Saturday, November 30, 2013

Let’s Talk Mice – What Worked for Us


No, not Mickey and Minnie.  We’re talkin’ field mice and Winter.

Whether you full-time in your RV or store it during Winter, you very well may have visitors seeking warm shelter within the confines of your rig.  Mice.  In our case, field mice.

We had one (or two or three or ??) get in the “attic” of our 5th wheel a couple of Winters ago.  The sound of them above us was maddening and we had nightmarish visions of the damage being inflicted.  We placed small bait trays in a couple of spots via the A/C vent openings, but there simply was not enough room and no access to do much of anything about this except worry.  Turns out it/they chewed through a wire to one of our A/C units.  We discovered this when we turned on the A/C for the first time when the weather warmed up.  Ouch.  $$$ to fix.  We also had evidence of mice under our kitchen sink.

At that point, I got some of the plug-in sonic pest repellants and Dave went around our rig – inside and outside – with expandable insulation.  It comes in a spray can and is easy to apply.  This helped quite a bit and we have not had evidence of mice inside the rig since.

However, we continue each Winter to get mice in our basement, even with one of those sonic plug-ins in there.  There are simply too many places for mousie to squeeze through; one just can’t plug up every single opening.

Following are some of the popular remedies, most of which I have tried.  I’ll save the winner for the last:

  • Fabric softener sheets:  Did not work for us.  Mice tried to use ‘em for nests.
  • Peanut butter, cheese, Fritos on a snap trap:  Mice had a snack and didn’t snap the traps.
  • Bait boxes:  Worked to some extent, although it did not rid us completely of mice.  I placed them inside the basement and outside on the ground.
  • Victor Sonic Pest Chasers:  We have the mini version and I got them at Lowe’s.  Can’t say definitively if they work or not.  I will say that when we first arrived here, a mouse or two was seen in the office.  Since using these plug-ins, I have not seen a mouse inside the office.  We have not had evidence of mice inside the our rig, either.
  • Steel wool:  The access compartment in the basement of our rig where the water hoses come up is a hole, obviously.  I pack coarse (the coarser the better) steel wool around the hoses to seal up that hole as best as possible.  Again, perhaps this works, as we have seen no evidence of mice gaining access to the basement via that route.
  • Moth balls:  Have not tried this. 
  • Peppermint:  Supposedly mice are repelled by this.  Peppermint oil didn’t do squat.
  • Altoid mint on a sticky tray:  And here we have the winner!  Altoids are “curiously strong” mints, right?  So I figured this might work.  My first attempt was placing some Altoids at different access points in the basement area.  Mice ate the freakin’ mintsBy this time, it was an “us or them” situation.  Okay, so I figured I’d try an Altoid in a snap trap.  Crafty mice stole the mint, leaving the trap intact.   Having had experience with sticky trays in the past, I really do not like them; however, we cannot tolerate vermin in the rig.  Thinking the mice were hooked on the mints by then, I placed one mint on a sticky tray, positioning it in a place where the mice liked to hang out.  Next day?  Bingo!  Rigged up about three of these in the basement area, with positive results.  We had no more mouse issues for the remainder of the Winter.  The mice had a nice treat and departed this life with sweet-smelling breath.

There are more popular remedies such as I’ve listed that folks have tried.  Just thought I’d share what did and did not work with us.

Mice visiting this Winter?  Treat ‘em to an Altoid! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 29, 2013

What / Who is a Virtual Assistant?



When I mention my work as a virtual assistant, I am often asked about how it works, how to get started, what types of jobs are available and so forth.  With that in mind, I’ve created this post.

Thanks to technology, one can work remotely from any location in the performance of a variety of tasks.  Some of these include:

  • Data entry
  • Writing – blogging, copywriting, proofreading, editing, transcription
  • General administrative
  • Information technology – software development, beta testing, etc.
  • Social media
  • Research
  • Accounting/bookkeeping
  • Marketing/customer service
  • Video creation and editing

While one can establish their own clientele as an independent freelancer, many times becoming a virtual assistant (VA) can be more easily accomplished by working through an agency.  There are several agencies on the Internet – Elance and oDesk are two major agencies.  I am registered with both, and am currently working through oDesk.  For that reason, specifics will be related to oDesk.

