Life in the Woods: Everyday Challenges

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I always assumed moving home was kind of a cop-out, something you do when you're scared of rush hour and can't wrap your head around the expense of work clothes.

When you return home, you return to a little safety net of familiarity. You'll know the majority of people you bump into while running errands and you'll pick right back up on the small town gossip. Although I live an hour away from my childhood home, I still have the same zip code that I had growing up (it has to be one of the "most area covering" zip codes in the country!) and I shop at the same grocery store as my mother and bank at an institution where my grandmother worked for 39 years. Because I've simply fallen back into "the way things always were," there's not a whole lot of "figuring it out" that has to be done on a daily basis.

Yet despite the familiarity of it all, I find myself doing things every day that I never thought I'd do.

There's the whole "learning to drive a manual transmission" thing that I think I'm finally getting a handle on. Every day, I light a fire in the wood stove, something I never did growing up. Let's not even get started on my everyday fashion. In the end, my daily apparel of wool pants, "moon boots"  and Carhartt vests (Yes, I received not one, but two Carhartt vests for Christmas) isn't really the haute couture I'd imagined for myself.

And if you'd told me that one day I'd be crawling underneath the cabin to swap out propane tanks, I would have laughed in your face.  

But on Saturday afternoon, I went to brown some venison (case in point). But when I turned the knob to light the burner, I was greeted by "tick, tick, tick." As the ticking continued and the burner still refused to ignite, I knew we'd run out of propane. I'd suspected we were near the bottom of the tank, since the stove had smelled slightly gassy the last couple times I'd turned it on, a sure sign that a replacement tank would be in short order.  
Since moving into the cabin, I've always made Andy swap out the tanks because I didn't know how to do it. But the last time we ran out of propane, Andy was at work. So, after some detailed instructions from Andy over the phone, I donned my Carhartt vest, grabbed the crescent wrench and hopped underneath the deck to detach the empty propane cylinder. It took a little doing to get the cylinder detached. Propane tanks are threaded opposite of most things, making "lefty loosey, righty tighty" totally irrelevant and it was harder for me to wrap my brain around that than I would like to admit. Nevertheless, I eventually got it and getting the new cylinder in place was a piece of cake. 

The propane tanks are small, just the standard cylinders that you'd use for your grill. Despite their petite size, the cylinders usually last us close to four months, but as luck would have it, when the tank ran out on Saturday, Andy was again nowhere to be found.

I figured I remembered how to switch out the tanks by myself, so I threw on some shoes and headed to the shed to grab a full propane cylinder. This time of year, the ground beneath the deck is littered with sunflower seed shells and as I knelt beneath the deck I noticed four little squirrel paws pop out on the side of the deck plank right above my head.

"Living the dream," I grumbled as I sent up a silent prayer to whoever was listening that the squirrel would not defecate on my head or make a nest out of my hair while I tried to remember which way to turn the wrench. (Towards the house to loosen and towards yourself to tighten.) 

The gods above must have been listen. The squirrel scampered off, oblivious of my presence and the propane tanks were swapped out in minutes By the time Andy came home, stew burbled away on the stove top.

I will not be defeated by ticking ranges. I am woman: watch me swap out propane tanks.


  1. You're a doer all right. I think it's totally cool that you live in a cabin in the woods and that you are a writer. And, it's neat that the internet enables you to share your stories. They are good ones.

    I'd love to have venison in my freezer (that you all probably obtained yourself, right?). Instead, I spend three weeks coordinating a purchase of buffalo meet and drive to good ol' Berkeley, CA to meet the rancher in a parking lot to buy healthy meat directly from the source. And we pay up the ying-yang for everything around here! No deals to be found except at the Goodwill on a sale day, China-town, or the Mexican grocery stores.

  2. one of the scariest things to ever happen to me involved a squirrel. i was walking through boston common eating an odwalla nutrition bar-- i was a freshman in college. a squirrel walked right up to me and i stopped, as this was an unusual occurrence. it stood on the toe of my sneaker, and i thought, "well, isn't that cute!"

    then, it HURLED itself up at me and latched onto my coat, right about at my belly button. it began to climb up my coat until i screamed, jumped up in the air, and it fell of. i ditched the odwalla bar and ran to class. never ate while walking to school ever again.

    also-- propane scares the hell out of me. congrats on being a very brave woman.

  3. Way to go, Ada! We don't use propane at our house, but I have learned an awful lot about water wells during our 20 years of living in "the country".

  4. Ha, I had no doubt. You are awesome Ada who already manged the impossible of freelance writing right after college. What is a propane bottle compared to that??? Nada, nunca nothing!
    Propane I used last when crossing the Atlantic on a yacht. At least I used it the first few days, afterwards I was far too tired and lived on flying fish (which landed on board), double smoked ham and hard boiled eggs preserved with a layer of vaseline.
    Hmmm, propane or not maybe i should post about food preserving under unusual circumstances....
    Did u find my comment about how much Greek yogurt to use?

  5. I think I would be scared crapless to be anywhere near a propane tank! Good for you!

  6. You seriously NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE ME!!! I'm scared to light our Gas Fireplace....and we've lived here for 2 years, lol.

  7. Ada, I too, never envisioned doing the things I am doing now. I had to learn to swap out the propane tanks too, when we were doing the small tanks for our stove and gas refrigerator. Then we caved in and had the gas company hook us up with the bigger tank. I always remember the ice on the connection that I had to thaw out in the middle of the night or the refrigerator would defrost all over the kitchen floor. Somehow, it seems to give me that survivor instinct. That I can do it, myself, if I had to!

  8. Hi, I stopped in via the Blog Hop "Say Hi Sunday" and now I'm a new follower. I enjoyed what I've read so far and will keep coming back to see how living the rural life is going.

  9. I love reading about your life in the woods. How awesome that you decided to learn to switch out the tanks on your own. Don't you feel so capable and competent? I love when I learn to do something too that I didn't used to do. I need to learn how to switch out the windshield wiper blades on my car! I know, lame.


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