Off the beaten track in January

Freezing cold weather put more pressure on the family this month but they managed to get by with a smile

by Trish Drinkle

Two kids sitting in a toboggan behind a snowmobile.
The kids are enjoying their independence. They shuttle each other to the top of their boarding hill with the snowmobiles. The run is literally in our back yard. Trish Drinkle photo

The days had gotten colder so it was inevitable. It was 2:30 a.m. and I was awake. I wasn’t really sure why, but insomnia had destroyed my peaceful slumber. The bite of the cold air was more intense than the days before. I checked on the house, stoked the fire and poured myself a cup of chamomile tea. Brrr, was it cold!

Water problems

The water started to make a funny noise, air in the pipes followed by nothing. The water was frozen. Our first time encountering this freeze proved to be a great learning experience. It isn’t an easy task, but there are many factors to consider before tackling the job of a frozen waterline. The first question was answered when we discovered the micro hydro system was not charging the batteries. That was a crusher. We had waited so long to get the micro hydro system working.

On Christmas Eve, our neighbour, Rob, came over to help my husband get the system up and running. That is HUGE when you are living off the grid. To have free power as opposed to paying for gas for the generator makes a big difference in your wallet. So with the pelton wheel not spinning, we knew the water was frozen at the intake, which is about a kilometre up the mountain.

I had had some water stored up for the just-in-case times, so I quickly got ready for work. Exhausted and a bit demoralized, I went through my daily chores at the dealership. My bosses at Main Jet Motorsports were more than understanding. Once my marketing ads were in to the publisher, I was on my way back to Awesomeland to help my husband. 

I entered the house and saw a few piles of wet clothes on the floor. My husband had already been in the creek. Just as we had suspected, the screen filtering the water was plugged with slush, completely blocking the water from entering the intake pipe. We decided to remove the first 60 feet of pipe and bring it down to thaw it out. About an hour of pouring boiling salt water down the pipe and it was ready—not a fun task by any means, but something that had to be done. We reassembled the pipe, covered it back up with snow and waited. Not sure of what to expect, a tremendous feeling of relief was felt when Ryan, the previous owner of the house, assured us that we were on the right track.

After a few hours, the pelton wheel started to spin again. Within a day, the pipe filled back up and we had water like normal. 

I felt a huge sense of pride knowing my husband and I had worked together to fix the water. We felt stronger. Sure, many naysayers mocked our choice—"So how’s Awesomeland now?"—but it really didn’t matter. Stuff happens, plain and simple. Whether you live up a mountain, in a city or in town, stuff happens. 

Pushed to the breaking point

The water was good for the next couple of weeks, but then, without warning, it went out again and this time we discovered something important about our personalities. My husband, who was more than a bit frustrated, threw his hands up in the air.

“I quit! I’m done,” he grumbled.

I got my grrr on and said, “No way Jose. No quitting.”

Now what do I do? I looked at the water pump on the floor and decided to take the fittings apart. I figured out where it was broken, then fixed it and put it back together. Feeling strong and empowered, I ran out to my husband’s shop.
“Now what,” he said, looking amused.

“Go and put the pump in the water,” he added with a smirk.

I said, “Fine, I will.”

And off I ran, determined to get things done. Pump in the water, I ran the hose. My husband was watching me, more than amused at this point. 

He laughed and said, “OK Shera, hook the power to it.”

So I did. I plugged it in and then . . . nothing. Ooh, grrrr. My husband’s look of “I told you so” just about made my ears pop off my head in anger! I grabbed my hose, hauled it into the house and strung it up in the porch. Next, I hooked up the indoor kerosene heater below it. Heat—heat was the answer. I started to thaw the hose.

My husband, who was laughing right from his belly, now said, “OK Shera, I’m going to pick the kids up. I want water when I get back.”

Ooh, that man! Grrrr, I’ll have water. I’ll show him. So I thawed the hose out, hooked it up and strung the hose to the house. There was a little bit of a runaway hose situation when the hose had a mind of its own in the middle of my kitchen, but pfft—the floor was extra clean when I was done. Yeah, I meant to do that. I filled up the toilet, the bathtub and some containers with water.

When he came back he said, “Good job Shera, now we need to get the filter off. It is the cause of our water freezeup, so we need to get this under control.”

So we did. Husband and wife, we got the water running again. 

Being strong for each other

The moral of the story is if one person is down, the other person needs to be up twice as much. There is no quitting or feeling sorry for yourself. Stuff just needs to get done. It may not be easy, but it is just the way it is.

While waiting for the system to get back running, we were cuddled in the living room watching a movie, the single light creating a cozy ambiance. My foundation a little rattled, I asked the kids if they wanted to move back to civilization. The moment the words left my mouth each of the kids looked at me in disbelief. It was quite clear where their hearts lay.

Brook said, “Mom, we have everything that everyone else has—just sometimes we have to work a little harder for it.”

“Technically, we do have water right now, it just took us a little more work to get it,” Tatum backed her up. “Even if our water is improvised, we’re still the cleanest kids in the school!”

I laughed so hard. Stories of stinky adolescent school kids often entered the conversation. I have always said to my kids, “Please, please, never be ‘the stinky kid’ in school.”

Brook continued, “Mom, what will we do if we move to a regular house? Take out all the lightbulbs in the house so we can hang together in one room at night?”

I looked at Leo softly strumming a guitar in the corner. We really do have a peaceful life. As long as they are happy, I am happy. I absolutely love our life here. People do not understand how I can snowmobile back and forth to my truck each morning with the kids. Aren’t you cold? Again, you work with what is, not what you wish you had. Appreciate what you have. We don’t begrudge our ride on the sleds each way. We all enjoy riding—even if it is on the Ski-Doo Grand Touring grand puba. Inhale and exhale deeply—my stress floats away during the ride up to the house. 

What are the payoffs? Peace, quiet and real life. We are so much more active as a family than ever before.

The kids are enjoying their independence. They shuttle each other to the top of their boarding hill with the snowmobiles. The run is literally in our back yard. It’s awesome. Their laughter warms my heart and is the fuel for our choices. Our days at home are peaceful, our nights cozy. If there was one thing I’d ask for it would be more time to enjoy all that this property has to offer. I spend many hours at work, so by the time I get home in these winter months, it is dark. The days we get to go riding, however, make up for it. There is epic riding in our back yard. A local sledder's paradise, one that is coveted and protected. A blessing, that is all I can say. Our life is a blessing. 

I know for certain I’m not meant to live in a city, nor are my children. They’ve never really even lived in a town. I know I need water and nature around me to feel whole. That which breaks one person puts another individual back together. That is why I love Awesomeland. It is our glue.

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