On oDesk since 2010, I have worked several short-term projects now and then.  These have included Web research, copywriting, social media management, data entry, administrative and software beta testing.  In June 2013, I landed my current assignment which is turning into a long-term arrangement.  Classified as data entry, it is not mindless work that you might associate with that term.  It is just enough to make me think a bit but is not stressful, has flexible hours and has no short deadlines. 

Currently I’m working part-time, but realistically could have an assignment with full-time hours or be working two jobs concurrently.  I’ve turned down several invitations lately which encompassed 35-40 hours per week.  That’s too much for me right now.  It is what you make it and what you want/need.

I enjoy being a virtual assistant for several reasons:

  • It keeps my brain active!  Our work here is not brain-intensive.  While that is a wonderful thing at my age and a relief from years of “intellectual work” in the corporate world, I wonder at times about my brain turning to “mush,” if you know what I mean.  Looking back at my professional resume, I think “gosh, I did all that?”  Working as a VA keeps my brain from napping all the time.
  • Interaction with co-workers, albeit via Skype, teleconference and email.
  • Learning new applications.
  • Staying creative.
  • My job can go with me when I travel, which is perfect for the full-time RVer.
  • Oh yeah, then there’s the extra income.  Winking smile

Simply put, oDesk is a temp agency for telecommuters.  Here’s some key highlights:

  • Workers are freelancers.  Employers are clients.
  • Registration and participation is free for freelancers.  All fees are paid to oDesk by clients.
  • Freelancers find work by applying to jobs and receiving interview invitations from clients.  Once you have established a track record with a good oDesk rating, invitations become more frequent.  Currently I receive approximately 1-2 invitations each week.
  • Freelancers establish their own pay rate on their profile.  Pay rates can be adjusted on a per-job basis.
  • Payment classifications are hourly or fixed-rate.  Payment for hourly jobs is guaranteed as long as they are performed via the oDesk Team App, a time-tracking desktop application.  Performing work outside the oDesk environment is a violation of the freelancer’s contract with oDesk.
  • Payment is made by direct deposit.  Freelancers set up a payment schedule.
  • Freelancers are independent contractors.  oDesk does not withhold taxes. 
  • There is a wide variety of jobs available in all fields.  Yes, there is a good amount of “garbage” jobs out there.  The oDesk community is worldwide and the pay scale runs the spectrum of ludicrously low to commanding a good hourly wage for high-tech, highly-skilled jobs such as in the IT industry.
  • oDesk does offer payroll options and, at the current time, health care benefits to full-time freelancers.  Full-time status criteria must be maintained for these benefits.

Personal traits and skills needed:

  • Have a solid foundation of computer and Internet literacy.  Clients are typically willing to train on specific platforms, but you must have a solid foundation on which to build and expand.
  • Experience with various applications is very helpful – Word, Google Docs, Excel, OpenOffice, Wordpress, etc..
  • Self-disciplined and able to work without close supervision.
  • A professional presentation.  Yes, it is a “real” job.  Present yourself and behave in the appropriate fashion.  Be prepared to make the commitment to an assignment.  Be sure that you possess the skills necessary for the assignment or that the client is willing to train.
  • Perseverance – landing that first job may take a while.
  • Caution and common sense – there are some scams out there.  You need to be able to distinguish those.  Use the oDesk client ratings to make these judgment calls.

How does one become a VA with oDesk?

