Going to Arriba, Trail Roads and My Jersey Mind

I recently made a trip to a Sacrament of a relative.  Unfortunately, Kevin had to work so I was alone with the children on this journey.  The journey was about a hundred miles, a hundred miles from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere.  There were two possible routes there, the pavement or going by Arriba.

Arriba, pronounced with a short i, is a town here in Lincoln County.  Believe it or not, I had never been in the town of Arriba.   Since I was running late (of course) I choose to go by Arriba, since that way was supposed to be quicker.  Although I had been to the town where the Sacrament was before, I had only been the Arriba way once before, about six years ago when I was a newlywed.  I didn’t remember it, so I looked at the map online before I left.  It should have been simple.  I would drive by Arriba and end up in that other town.  What could go wrong?  I drove and drove and drove.  The one particular dirt road that I was on seemed to get narrower and narrower.  There was grass growing in miscellaneous places on the road.  I had to take it easy.  I did not pass even one other car.  I never thought much about it because Arriba is not exactly a destination of choice to most.

And then the road turned into a trail….

What is a trail road? you may ask.  A trail road is a dirt road that you should really have pickup for.  There is usually grass in the middle of the road.  A trail road is pretty much a set of tire tracks that happen to be on the map.

On my way to [that other town]...

On my way to [that other town]…

I had checked the map.  This particular road went all the way through to where I need it to.  Reality was different.  I had to backtrack. Between having to drive slow on the road and then the backtracking, I think I lost the time I would have saved by going by Arriba.  I was still late.

Don’t rely on the map. should be a cardinal rule in Eastern Colorado.  They should hand out pamphlets explaining this.  It’s something that I can’t get through my Jersey mind.  For this recent trip, I should have asked someone about the particular route.  They would have gladly explained that the road that really went through was three or four miles away and parallel to the trail road.  Yet this seems to be a lesson that I have to learn again and again.

I remember before I moved out here I was visiting.  We weren’t married yet.  I was looking for a job.  I had an interview or something. Earlier that day, Kevin and I were in [that same town where the interview was].  When we were on our way back to [that other town] we passed a dirt road.  “If you’re ever going from [that first town] to over where my parents live, ThatRoad is a shortcut.”  I filed that information in my Jersey brain.  A few hours later, after my interview, I happened to be going from [the first town] to over where Kevin’s parents lived.  I thought I was doing well when I saw ThatRoad and I turned right.

ThatRoad was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.  Really.  ThatRoad had an unsigned railroad crossing.  I had never seen one of those, except in a Lifetime movie or something when someone dies there because they don’t see the train.  Then there was a cattle guard.  I had seen one of them before in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.  I felt smart because at least I knew what that was.  ThatRoad continued.  There was a little bit of grass in the middle, under the car.  Also, apparently some rancher owned the pasture on both sides of ThatRoad.  The grass in the middle of the road seemed to get taller.  How much longer could this road be?  I thought.  I drove on.  And then there were cows.  Yup, cows in the middle of the road.  The rancher owned both sides of ThatRoad, so the cows just hung out where they wanted.  I’m thinking they weighed more than my Corolla.  Move it cows.  A Jersey girl is a long way from home. Cows do not move unless they want to.  I drove on.  Slower now.  The cows moved a bit, taking their sweet bovine time.  The grass under the car in the middle of the road seemed to get taller.  Should I turn around?  No, cows in the rearview mirror.  I pressed on.  Another cattle guard and then I finally made it, made it to pavement.  Hooray!

This is a sample of a cattle guard.  Take heed- there will be cattle on the highway.  And this road really is the Eastern Colorado version of a highway.

This is a sample of a cattle guard. Take heed- there will be cattle on the highway. And this road really is the Eastern Colorado version of a highway.

“You are really brave to take ThatRoad,”  Kevin said, when I told him about this.  Brave? No, stupid.  I was stupid.  Roads like that are not met for Corollas.  Most people out here have pickups, so they would think nothing of a road like ThatRoad.

When I was 39 and a half weeks pregnant with my second child (no exaggeration, literally 39.5 weeks pregnant), I worked for the Census.  I was basically in charge of the Eastern area of the local district, an area geographically way bigger than New Jersey.  I had to train my crew leaders.  They sent us one area to practice on. It was about 25 miles from the site of the training.  We were supposed to be checking for “living quarters”.  We were two cars full of about 9 people.  Did I mention that I was due in a few days?  The CensusRoad turned into a trail, too.  Let’s reflect on this:  For our supposed training, I led 9 people out into the “country” 25 miles or so from a gas station to a trail road where there was no cell phone service to look for missed houses and to distribute censuses.  The map never indicated that CensusRoad was a trail road.  In retrospect, it’s no wonder that I didn’t go into labor or break my water or something.

