Haven: Re-visited

Those of you who haven’t been following the blog for very long are possibly not familiar with The Haven, simply because we haven’t been there in quite some time! The last post I could find about it here was way back in 2014!

So The Haven is this remote piece of land we own, and we used to go up there and camp relatively frequently. There is nothing there in terms of shelter, bathrooms, electricity, or water, but what IS there is just this glorious old forest, with enormous trees, some sand dunes, a fire pit, and a lot of memories (and a whole lot of mosquitos!)

We’ve stopped by here and there in the past few years, but it was hard to do such primitive camping with an infant. We haven’t actually spent the night at The Haven since Alex was born, so this was his first trip! He has heard stories about it, and was pretty excited to go. Evelyn and Oliver were detailing all the best parts: the sandy area, the “clearing”, the blueberries, the place where Nala is buried (probably the part Alex was MOST excited about).

Luckily, I think it proved to be everything Alex was hoping for and more!

It was a quick trip, but it was absolutely just as wonderful as I remembered. It’s just a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively, and the kids had a great time.

One of the reasons we made this a shorter trip is that usually we spend a chunk of time in town, if for no better reason than to use real bathrooms. We decided not to go into town this time, due to Covid. That certainly makes it more difficult to stay a long time (including not having a place to fill up our water bottles!), but honestly it wasn’t really a big deal (did miss the farmer’s market and the coffee place we usually go to!)

The only downside continues to be the mosquitos. It wasn’t QUITE to the level of mosquito haven, but it does really make it difficult to enjoy a lot of time up there. I just don’t know what to do about it. We tried permethrin for our shoes, and plenty of bug spray of course, as well as some mosquito head netting, and that all made it…tolerable. Still looking to make it better than tolerable though!

We also stopped and grabbed some already-picked strawberries from a u-pick place (and since I am late in posting this, Sara has already turned all of this into many, many jars of jam!)

Even with just the little time we were there, all that outdoor time flat out wore Alex out! Despite getting a decent night’s sleep, he took a 2 1/2 hour nap the next day!! I just take this as a sign of how good it is to get out into nature, with all that stimulation.

So now that we’re back in the habit, I’m hoping to get up there more often. It’s still a pain to load up everything in the car that we need for even a short trip, but totally worth it. A short trip is also nice from the mosquito point of view: you’re kind of in and out before it gets too bad. And hey, with all this quarantine stuff going on, it gets us out of the city and it’s something different to look forward to!

Haven Re-opened

Ahh, that time of the year again.

I start every post-Haven blog post with essentially the same idea: boy, I really love being up there. It’s true though; it’s something that I have to relearn each time we go. When I’m there I feel refreshed. Even though I know it will be enjoyable in my head, I only know it in my bones when I’m sitting on the sand, listening to the wind through the trees, smelling the pines.

I’ve been so disappointed that we didn’t get up to the Haven very much last summer, and I’m trying to make sure we do a better job this year. Not only is it enjoyable, but it recharges me in a way that nothing else really does, and I think the more time I spend there, the happier I’ll be.

And all this despite the fact that it rained all night and I almost knocked myself unconscious with tree limbs not once, but TWICE (to be fair, only one actually hit me in the head. *I* hit the other one with my head while fleeing from a third tree limb).

After last year, we were extremely nervous that the Haven would be under water again. The first year it was dry and wonderful, the second year was underwater, awful, and filled with ravenous mosquitoes, so this year is best two out of three. So far, it seems dry and mosquitoes weren’t really an issue at all.

It rained all night, but it wasn’t windy, and we all kept dry. In the morning we went out to eat and it was sunny by the time we got back. Everything was dry by the time we packed up, so no complaints on that front either. About the only real problem we had was that the air mattress leaked all night and we ended up sleeping on the ground. It was pretty uncomfortable; I don’t know how the kids do it!

We weren’t going to be there very long, so our plan was to not do any work and just enjoy it. However, we did decide to go map out the driveway a little bit. A few hours later, Sara and I had cleared out all the underbrush and small trees, and it almost looks like a driveway! We’ll need to chop down quite a few bigger trees of course, but it went from being some kind of pipe dream (“Yeah, we really ought to get around to that sometime”) to something that’s ready to go. I honestly think with a little help we could get it mostly taken care of in a day or two!

So here’s to another year of camping and land barony! And maybe even driveways!

I must have accidentally angered the forest gods

We have just not been able to make it up to The Haven this year. We knew there weren’t a lot of opportunities to go, but it seems like every time we have a chance, something just seems to come up. And of course, the one time we did make it up was an unmitigated disaster. I’m starting to suspect supernatural influence.

We were all set to go up and meet my sister on Saturday morning. Giant pile of camping gear in the living room, house cleaned, kids excited, the whole nine. Sara and I had stayed up late getting everything ready, so we had only just fallen asleep when suddenly the bedroom door banged open.

