reminded me that even if I can’t climb mountains or backpack anymore, I can still get out, build a campfire, and relish the satisfaction of being self-sufficient enough to cook without all the modern trappings of society.

And, in doing so, to capture a little of what our ancestors must have felt as they went about their daily affairs.

(NOTE:  Since this subject is so special to me, I am re-posting this as a permanent page so that it won’t disappear into my blog’s archives.)

I Got the Solar System!

90 Watt portable folding solar system — includes a multi-stage PWM solar controller mounted to the back of the panels.

UPS brought my solar system today.  All I had to do was hook a permanent connector to the battery terminals, run it out through the vent louver of my battery box and plug in the panel.  To say I am thrilled is a major understatement!

Charge reading at 5:30 pm. I am thrilled!!!!

I didn’t extend the built in legs for the solar panel because at my latitude this time of year I needed only an 11 degree tilt.  So I just put a couple of boards under it.

I was very surprised to see it charging at 13.80 volts that late in the day!

Even when clouds moved over the sun and the panel was totally in overcast conditions, my meter was still showing 13.33 volts at 6:00 pm.

It came in a very nice aluminum case with foam padding to protect the panels when I’m not using them.

The solar panels came with a very nice padded aluminum case.

My only concern is the weight.  The panels themselves are only 26 pounds.  However, with the 12 pound case, the total weight is 38 pounds, which is a little hard for me to carry.   So I guess the solution is to let Ron carry the panels in the case for me.  Or use my little folding dolly.

I also plan to install my Windox Maxx vent this evening or in the morning.  I got it so I could leave a window open when it rains so I can run a fan inside the Casita for ventilation in bad weather.

The foam padded interior of the case.

The only thing we won’t be able to use with the solar panels is the air conditioner.  (We don’t carry a microwave when we camp.) So we need to either head to the mountains where it’s cool enough without air conditioning… or wait until the summer heat is past — to enjoy our new boondocking capabilities.

If you are looking for a quality portable solar system from people who really care about their customers, check out CEA Solar!  They are great people to deal with!

Slow Day at Cotton Hill

Another view of the Casita from the water, taken yesterday.

This morning was the hot, sultry kind of day that saps all of your energy and ambition.  There was a bright side, though.  It also sapped some of Sheba’s overabundant puppy energy!

A nice alternative to staying penned up

Then this afternoon clouds rolled in and thunder rumbled for a couple of hours.  We got a short little shower, then the storm moved on.  But it left cooler temperatures and a nice breeze in its wake.

While Ron visited other campers, I worked on a counted crosstitch project.  Every two hours I walked the dogs.

It is a real trip walking Sheba and Sunny together.  Sheba races out the full extension of her retractable leash, lunges for butterflies and wasps, picks up pine cones, hickory nuts and sticks, tosses them in the air and catches them, sits to examine bugs and leaves and whatever, then races madly toward Sunny, attacks him with fearsome dog fight noises, then tears off in another zig zag direction at full speed until the leash yanks her, then repeats the process the entire walk.

Bags on board. The greatest solution for carrying poop bags!

I have resisted the idea of a pinch collar, but I think when she is a little older I might consider one, primarily to avoid injury to myself!

Geese families

I’m tired today.  It felt good to just hang around camp and simply enjoy being here.

Colors of Late Autumn

late fall color

Our back yard November 14

I took this photo of my back yard a few minutes ago.    We did not have brilliant red and gold fall colors here this year.  But the stunning beauty in the infinite variety of rich browns made me gasp.  What a gift!

I am still not well, but am not feeling awful anymore.  Ron is antsy to head south, so we plan to leave tomorrow.  We’ll just drive a little way and hole up at a pretty campsite for a couple of days, then meander on down to Florida.

We will probably camp in campgrounds for a few more days until my symptoms are gone then go to Mom’s house for a few days.  I definitely don’t want to pass these germs on to my family!

My brother in law is going in for surgery Tuesday.  I do so regret that I can’t visit with him before he goes into the hospital.  I may not be able to visit him while he’s there.  I will just have to wait and see how fast I make a full recovery.


Needlework & Shorter Days

tatting practice

Tatted practice pieces

Although our days are still in the 90’s and high 80’s, the nights are getting cooler, and the days are noticeably shorter.

So I am working on learning tatting in the evenings.   I am getting the hang of it, but have a lot to learn about tensioning my stitches.  It is fun to play with — to see these amazing patterns that are made of nothing but half hitch knots develop!

I bought some tiny little girls purses and tote bags for adults to decorate with tatting for Christmas gifts.  It sure is a lot more fun to make gifts than to go out and try to find something appropriate to buy.  I do hope that the recipients will like them.

little girl's denim purse

A little girl's denim purse that will be festooned with tatted motifs and lace.

A start on an afghan to match Ron's

My afghan-in-the-making

I am also working on an afghan for myself to match one that I made for Ron last year.  They are twin-bed sized.  And they are great in the Aliner for putting over a blanket when we camp in cold weather.  So when I get this finished, our little camper beds will match again!

Camper back from the shop

I finally caught up posting our Florida trip, so am back in real time now.

The camper was in the shop for 8 days getting the water heater repaired, but we got it back today.   Parts for a Suburban water heater are expensive!  But what really matters is that we have hot water again.

I feel like some essential part of me is missing when the camper isn’t here.  And I feel complete again when it’s parked home where it belongs.  Funny how a “thing” can be so important to me.  I think it’s because it represents the freedom to go anywhere I want, whenever I want to.

We plan to head out to West Point Lake COE campground in a few days and do some fishing.  First we have a doctor and dental appointment… then it’s camping again.  Hurrah!

Ron and I are happiest when we are camping together.  I think the reasons are that we really have fun together while we are out.  We are a lot more active.  We usually camp in beautiful surroundings.  And we love being around the best people in the world — other campers!

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