Seniors need heat Fundraiser by James Hoefer GoFundME Campaign

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The wife heard tires on the dirt driveway.  Looking out the window, she saw a man get out of a pickup, walk to our son’s front porch, quickly return to his truck and drive off.  He had left – –
                A FORECLOSURE NOTICE!

Our son had been letting us live in our RV beside his house.  Now ALL of us were going to have to find new homes.   An eternal optimist, he had kept us in the dark about the house, certain he could work things out.

Our boy has somewhere to go, and we found low rent on a near-by ranch, but with a serious hitch!

Our RV is not designed for winter living, especially where temperatures can reach forty-below!  Well, in all honesty, that doesn’t happen often, but it still gets AWFULLY cold here.  Twenty-below is common and we have seen thirty-four below.  Nighttime temperatures once stayed below minus-thirty for over a week.

I had plywood and straw bales around the bottom of the trailer for insulation.  It wasn’t great, but, with the help of a homemade air heating solar collector, some two-hundred plus gallons of water in recycled plastic bottles, the propane furnace, and some electric heaters, we managed.

When we moved to the ranch, the terrain was different and the plywood no longer matched.   Then freezing temperatures destroyed many of the bottles of water, and stray cattle ate some of the straw and scattered the rest.  Moreover, “of course” the air heating solar collector was damaged.

We need better skirting and better insulation.  (Straw bales, as insulation, are WAY over-hyped).   Required is something that cattle won’t eat and that can withstand the hurricane force winds that are normal here.

I have cobbled together a temporary solution, but it is not going to be good enough for this winter, and it looks like (bleep) – well, see for yourself.  (The video is lousy, and the format sucks, but – -)

(“Still” pictures are at the bottom of the page for those who cannot view the video)

I have come up with a design to meet the need, but we lack the money to buy the materials I can’t scrounge.  Family is helping, but they can’t help much.  So I decided to try GoFundMe.  It is embarrassing to have to ask family for help, let alone strangers, but sometimes a fellow has to his swallow pride and admit he can’t do it alone.  Any help at all is appreciated.  I can purchase materials a little at a time and eventually finish it up.
35136756_1544975979479729_r.jpegMy wife and I are in our mid 70’s and live on the edge of the grid in a remote area of Wyoming with our two house cats, two “ranch” cats, one ornery old rooster, lots of birds, deer and antelope, the rare bear, skunk,  the odd fox , and occasional stray dog.  Once in a while, we are also invaded by stray cattle from the adjacent pastures.

It’s an idyllic setting, a location to die for, but we need immediate help to get through the winter, and then, later, hopefully additional help for long-range needs and wishes.

We are running THREE 1500-watt electric heaters to keep warm.  One of those is UNDER the trailer to keep the pipes from freezing.  When there is the slightest breeze, the heat from THAT one is carried away.

We have pieces of salvaged plywood (OSB) pressed up against the sides of the trailer as makeshift skirting but it’s not much defense against the wind.  Decent insulation (instead of assorted bags stuffed with rags) some house wrap, and wood skirting (tight cedar fencing) will reduce our electric bills and help us keep warm.

Below is a view from our front porch on Nov. 4, 2018.   Winter hadn’t even BEGUN yet!35136756_1544263436465040_r.jpeg
Below is the view of our driveway at is looked in February of 2017 (before we moved here).  It’s a half mile from the pavement to where we park.  We are not exactly “off grid” but close!  Although over thirty miles from “civilization”, we have electricity – most of the time, landline telephone and DSL Internet – most of the time, and satellite TV – most of the time.     The well water contains fine silt – which turned a white washcloth permanently rust red – filters satisfactorily, and there is no public sewage system.  (Yep, we use an outhouse – AKA Pit Toilet – when working outside, and a super low flush toilet (1 qt or less most of the time)    when inside.

Cell phone service is sketchy at best, “Now you have it, now you don’t!” is how I describe THAT.   And FORGET police or ambulance “any time soon” – usually, response time is a minimum of half an hour – more likely an hour or more!
The picture below says it all, it was taken at our previous location after a nasty storm, but that was only two miles from where we are now, and we can expect much the same sort of weather here.  (Maybe a LITTLE better?)
Below is a picture of what our home looked like when we bought it.    As of 12/16/2018, we have only nine payments to go.  After that, money won’t be quite as scarce as it is now and life on the ranch will get a little bit better.
Currently an electric heater underneath helps prevent the plumbing from freezing – and a continual trickle of water helps keep the water line from freezing (plan is to bury that,  but time,  energy,  and money to hire help are scarce).  Two more electric heaters help keep the trailer warm inside.  That barely works right now, and the season is young yet.