There stood one very panicked 5 year old, clutching her throat, unable to breath.

As with any emergency in the middle of the night, my body was operating well ahead of my brain. Right away I knew what was the matter, but for some reason I just could not communicate this to Sara. My sister had terrible asthma as a kid, and waking up in the night unable to breath was, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence for her. This just snapped me back there right away. So finally Sara was able to piece together my incoherent panic-babbling (something about shouting “Rachael!” and forcing Evie to lock eyes with me and slow her breathing), and grab Evie’s inhaler.

Poor Evie was a wreck, coughing and crying, which was only making it worse. Luckily for us, our daughter is so amazingly mature for her age, and she managed to understand what I was saying to her, think through the situation, and calm down enough to get it a little under control. We got a couple of breathing treatments in her, and though her breathing still sounded like a freight train, she was so exhausted that she wanted to go back to sleep.

We put her in bed with Sara, but I was too agitated to go back to sleep. It really pains me to think that I cursed my daughter with asthma. So I was alternately pacing around in the hallway, listening to her wheeze through the closed bedroom door, and looking up “What to do when asthma attacks!” websites, when I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went back into the bedroom.

“Do you think she’s okay? Is there something else we should be doing?”
“I don’t know, should we give her another dose of the inhaler?”

Even with the extra dosage from the inhaler she just didn’t seem to be getting any better, but she didn’t seem to be getting any worse either, so I went out again. I think that was about the time that she threw up all over herself. This poor girl, she was really trying to hold it together, and we were trying to help her hold it together, because we knew if she didn’t stay calm it could get bad again really quick.

Ultimately, we opted to take her to the emergency room. Sara took her and I stayed home with Ollie. “Start kicking the seat if you can’t breath,” she told Evie. You never really know if you’re doing the right thing, going to the emergency room. Am I overreacting? Well, apparently not, based on the alarm generated by Evie’s entrance and speed at which they got to work on her. So I guess we did the right thing after all.

It turns out that Evie had croup, so it wasn’t even asthma related (which explains why the inhaler wasn’t helping). However, that croup is no joke, and it can be fatal. It was pretty scary for us, so I can only imagine how scary it was for Evie; waking up and being unable to breath, having no idea what is going on or how to stop it. And then, despite all of that, to have the wherewithal (as a 5 year old!) to be able to calm down and work through it.

Anyway, this is just a long way to say we didn’t exactly make it up to go camping the next morning. Sara and Evie were at the ER until about 4:30 in the morning, and we certainly didn’t want to risk a recurrence when we were out in the woods somewhere.

Evie was pretty much okay, other than she didn’t really want to go to sleep Saturday night in case it happened again (and who could blame her on that score?). Her other big concern was that she completely lost her voice in all of this, and of course she had an audition for a part in The Little Mermaid yesterday. Fortunately, her voice was more or less back, and she performed her audition piece successfully.

I’m sure they get their share of precocious little girls, but man-oh-man would I have loved to see their faces when Evie performed. I admit to being a little biased, but I think she might have blown a couple of people’s hair back when she really opened up. Anyway, as should be no surprise if you’ve watched that video, she will be playing the role of Ursula, the Sea Witch.

Maybe she can use her Sea Witch powers to commune with the Haven spirits and figure out what I did to offend them so badly that they’ll stop at nothing to keep us away…

Mosquito Haven

Well, we made it out on our first camping trip of the year. I have to say, things could have gone better.

The Haven was still partially underwater. The water wasn’t nearly as bad as when we were there a couple of months ago, but the fact that any was there at all is a bit troubling. The first time it was forgivable because it had been raining cats and dogs for quite awhile. This time, however, it hasn’t been particularly wet.

Unfortunately, as we guessed, the raspberries seem to be kaput. That was a big bummer, since that was one of the fairly major projects of last year. More generally, it’s kind of a bummer that there’s so much water around everywhere, making it difficult to get around and sort of unpleasant to contemplate living there at some point. Especially since all of that standing water lead to the inevitable conclusion – mosquitos.

Mosquito Bite Girl

It was unbelievable. As a person who has done a lot of camping, I’ve never seen anything like it. The clouds of mosquitos were so bad that it was almost like you had a hard time seeing somebody through it. I cannot imagine there is enough wildlife up there to feed that many mosquitos, which means they were just that much more hungry when we got there. The picture above really does not do it justice AT ALL.

Oh, the poor kids. The poor, poor kids. I feel like such a bad parent even telling you. Even covered with bugspray, pants, and sweatshirts, the kids were all but carried away by the buggers. Their poor, sad little bodies are covered head to toe. Ollie’s left hand had so many bites on it that it was swollen like a sausage, and he couldn’t flex his fingers. His ankles were so bad, he had trouble walking. He’s got 5 or so that actually turned into big, white, swollen blisters and popped. Evie absolutely looks like she has the chicken pox.