  • You must have a reliable Internet source and computer.
  • Go to oDesk and register.  It’s free.
  • Set up your profile.
  • Take the oDesk Readiness Test and any other applicable skills tests.  They are free and will build your credibility and marketability.
  • Download and familiarize yourself with the oDesk Team App.  This is what you will use to track your time as you work; it calculates and records your wages.  Think of it as a virtual timesheet/ time clock.
  • Download and familiarize yourself with Skype. It’s free.  Many clients perform interviews via Skype and use it as a method of communication on a daily basis. You want to be ready for that interview!
  • Browse jobs and apply for the ones which interest you and for which you are qualified.
  • Respond promptly to messages from clients and invitations to interview.  oDesk recently introduced a new profile item on freelancer responsiveness.  Obviously, a higher responsiveness score is a good thing.
  • Clients may respond immediately or some time may pass before you hear from them.  I have landed work in situations where the initial contact was several weeks prior to beginning the assignment and I’d essentially “forgotten” about the job.
  • Landing the first assignment is the hardest part.  It is a job search.  Persevere. 
  • I recommend setting up a separate email account for oDesk notifications and for corresponding with clients.  I do this, keeping that email strictly for oDesk work and separate from my personal email account. It’s a safety precaution.  It also doesn’t crowd up my personal email inbox.
  • While there are tons of legitimate clients, there are scams and deadbeats as well and, while oDesk does a good job of staying on top of these, some do make their way into the system.  I have found that the many professional and legitimate employers interview by invitation only; however, that does not mean there aren’t legit jobs that accept applications initiated by the contractor.  You just have to use caution and common sense.  Remember that anyone can be anything on the Internet.  Check out client reviews, their payment history, how long they have been on oDesk, how many jobs they have had on oDesk, etc.  All this information is transparent on the oDesk system.  When a dialogue is initiated between you and a client, you will typically have the name of their company.  Do a Web search on the company.  You will see if it looks legitimate and you will see if it is something that interests you.  By doing this research, you will also show the prospective client that you have done your “homework” and made the effort to learn about their company.  They will be impressed, and that’s a good thing!

I hope this has been helpful if you have considered becoming a virtual assistant!

Thanks for stopping by! 

Every Thanksgiving Is Different . . .


. . . yet still the same.  Yesterday differed from last year but was much the same.  It was quiet here and I fixed a traditional holiday dinner.  Dave went for a bike ride.  We enjoyed an evening of chess.  Last year, we were just recovering from Hurricane Sandy, but it was a quiet day and Dave managed a bike ride while I gleefully prepared our dinner.

I enjoy looking at the photos of others showing gatherings of family and friends, and at times miss that fellowship.  On the other hand, we make our holidays special, just Dave, me and Maggie.  I appreciate and take joy in phone calls, text message and emails exchanged with special people in my life on holidays.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving.  Well, it is a day of reflection, but most days I consciously am thankful for many things.  Here’s a few things on my perhaps quirky list . . .

  • The water heater in our RV which allows me to take a warm/hot shower of ample length to heat up my body during Winter and relax me for bedtime.  No need for “navy showers” in our rig.
  • Being able to bend over without discomfort to do laundry or other tasks.  I still distinctly remember having surgical staples last year and am grateful to be able to move without pain.
  • My overall good health.  Life following last year’s surgery is a “new normal,” but it is definitely do-able. 
  • My husband Dave, with whom I fall in love all over again on a routine basis.
  • Our wee Maggie, who is such a delight.
  • Our home, which is sturdy, cozy, paid for and has wheels!
  • A work situation which is steady, interesting, fun, virtually stress-free and allows us a certain amount of freedom versus a “nine-to-five” job.  This also includes our environment and the people we work with.
  • The big generator sitting outside which provides us with electrical power when the grid is down.
  • Our beautiful, big, black truck that I delight in driving and which tows our home on wheels like a work horse.
  • Having the time and gas money to get in that big truck and just go for a drive to get some windshield time.  Keeps me sane, or some reasonable facsimile of sanity.
  • My “old” friends who still keep in touch even though we are miles away.
  • The “new” friends I have made since we started this adventure.
  • Our washer/dryer set here in the office.  This has made life so much easier.  It’s also nice to know what’s been in them, as opposed to going to a public laundromat.  I can’t imagine not having them last year.
  • My spirituality.
  • The health resources here – everything from the EMS squad to doctors to hospital staff – which are excellent.  These folks saved life twice last year. 
  • Being part of the local CERT group, even though I’m not a permanent resident of the area. 
  • Holland Police Department – we interact with the officers as part of our job and the CERT group falls under their organizational umbrella.  The officers are a great group of guys and we are grateful for our relationship with the HPD.
  • Sleeping well.  We have peace and quiet with no noisy neighbors parked right next to us.  It.  Is.  Quiet.  Here.  At.  Night.  We sleep well. 
  • My Dad, who taught me to be self-sufficient and to be aware . . . not just for safety but in Nature and in Life.
  • My Mom, who instilled in me her sense of patriotism and duty.  I’m grateful to her for reminding at difficult points in my life that I come from a long line of strong women.

These – and many other – things cross my mind not only today but routinely as being aspects of my life for which I am grateful.  Hope you are having a safe, cozy and fun holiday weekend!

Thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It’s a Chilly Evening


Right now  at about 8:30 PM, it’s raining out and chilly at 34F.  We are in the midst of a Nor’easter here in New Jersey.  So far we’ve been fortunate and the winds have not picked up.  I think that’s yet to come overnight and tomorrow with even more rain.  We did have a bit of a snow shower this morning, but there’s nothing on the ground, and it turned to rain as the day went on.  The rain is supposed to turn back to snow tomorrow evening.

Friday evening’s shelter training session was informative.  They even had the parking lot set up as it would be in a “real” event, with Holland PD officers stopping each vehicle to ask our purpose in being there and to direct us to appropriate parking.  Upon entering the building, we were given a packet and an intake form to fill out and essentially “processed” through the shelter experience.  We had sessions at each area – kitchen/dining, dormitory, restrooms/showers, etc. in which were given an overview of what took place in each area and what our responsibilities would be in the event that the shelter is ever put into action.  Silly me . . . I kinda like the thought of directing traffic . . . It was interesting and good to reconnect with fellow team members.

Saturday morning we ventured out to the book sale at the Riegelsville Library over in Riegelsville, PA.  That’s just down the road a bit and across the Delaware River.  I have books on my iPhone but Dave prefers to hold a real “live” book while reading, so we went mainly for him to stock up.  While he was browsing, I went to the church next door, where they were having a bazaar and craft sale.  I scored a couple of things . . .

Cow towel

A cute, sweet silver-haired lady makes and sells these kitchen towels and this Cow spoke to me, especially for $3.50.  Back in my Brenham home, I had Cow items (black-and-white bovine) here and there.  I also used to talk to them (and wave at ‘em – they would look up and sometimes follow along the fence line) while out cycling in the Brenham area;  in fact, my cycling buddies gave me the Cow Name of “She Who Rolls and Waves.”  Cows have such groovy energy, and I even spent a morning with a cow whisperer and his lovely Brahmans.  Anyway, I digress . . .  We could use a new kitchen towel, so here’s Cow.

I also picked up a neck “cozy” made by a young lady.

Neck warmer


It really is warm and soft!  If my neck is cold, so is the rest of me.  Keep my neck warm and I’m pretty much happy.

Other than that, it was a fairly quiet weekend.  We played chess again; our games last about 1.5 to 2 hours.  I even won a game again!  The first few moves always feel awkward to me, so I looked up some opening moves on the Internet and found the Sicilian Defense, which seems to work for me and I can actually remember it!  Ha!

The really good news is that our new convection microwave was installed yesterday!  Yay!  I found a different mobile tech, Regins RV Service, and Steve came out to take care of us.  Dave assisted him – it really was a two-person (man) job.  Steve also took care of another minor item for us and diagnosed why one of our electrical outlets is not working.  He will order that part and a new porch light fixture and, next time he is in the area, will come back to take care of those two items.  Gosh, it’s so nice to have a usable microwave again, not to mention the exhaust fan and the light over the stovetop.  I’m good to fix Thanksgiving dinner!  Whoohoo!

With a view to the approaching storm, this morning I did what laundry was in the hamper (and Maggie’s sweaters and blankets) just in case things get rough and we lose power at some point.  All the groceries are in that I need to make our Thanksgiving meal, laundry is done and Dave went to have our propane bottles filled today.  We’re good.

Other than that, it was pretty darn quiet around here today.  We don’t anticipate much activity tomorrow due to the weather and then it’s the holiday weekend. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sure Gets Dark Early These Days


It’s not quite 5 PM and just about dark outside already.  You’d think at my age, I’d be used to the early-dark days of Winter, but I’m not.  I must be part Bear or Groundhog; during this time of year (at least here where it’s cold), I really have a hard time getting excited about going places.  I’m perfectly content to be snug at home working, writing or doing whatever.

In just about an hour I will, however, be going to a CERT training session for the evening.  It’s on shelter operations, and I’m looking forward to receiving formal training on how to help run the shelter.  The recreational center which has in the past opened itself to the neighboring area during natural disasters (offering free showers, bottled water, phone charging, etc.) is now a designated shelter for the entire county.  CERT members have helped staff the rec center when in “shelter mode,” and tonight we are receiving formal training on setting up and running a shelter.  We are being provided a meal; I would imagine it will be standard shelter fare, in order to give us a “real” experience.

