Drought creates interesting challenges. One of the most dramatic is the threat of wildfires. The fires further north were in the national spotlight in 2012 and 2013. But, we had our own, lesser known fire drama further south.
The photo above shows our view of the East Peak Fire in 2013. We were able to see flames lapping over the ridge, and were hyper aware of the wind direction. Fortunately for us, the winds remained in a west to east pattern, keeping the fire and smoke from dipping south too much. Our community remained in a pre-evacuation status for several days.
This was the fire that prompted our 2nd call to Safeco to, once again, confirm we were covered by fire insurance. The first call was made in 2011 over concerns stemming from smoke drifting north from the fires near Santa Fe, New Mexico.
2014 and 2015 are showing encouraging signs of coming out of the drought. Fire activity has been cut way back and we look forward to a nice long break.
A MUDDY MESS!!
You can't talk about southern Colorado as it relates to remote living without bringing up the subject of mud. It's an unavoidable fact of life.
Wet dirt roads turn into mud. Well maintained and well constructed dirt roads have less of a problem. The mud stays relatively shallow and dries faster. Get a good part of the snow plowed off before it starts to melt. If the road is built right and crowned properly, the remaining moisture drains off efficiently.
Poorly built and maintained roads will require 4WD in high moisture conditions (unless you're Tom, the UPS driver). If you're considering moving to one of the many outlying subdivisions around Trinidad, we recommend finding one with a Property Owners Association that REQUIRES an annual payment for road maintenance. In our case, our subdivision is anti-POA and donating to the road fund is on a purely voluntary basis. The volunteer donations don't provide enough money to properly repair and maintain the roads here. Thus, A 4WD vehicle is a must.
No matter the level of quality of a dirt road, your vehicles will turn brown and car washes will be in vain. If you want to enjoy a clean car for more than a few days, take a picture...or don't drive it.
Mud provides an interesting learning experience when it comes to driving in it. Contrary to what we consider intuitive, you want to slow down, but keep a steady pace. 4WD engaged of course. The slower you can go without bogging down to a stop the better. This is the pace where you tear up the roads the least, and don't get stuck.
Equally important, you must have the right tires. As we learned the hard way, the factory tires that come with a new truck are absolutely worthless in muddy conditions. No traction unless you're a concrete cowboy. The consequences are shown in the photo above showing how we beat up a brand new truck. Thankfully, our dented pick-up fits in nicely with many of the other trucks out here.
The first two sets of tires we tried were defined as "Mud Tires". While effective in mud, the tread wore down quickly. Also, they were bias ply and not radial. So, they provided a very rough ride.
This is the tire we're using now and so far our favorite:
W hat kid does not at some point want a pet? With 6 child pets in our house, my parents weren’t too keen on the idea of adding the furry variety to the mix. They did yield, however, to rodents in aquariums. Over the course of a few years we kept gerbils, hamsters and mice. Except for the gerbils and their affinity for biting, we really did enjoy these little guys. The husband has warm memories of his pet hamster and squirrel. So, with our own kids it was perfectly natural to pay it forward and allow them to have rodents as well.
The girls started with a couple mice and when they expired, threw a new idea in the mix. They wanted a pet rat…mmmm…OK. Sounded kinda creepy at first, but thought it would be worth a try. So, we took a trip to the neighborhood pet store and headed toward the back where the most delectable of snake food was kept. A big aquarium of mice and a couple aquariums of rats. So many choices! Big juicy white rats, white rats with brown spots, black rats and all brown rats. It didn’t take long at all to choose, as my daughter was quite smittened with the most beautiful, all brown rat. The kind you might see spooking around dumpsters in Chicago. I was a little surprised by the choice, but whatever. We took our new pet home and he was named, quite promptly, Murray. Murray was fun and very friendly. Once I got past the fleshy tail and the giant rear end typical of male rats, I actually kind of liked the little guy.
So, here we are adjusting to our new mountain environment and along comes the parade of mice and pack rats. No big deal. We rarely see them as they are mostly nocturnal. We had already dealt with them in the rental house. These rodents stayed outside. Well, outside of the house at least. The car was a different story. Yep, they found a way. They especially like shredding the Kleenex and napkins in the glove compartment. They left droppings all over, and where there’s poo, there’s pee. Paul, in usual form, jumped right into the investigation, determined to find the point of entry. Find it he did!