You may imagine our electric bill with THREE 1500-Watt electric heaters running almost 24/7!     Because propane is even more expensive than electricity, and requires a 70 + mile round trip to fetch, that is reserved for when it gets REALLY cold.   Sadly, the furnace is now making ‘unpleasant’ sounds so I don’t like using it any more than absolutely necessary.  I may be able to repair it my-self (next spring?), but have no money for parts right now.  That’s another “deferred” project.  Pray that our furnace lasts the winter!  (If not, maybe I can rig something to burn wood?  However, it’s an RV – no room inside!)

Once the skirting and insulation are installed, I’ll repair the home made air heating solar collector and duct the heat under the trailer, where I’ll eventually have 400 + gallons of water in re-cycled beverage bottles. – – (Recycled milk bottles don’t hold up.  I prefer the “Type 1 recyclable” bottles that fruit juices come in.)

I’ve had this system working before, but it was damaged in the move, and many of the bottles were broken due to mishandling and freezing weather.   The water under the trailer adsorbs the heat by day and warms the floor of the trailer by night.  It’s not enough by itself, but it helps a lot.

For those who would like to learn how to build their own air heating solar collector, Click Here for a free, downloadable PDF file.  I developed this super efficient air heating solar collector over the last twenty years or so, one or two concepts at a time.   The picture below  illustrates the basic principal.  It is of one of the most cost effective solar powered air heaters I’ve ever seen, and I have been a solar power aficionado since the 1960’s.  In the early 1970’s I helped establish what was known as the Salt Lake Solar Energy Society.  We were college students experimenting with solar powered heating, and sharing information with like minded groups around the world.  Questions?  Click Here to e-mail me.  (It may take a bit to load.)

Some additional background and projects hoped to complete in the future:

The ranch where we now live is some 37 miles north of Cody, Wyoming and the nearest Walmart or other retail store or gas station!  With today’s gas prices, trips to town are consolidated as much as possible.   The rent here is low, even for this area, but living is primitive and rough and there is a lot of work needs doing.  One reason for the low rent is the expectation that I will use my handyman skills around the ranch.

I estimate skirting and adequate insulation behind it may cost about $1,200.  Repair of the solar furnace may cost about $300.  Another $1,000 may be necessary for deferred maintenance and other needs.

Obviously, the skirting and insulation are needed ‘yesterday’.   At the time I started this campaign, nighttime temperatures had been single digit and daytime highs hovered below freezing.  Things are expected to get MUCH worse!

Support for our cause will help us survive this winter, and improve our lives well beyond.   It is not a hand- OUT we are asking, but a hand UP.  The projects described above (and below) will reduce our cost of living.

If all goes well, after we survive the winter there are other projects we would like to do to make life a little  easier.   Some examples of things we need / would like to do are:
Repair / rebuild – Relocate the wife’s hoop-house (green house) to where she can grow food (was left behind when we moved – may still be recoverable);
Build a laundry / shower shed with a full sized water heater and a washer and dryer.    (The six-gallon heater in the trailer is not really adequate for washing dishes, let alone bathing or laundry;
Build a Rocket Stove Mass heater inside the laundry/shower shed.   (That will let us take advantage of the    abundant firewood here to heat the trailer AND the shower shed);
Repair and expand the deck along the front of the trailer – which makes it safer to enter and exit the trailer and helps keep the dirt and mud out;
Install hurricane anchors under the trailer to prevent the wind (gusts reported to140 MPH!)  from blowing the trailer away;
Upgrade our photovoltaic solar array and the associated battery bank to augment the electric bill;
Harness the power of the creek (about 100 feet away) to generate even MORE electricity;
Replace the windshield in our van.  It is badly cracked but insurance won’t cover that (Est. $500 or so);
Get the Air Conditioner on our vehicle repaired (WAY expensive, but not urgent, “can” live without);
Replace the rear windows of said vehicle, which are now made of cardboard – about $250;
Purchase and set up a 250 gallon (or larger?) propane tank (about $250 used, and another $500 to fill it),     and purchase a trailer with which to haul it.   That will make it possible to buy propane in bulk rather than 5 or 10 gallons at a time at retail, which will save a LOT of money.
Repair the dirt and culvert pipe bridge over the creek – it’s beginning to slough off at the edges and has a      pot hole in a dangerous location;
Purchase new eyeglasses for both of us – my prescription is very old, and so is the wife’s;
Pay off the headstone I am buying for my grave.  (The grave and vault are already paid off, undertaking and coffin are covered by life insurance);
Get out of debt!  We will have our trailer paid off circa September, 2019, but if I spend money on nothing     else but paying off my credit cards, it will still take some three years to pay them off, and I have reason to      believe I have only five years left to live.

We offer our prayers and grateful thanks for those that help us, and promise to “pay it forward” whenever we are able.  Please feel free to use the email link (above the solar collector image) for any questions.

Any help at all will be appreciated.  (“Little drops of water,- – –  Make the mighty ocean –” (Click here for the REST of the poem) and “Thank you for your support” – Gabby Jim 41 and the Zoo Keeper  (scroll down)