That means I’ll be heading “up the hill” (as is referred to around here) in a bit, in the dark, in light rain.  The “hill” is actually Musconetcong Mountain and the direction up the hill is South.  That felt unnatural to me for quite a while when we first arrived here.  I felt like if I was going up a mountain, I should be heading North!


Since I’ll be away this evening, Dave and I had our “Friday night” last night.  I had a coupon, so we went to Perkins for burgers and then had two epic chess matches.  We started at 8 PM, and each game lasted two hours, so we had a late night for us, especially with the following day being a work day.  Sure was fun, though, listening to melodic Celtic tunes and playing chess.  I even won the second game, my first victory since we started playing again about a month ago.


We plan to hit the used book sale at a nearby library tomorrow morning.  We’ve been a few times and scored some good reads.  This is really for Dave, as he prefers to hold an actual book.  I don’t have a Kindle, but do have the Kindle app and another book app on my iPhone.  Right now I’m progressing through the works of Zane Grey.  I’ve known about the author for a long time, but never gave much thought to Westerns.  After reading the first one, I’m hooked. 


We have our usual quiet Thanksgiving planned, just the two of us.  I cook and we just chill.  I plan on hitting the grocery store Sunday for all those provisions, and a few more “storm provisions,” as there is the possibility of a Nor'easter hitting us Tuesday evening through Wednesday next week.  We’re stocked up pretty well, but I’ll get another package of paper plates and some more Handi Wipes, just in case we lose power (which would mean we would lose water since we’re on a well here.) 

Today has been rather mild; however, a change is coming Sunday, with a blast of arctic air (and perhaps a bit of snowfall) preceding the possible arrival of the Nor’easter on Tuesday.  At least the leaves are off the trees now.  That’s a good thing, trust me.

Other than that, we’re pretty well set for Winter.  Plenty of warm clothes and outerwear, water hose heat-traced and with the drop light at the turnoff valve, the pump room is well insulated with a little heater in it, we  have gas for the generator and plenty of propane on hand for several days.  I’ve confirmed arrangements for plowing the property if it snows enough this Winter to be plowed.  The company paid for four new tires on the company truck, so it’s good to go if there’s snow/ice; this vehicle even has 4-wheel drive.  Yahoo!  This is our 3rd Winter here, so we pretty well know “the drill” by now.

Guess I’ll finish getting ready, as I’ll be leaving in a bit.  Have a great weekend!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fairly Quiet Weekend So Far . . .


. . . but the overnight tonight may prove to be different.  That frontal system which has wreaked havoc throughout the Midwest is heading towards us, slated to arrive between 3 and 6 AM tomorrow morning.  In the dark, of course.  My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this nasty frontal system.

Just a wee post before I continue on with getting the “go” bags ready in case we have to make a dash for the mill (sturdy shelter) in the wee hours.  The bags consist of my CERT bag, which is packed and ready 24/7, and then my backpack for a few essentials.  I’ve talked before about what goes in there, so won’t again at this time.

Last night’s dinner (and then leftovers today) was homemade beef enchiladas and (non-homemade only because the avocados were not very good) guacamole.

Enchiladas 11162013

I had already taken a bite out of mine before snapping the photo.

Have to get a Tex-Mex fix now and then and, being up here in NJ, I just make it myself.  I have two recipes for tamales, but making tamales is a project and I haven’t gotten up the courage or energy to tackle that in our RV.  Besides, making tamales is more fun with friends!

Back to the approaching storm, the bad news is that there have been multiple tornadoes associated with this system and we are to expect 40-60 MPH gusts and the possibility of tornadoes.  The good news is we are in a valley of sorts (hence the name Warren Glen – glen as in valley) and many times are somewhat sheltered.  Good and bad news is our rig is in the open with nothing to fall on it; however, there is no structure to shelter it.

We do have the mill in which we can shelter; thank goodness for that!  Other than making kolaches earlier today, I’ve been really lazing around.  Turns out that was a good idea, as it sounds like I may not be getting much sleep tonight, or at least not in the early morning hours.

Okay, better gather together more stuff and finish getting my backpack ready.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Was Tempting . . .