There is a plug in the area behind the brake pedal. Removing this plug allowed our quack, remote start installers to route the wiring. After 3 days of toil, the installation did happen mostly successfully. They just forgot to replace the rubber plug, allowing critters to get inside the car. OK…solved. Now comes the day long of cleaning and detailing to remove their evidence. I decided to go ahead and do the outside of the car too. A novel idea for a mountain car traveling on mostly dirt roads. Except for preparing for visitors, car washes are mostly an exercise in futility. So, the mice have now been derailed and all is well.
Well, that is, until the next week. That’s when the nests started appearing under the hood of both the car AND truck. Now, the pack rats decided to join the fun. “How can we tell if it’s mice or rats, if we hardly ever actually see them?”, you ask. Size of nest and size of poop. Rats have bigger nests and bigger poop. There were mostly mouse nests in the car and rat nests in the truck. Paul was vigilant removing nests for 3 weeks or so until we realized they were really efficient at rebuilding, and had no intention of moving.
So, being the bleeding heart rodent lovers we were, we started with a live trap and it did work for about a day. That’s how long it took them to figure out how to break out. The next couple nights they had also figured out how to carefully break in, grab the goodies, and then get out without setting the trap. Smart little buggers!
Mothballs! Yes! We tried that. Worked for the mice but the rats...not so much. We considered poison, but that was environmentally unsound. We have lots of predators around here. So, what happens when a predator eats a poisoned rodent? Right, we really didn’t want to go there.
It was apparent the snap trap was now the best option. We used both small and large snap traps. They were efficient death dealers. By the end of it all, 3 to 4 dozen mice and rats met their maker. They were each respectfully placed on what we call The Sacrificial Rock, and each cleanly disappeared by the following morning.
During the next few weeks of trapping, notable damage occurred in both the car and truck engines. These guys love…love…love to chew. Vacuum lines and wiring seem to be their favorite. One week 3 separate repairs had to be made to the Golf. The 3rd repair was done the day after the 2nd and the damage was nearly identical. They were both chewed vacuum lines for the turbo. The 2nd repair used parts ordered and shipped overnight. The 3rd repair was done with duct tape, which lasted a couple hundred miles until we were shuttling the in-laws here for a visit. Fortunately, we were relatively close to an auto parts store and also lucky they had the lines we needed in stock. We only had to limp 20 highway miles or so to get there. Paul took care of the repair and we were back on the road quickly. This is the kind of thing we tend to take in stride, just a minor inconvenience. But, pluck a couple suburbanite in-laws out of their element and this becomes a truly memorable adventure.
As for the truck, it also incurred chewed turbo lines as well as a chewed wire to the fuel temperature sensor.
You may remember the mention of the 1974 VW refurb car. Well, the rats found that to be a perfect party house! With the protective tarp covering, we had no idea the havoc they were wreaking inside. We removed the tarp last summer to find the interior completely chewed and ruined. Damn Rats! Not so cute and furry any more…
So how do we keep this from happening again? I think we found the cure. Now, I'm want to say this quietly because I don’t want to jinx it.We discovered Rid-a-Rat.A funky kind of novel approach. If you properly place this blinking, disco light in your engine compartment BEFORE an infestation, it keeps the rodents from moving in. In our case, not so easy. The mice and rats had already spread their funk everywhere and there was a serious power washing to be done first. If the critters can smell that they have been there, they will readily move back in and dance all night, disco ball or not. The power washing was done with a water/Pine-Solmix. Then, the Rid-a-Rat installed. We're now rat and mouse free going on 3 years.
The tough sell for the Rid-a-Rat folks is due to the fact that most folks aren’t out there looking for their product until a real problem has materialized. They try the Rid-a-Rat and fail because they don’t realize the importance of cleaning the engine compartment first.
Absurd: Providing the rodents with fluffy bedding. In the middle of the rodent wars, we had mulched a nearby garden bed with shredded bark. We chose that because it didn't blow away in the high winds. Well, guess what? The rats loved it! The nests in the engines were even bigger and fluffier.
Sensible:In these parts it is suggested to mulch with gravel. But hey! We Midwesterners like wood mulch! We switched to bark chunks and it's working just fine.
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