I have learned this lesson, again and again and again… Don’t trust the map.  Any road can be a trail road.

So what about Arriba?  I know all of your inquiring minds want to know.  We actually went back home through the proper-not-a-trail dirt road and this time drove into Arriba.  Arriba unfortunately suffers from Eastern-Colorado-town-past-its-prime disease.  It was pretty sad town, with a population of 244 in 2000. Did you know there’s a Clown Museum in Arriba?  Sigh, we’ll have to make another trip…

You can say that again, Arriba.

You can say that again, Arriba.

And then I think of Ma and Pa Ingalls.  Pa drove their horse and buggy over 600 miles from Pepin, Wisonsin to  Missouri and then to Independence, Kansas.  Laura and Mary were toddlers. They didn’t have a cell phone or a car or even a trail.  Pa didn’t even get lost.  I should be able to handle the trail road, yet I can’t…

Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie, Touring Eastern Colorado by with 2 comments.

So What Exactly Is In a Hundred Year Old Basement?

My house has had foundation issues.

I knew about them since before I moved in.  I didn’t realize exactly what foundation issues were and what exactly that meant.  Now I know that meant that we shouldn’t have ever purchased this house.  But we did and I don’t have a time machine so now I must deal.

Typical of houses of this age in the area, my house was built without a very deep foundation.  And then somewhere along the way, someone dug out a basement.  The basement digger just left a ledge of dirt around the foundation and plastered in the dirt.  The dirt and plaster were crumbling.  We were afraid our house would fall down.  It was built in 1906.

So how do you fix a foundation?  There are many different approaches actually.  After much discussion and research, we decided we would use shotcrete.  Shotcrete is sprayed on concrete, applied with an air gun.

The first step of the shotcrete was to actually empty out the basement of everything.  We saved a little bit of money by doing this part totally ourselves.  It makes for an interesting blog post anyway…

So what exactly is in a hundred year old basement?  This blog will answer that age old question.

Seven (plus two) jugs of Sevin.  Sevin is a bug killer.  And I found 9- 2.5 gallon jugs of it!  They were in plain sight, resting on the “shelf” of dirt around the foundation.  I just never bothered to look for them or at them to see what they were.  So much for organic farmer me.  I had nine jugs of Sevin.  And it wasn’t even regular Sevin.  It was Sevin which contained a label that said it was for agricultural and professional use. Even if I was the type of person who loved Sevin, it’d be illegal for me to use that type since I don’t have the right licenses.  Even though my kids didn’t have access to the basement, I am still in horror at the fact that I had this deadly chemical under my roof. For nearly six years, too.
Then there was the problem of disposing of the Sevin.  What should I do with it?  Since I had no idea, I called the extension agent.  He had no idea either, but he called me back after he did some research.  “So&So will take it,” the extension agent said. “He uses that type of chemical for his business, Blah-Blah in [that neighboring town].  He has all the licenses for it.  He will check the label and use it if it’s within date.  If it is unusable or past date,  he has all the right ways to dispose of it. Can you bring it to town?”
Yes, I can and I did, within the hour.  The extension agent helped me unload it out of my trunk so that he could get it to So&So.  Thank you, extension agent.  Thank you, So&So.  The Sevin is now gone, and gone properly.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 3.58.21 PM

Here are some of the Sevins…


Our old hot water heater.
A two barrel wood stove that’s not vented. Because you never know when the power will go out and our floor furnace and woodburning stove will both stop working.

It looks like the pressure tank never made it into the picture.

The good thing is that I plan to use the old water heater as a chicken scalder for when we butcher meat birds.


A creepy spider who is probably poisonous.  He may not be, but we’ll say he is just to be cautious. Better get that Sevin.

He was probably secretly plotting to kill us all.

He was probably secretly plotting to kill us all.


A well pressure tank.

You can see the well pressure tank in the background.  This is our new hot water heater.

You can see the well pressure tank in the background. This is our new hot water heater.


A mushroom.  Yes, a dirt wall corner where the plaster had fallen off had a mushroom growing in it.  It didn’t make the picture while in the basement.


A salamander.  Before now I had never seen a live salamander before.  Kevin named her Sally and took her to her new home in the stock tank.  I still say ewe and that that was an experience that I could have done without.

We put her in a Home Depot bucket for her journey to the stock tank.

We put her in a Home Depot bucket for her journey to the stock tank.



A floor furnace.


The floor furnace is in the background behind my son.


Shelves that are the size of quart sized canning jars.
A World War Two Ammunition box.  I was told that back in the day they gave these out like candy here.

When we moved this shelves out, the plaster wall behind it collapsed.

The ammunition box is on the top.  When we moved these shelves out, the plaster wall behind it collapsed.




Some paint.


So the paint never made the picture while it was in the basement, but you can see it in the corner here after we removed it. You can also see how to access the basement. I used to look for Aunty Em. Really.