So . . . for the past few days we have been entertaining a job opportunity as a management team of an RV park back in Texas.  In fact, it was my “old stomping grounds” of years ago.  I lived and worked in that area during the early 1980s and in later years cycled all the surrounding farm-to-market and county roads.  Yes, it was tempting, and we had several serious conversations about it.  We would be in an area familiar to me and closer to friends and some family there is left on my side.  The park itself looked lovely, a small park, and my conversations with management were pleasant.  I’m sure it would have been fine; however, after weighing pros and cons, we have decided to sit tight where we are.

Home sweet home

June 2013 – Home Sweet Home, complete with corn growing!

It is gratifying to be contacted and to know that we are marketable in the park management world.  Yes, we could do the job and do it dang well, and if our assignment here was ending with no other options, we probably would have jumped on it.  At some point in the future we may venture down that avenue, but not now.  So, we passed.

Long-term financially, we could have saved a bit of money annually by being back in Texas, but it would take at least a year to see that savings and, in the big scheme of things, there is more to consider than money.

Shocking to some, eh?  A bit more money saved, but at what price to the Spirit?  Isn’t that mindset part of the make-up of a full-time RVer?  That there is more to consider in Life than money?

Evening Walk July 29

July 2012 – Musconetcong River from back bridge on property

Yes, we’re on call 24/7 here and sometimes we get called out on weekends or at 2 AM, but not every week.  When it does happen, we are not irritated . . . it’s part of the job, and the folks we work with – the company we’re contracted to and local law enforcement – well, we really do work together seamlessly as a team.  We pull 12-hour days more than just occasionally, but it’s not hard manual labor work, and it’s not cleaning showers and restrooms or evicting someone because rent has not been paid.  Need a new shovel, broom or drill for company use?  Go to Lowe’s and get it.  There’s no “May we please get a new snow shovel?”  We know our responsibilities, perform them diligently to the best of our abilities and we don’t have someone constantly looking over our shoulders or micro-managing us.  Unlike other positions we’ve had as a team, here we not only have the responsibility but the authority to carry out those responsibilities.  We have had a couple of minor incidents lately and, when notifying our boss, it’s not being told what to do but being asked, “How do you want to handle it?”  I don’t have to call about every little decision, and that makes doing our job much easier. 

RV’ing friends have a place to boondock in our parking lot, and we appreciate being given permission to have visitors.  We were invited to the company Christmas luncheon last year – told to lock the office and gate and come join them – and we broke bread in a family atmosphere that is rare these days in the corporate world.  We were honored to be invited to share that, especially in our status of “just” contract workers.


1994 Chevy Suburban IPPE Work Truck

August 2013 – The company brought this replacement new-to-us company vehicle which we use on patrol, etc.  The previous company pickup was literally falling to bits.  Got four new tires put on this beast a couple of weeks ago.  This one has 4-wheel drive, which comes in handy!

Although one of us is on the property at  all times during business hours, when we are not performing our duties and it is quiet, our time is our own.  Dave can get a bike ride in the afternoons and I stay here; I can run an errand or go for a walk and Dave stays here.  Some days there are no visitors on the properties; other days it’s like Waverly Station in Edinburgh! 


October 2012 – Office trailer in foreground; our rig parked behind it.  Short commute!  As with park hosting jobs, our site, utilities  and Internet are included.  Our propane is paid for during Winter months, and we purchased a washer and dryer which are in the office.

Overall conditions here are more harsh than being in an RV park set in a developed area.  We lose power (and, hence, water since we’re on a well) now and then, but have a construction-grade, big generator.  We have resources to tap into during natural disasters . . . where to get a shower, shelters, etc.  We have the mill in which to shelter during threatening conditions such as high wind, and have done so a couple of times.


January 2013 – So cold the river froze!  Our propane tanks also froze during this week of single-digit daytime highs and below-zero wind chills.  That’s cold!

We have no real worries about personal property vandalism or theft.  Sometimes I miss having neighbors and being close to long-time friends . . . but it’s quiet (we sleep well) and we have our privacy.  That being said, we get the occasional honk and wave from one of the “locals” passing by on the road.  Cool!  I derive a sense of community as a volunteer with the local CERT.  (Click here to see photos from our drill this year, which was held here at the mill.  Awesome experience!)  We have established health care providers in the area; the care here is excellent, as I found out last year when battling cancer for the second time.  We are independent contractors, so we can schedule vacation time whenever we choose; of course, we have done so keeping in mind what is happening on the properties.