Between that and the extreme lack of sleep, moods were pretty foul by Sunday, and we left hours before we had planned. Since we had gotten there so late on Saturday, we were only there well short of 24 hours. I still think it is safe to say that it was the most miserable less-than-24-hours of Evie’s life. I’m actually worried that she’s been soured on camping altogether, she was so miserable. Both children had to get up for benadryl in the middle of the night just to make it to morning.

Thoroughly unenjoyable.

The worst part of the whole thing is that I am relatively untouched, which make me feel a little guilty. With 3 tasty morsels around to snack on, I was distinctly less appetizing. My secret? When nobody’s looking, I quietly release a little mosquito repellent in the air, like one of those Glade air fresheners. Halbach brand repellent – absolutely repellent since 1980.

The one good news is that I was finally able to get around most of the property and hang the “no trespassing” signs back up. 3 sides are good to go, and the 4th is maybe a 3rd of the way done. I found every sign except 1, and they are much more secure this time, so hopefully they don’t just keep falling down again. It was somewhat depressingly difficult to find the signs, downed or otherwise. Isn’t it kind of half the point that someone can easily see them?

It’s especially depressing knowing that I sacrificed my kids to the mosquito gods, just to re-hang some invisible signs that will probably just fall off the tree again.

Opening the Haven

Over the weekend we officially made our first trip up to the Haven this year. As usual, it was great to be up there, and we actually covered a pretty good percentage of the property just wandering around before settling in for some good old fashioned playing in the sand. We didn’t see any animals this time, but we saw lots and lots of evidence; mostly poop (fur-filled or otherwise), and lots of very clear tracks. We saw some deer tracks, something that was either a giant turkey or a velociraptor, and some sort of clawed monster, possibly a werewolf.

I certainly was happy we went up there. However, there were actually quite a few problems (in addition to the velociraptor/werewolf infestation).

The main thing was that a significant amount of the property was under water. I know that we’ve received a lot of rain lately, and it’s not crazy to think this was the five year (or more) high water mark. Still, it’s somewhat of a bummer to think of dealing with all that water hanging around on your property. We saw evidence that water stands in some of the sandy areas, but we never really saw that at all last year. Is that more typical, or was that because last year was especially dry, and this is actually the normal case?

Most disappointing of all was that all of the raspberries we planted last year were totally underwater. We’re talking a mini-pond, at least a foot deep. The water had obviously been there for quite some time and didn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. We shall see, but I think it’s likely that none of them will survive. Not only will we lose all of our raspberries, but we also lost our “excellent garden spot” since there’s no way we can plant anything else there now.

On the other hand, we did get a little justification as far as building sites go. The area we had tentatively selected as a potential build site was basically the only possible spot that was not underwater. So it looks like we chose correctly, and I think we can officially declare that to be the Official Location now. So that does feel pretty good.

I don’t remember any tremendous storms coming through recently, but there were several major trees down. I’m talking enormous old pines, like house-crushing size. It seems to me it must have been some storm to take them out. Obviously something out of the ordinary, since we haven’t seen hardly any other trees down. I guess the silver lining is that we have plenty of trees to chop for firewood now.

Actually though, I’m not sure we’ll get to them! Between needing to clear out some higher ground for a new garden location, knowing where we need to start clearing out for potential future cabin building, and wanting to get started on clearing for a driveway, we have lots and lots (and lots!) of trees to chop down this year. Right now it seems like almost an infinite amount. We’ve got our work cut out for us (unfortunately, not literally…we have to do all the cutting).

Most unsettling of all was that someone has set up an *extremely* permanent looking tree stand that is clearly on our property. This is a fully built platform, with a permanent ladder attached, everything shiny and new. I have heard story after story about people who have fights with neighbors over tree stands, and I was really hoping to avoid this. This thing is big, heavy, and bolted in, so I can’t exactly just climb up and take it down. On one hand, it’s not too far from the property line and I don’t really mind right now if people are hunting there AS LONG AS THEY HAVE PERMISSION. That’s why we specifically chose no trespassing signs that said hunting was only allowed with permission, to indicate that we are open to it. Now I feel like this is some sort of test, to see if we would notice or complain, and if we don’t, then we’re push overs and everything is fair game. I hope that I’m wrong about that, but in the meantime, I’m not sure what to do. Of course, all of this is compounded by the fact that most of our no trespassing signs are down, but I believe there were several still up close to the new tree stand.

Still deciding what to do about that one. I would like to minimize the stress in my life. Which potential path will ultimately lead to less stress?