A bag of cement that got wet that was now just a rock.
Really *fashionable* linoleum of two different types covered by olive green scrolly carpet covered by a mudslide that was supposed to be holding up our house.

Yes, this was the top layer.

Yes, this was the top layer.

We are stylin'!

We are stylin’!

Today the foundation man came and fixed it all. We now no longer have to worry about our house falling down. (Deep sigh of relief.)

Posted in Laura's Little House on the Prairie and tagged by with no comments yet.

Saturday Smidgen Series, Part Five: May 11, 2014

I’m a day late posting this and I missed last week.  It’s called life.

Today is Mother’s Day.  I hate Mother’s Day.  Really.  I hate all holidays.  There’s just too much for me to do.  I stick to basics, like laundry and cleanliness.  Preparing for a holiday is just too much to do.  I force myself to do things for religiously significant ones, like Christmas and some Feast Days.  I suppose that we could say Mother’s Day is significant because it’s in May and May is the Month of Mary and Mary is our heavenly Mother.  But other than that, no.  I wish my mother a happy Mother’s Day to keep a semblance of peace.  (I didn’t one year and there was heck to pay.  Lesson learned.)  Mother’s Day is a Sunday which means I still have an obligation to attend Mass.  Today we opted for a Novus Ordo hand holding good time since it’s only ten minutes away and Kevin has been putting crazy hours in the last few days at work.  My babies still poop on Mother’s Day and therefore need their diapers changed.  Mother’s Day is still a Sunday so it is still one of Kevin’s days to work.  I’ll take a clean house, clean laundry and clean butts.  Thanks.

You can see a flyer for a fishing derby below.  This is the second thing of this sort that we’ve received in the mail. The first was for some kind of “survivors” shindig with balloons. I think these types of things scare me almost more than the illness itself. Vince did have a brain tumor. We know that.  They removed the brain tumor in March and now two months later he is doing wonderfully.  I don’t consider my Vince seriously ill or a survivor.  I suppose he is.  That makes me cry.  Last Sunday he took Daddy’s shaving cream and decorated my new refrigerator.  That doesn’t seem seriously ill to me, does it to you?  I’m not in denial.  I just don’t want his brain tumor to define him or to define our family.  Vince is still my baby.  (And, no, we’re not able to attend these types of shindigs because they’re all in the Denver area two hours away and Kevin works evenings and weekends.  Even if they were five minutes away and Kevin was off, I really don’t know how I feel about them.)

Does he look seriously ill?

Does he look seriously ill?

I’m in love with Mouse the Pig.  I really am.  She is the sweetest thing, although I still get nervous around her.  She follows me around sometimes.

Sometimes you just got an itch...

Sometimes you just got an itch…

Kevin installed the gate that I built onto the goat yard.  It is awesome and I’m loving having a real gate there.  As you can see, I use pretty much all scrap and used wood.  I did use a new piece of wood for the diagonal support and the bottom piece.  He used posts that were already laying around here.  We had to buy hinges and a latch.  A gate with mostly used wood was still about $23.00 for just the hardware and I’m not sure how much the wood was.

The bottom shows the gate open.  The top shows the gate closed.  My kids are good gate models, don't you think?

The bottom shows the gate open. The top shows the gate closed. My kids are good gate models, don’t you think?

I finally saw the actual town of Arriba.  I had never been.

You can say that again, Arriba.

No Man’s Land?  You can say that again, Arriba.

Posted in Saturday Smidgen by with no comments yet.

Toothpaste Removes Dishwasher Hard Water Soap Scum

We have hard water. Like the hardest water ever.

We’ve had a new well since the fall and new well water is a bit less hard.  When we had the old well, I was always amazed at how dirty looking the dishes are coming out of the dishwasher. They say that they changed the law and the dishwasher-soap-making companies had to change their formulas to comply with some new regulations. These new formulas combined with my hard water equals the grossest dishes, especially when it comes to glass and Pyrex.   I decided to take on my de-soap-scumming project before I put my still-gross-looking “clean” dishes away. I used toothpaste and a sponge. I’ll describe the process in pictures.

I even had scummy yuck on the pot.


These are some scummy pans. I even had that scum on the outside of the crockpot crock.

My daughter insisted that I take her picture, too.
Toothpaste is the key. This is Vanilla Mint toothpaste that I bought cheap a while back. I didn’t like the taste, so I earmarked it for this project.
After cleaning, my pot actually reflects.
Pyrex loaf pan before…
Here are my now actually clean dishes drip drying on some dishtowels.

Also, you may notice that all these pictures are closeups. Yes, my kitchen is that ugly.

Update, 8/9/14: I disabled comments for this post. There are too many spammers out there!

Posted in How to Clean, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie by with 2 comments.