Hurricane Irene 2011 – The shot of the frozen river was taken from this bridge.  Irene brought the Musconetcong River out of its banks.  We evacuated our rig to higher ground.  We also evacuated during Tropical Storm Lee and in 2012 took shelter at a local hotel during Sandy.

The skies here are among the bluest I have ever lived under, and now and then I watch an Eagle soar above my head.  We have deer, foxes, all sorts of birds, bear, skunks (eek!), generations of groundhogs, turtles, a trout-stocked river if I ever get around to fishing and the occasional beaver.  Oh yeah, and a hardy feral cat which is now seeing his/her third Winter here.  We have moles in the  yard and field mice looking for a warm nesting spot (like the basement of our RV) during Winter but no cockroaches during Summer and no bother with ants.  I can live with that trade-off.


April 2013 – Honored to have a family being raised in our yard.  Momma and Poppa routinely proudly paraded their family literally right past the front door of our RV.



October 2012 – The biggest “front yard” I’ve ever had.

Kinda hard to trade all these things for the hustle and bustle of a more metropolitan area.


June 2012 – One of occasional passers-by.  We are on a balloon flight path.

To be honest, this place and our life here are Spirit-comfortable.  Sure, the thought of hitting the road for a long trip (back to Texas) was exciting, as were thoughts of a new environment and job, making new friends and spending time with old friends again.  I even plotted our route south on I-95, then west on I-10 in order to avoid nasty Winter weather and to see places we have not experienced together.  Figured if we were going to have to travel and then be sitting in one spot again for a while, why not make it a nifty trip.  I would have seen and overnighted in Florida for the first time.

I tell you, though, this place feels right for us, at least at this point in time.  We have so many memories here and continue to make more.  Thinking about departing from here the past several days, I experienced a sadness over leaving at this time.  We know this job will end at some point in the future; that’s different.  When that time comes, we’ll look forward to adventures at our new landing spot!

Hope you are Spirit-comfortable wherever you are . . .

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, November 8, 2013

A Week Already?



Scene on the property here

Seriously, where does the time go lately?  We have been fairly busy with work, people coming and going just about every day.  Really, it’s hard to believe it’s been a week since I posted here last.

There has been a bit of a lull in my online part-time job, not a complete stoppage, just a slowing down.  I with two young(er) gals and we’re taking this time to revise, finalize and put into place procedures and guidelines as things are ramping up for the work load that is (supposed) to be coming in the near future.  Over the past few months, the three of us have established a comfortable professional and personal rapport.  We each bring experiences – common and different – which seem to make a great team.

IMG_4278 (2)


Today we’ve had alternating dark skies and then sunshine. Winter is definitely knocking on our door.  If the next six months follow the same pattern as the past couple of years, we’re in for cold, wind and wet (rain and snow) until about April.  The Farmer’s Almanac has predicted this Winter to be cold, wet and white.  The Woolly Bear Caterpillar examples I have seen around here seem to tell a different tale of a mild Winter in store for us.  Time will tell.

It’s a little while later and I’ve read reports of a few snow flurries around in northern NJ.  I’m not surprised. 

We occasionally think of leaving here and I admit I am torn.  There are pros and cons both ways; many of the pros include the beauty of watching Eagle circle above, the quiet, the views such as in the photos above, the good people we work with, the freedom and ease of our daily schedule which our duties here allow, very good medical care locally and the climate, to name just a few.  On the other hand, we live an isolated life (due to the nature of our work) with no friends locally, the winters are indeed harsh, NJ has a high cost of living, there is state income tax here and then there is the climate, to name just a few.

We are not unhappy here and that’s a good thing.  On the other hand, it is easy to become . . . what . . . complacent or afraid to make a change.  We have been here almost three years, quite a long stretch for full-timers. 

Would we save money by, say, returning to Texas?  Quite possibly, if the right job opportunity presented itself.  When opportunities arise, and they do now and then, we feel we do need to consider them, whether it’s Texas or elsewhere.

The financial aspect is another factor.  Next month my health insurance premium is increasing by $100 each month, and by the end of 2014, our monthly premiums will have increased 100% each.  The ongoing health insurance issue indeed plays a part in decisions we might make about job opportunities.

Scary or exciting?  A wee bit of both . . .

In the meantime, it’s Friday and we have an evening of chess planned.  Yay!

Thanks for stopping by!