There is an old prepper adage that I think is pretty important. “Two is one, one is none.” What this means is that things tend to brake down or get worn out, or even lost or stolen. You need to have redundancy, at least for important things, if you don’t want to go without for a while. Many people might say, “Just buy a new one when you need it.” but this isn’t always easy, especially for large items, especially when you are on a tight budget. And in an emergency situation, you may never have a chance at all. Its better to put in the planning beforehand if at all possible.
On September 13th we learned firsthand how vital little saying is, and how not following it can really screw things up and make life harder. Our truck had a lot of issues that we were planning on getting fixed. We were also planning on buying a cheap second vehicle. We’ve been waiting for a back-payment that the government owes me. When I moved to here I lost my Indiana Medicaid, which meant that $120 for Medicare premiums started to come out of my disability every month. When I got the state’s Medicaid here, they were supposed to start paying my Medicare premiums. Well I got Medicaid here in March and I am still losing $120 a month, which is A LOT of money on my budget. I keep calling them and going to their office, and they keep saying that I’m going to get a refund eventually. The SSI office (Federal government) says its up to the state, and the Department of Family Services (state government) says the next step is up to the federal government. Its extremely frustrating, but they keep passing the buck to the other office and saying, “just be patient, its coming. Also, it’s up to them, not us.” Meanwhile, I’m losing more and more money, that I NEED. I was waiting for this back-payment to get a new car but now I’m not going to rely on it anymore. I’m starting to think I’ll never see that money they owe me, but I’m not going to give up. Sigh.
In any case, we kept putting off repairs because we thought the refund was coming soon (HA! that was naive!). On September 13th, it finally caught up to us. I actually had been telling the office that my truck needed repairs and if I didn’t get the refund soon, I’d end up on the side of the road, stranded. Well I totally did. While we were in town Alex was driving the truck, and as he started to try to slow down for a red light, the brakes finally gave out. There’s a reason Alex has all been doing all the driving lately; we knew the truck we having problems, and I probably would have ended up in a wreck. Alex handled it well, got us through the red light (honking a warning to others, of course), and into a parking lot, but we couldn’t slow down enough to come to a stop. We had to go out the other end of the parking lot, back into the road, and into another parking lot.
Eventually we stopped. Unfortunately, it was by hitting a brick wall. But we were not going very fast I guess, because although I felt the jolt in my bones, the air bags didn’t go off. Thor climbed out of the backseat and curled up on my chest, wanting comfort. (oh yeah, I didn’t say, the dogs were with us when this happened). Although he was scared, he was physically okay. No one was hurt. So, for a while we were stuck in a parking lot, with the dogs, unsure how we were going to get home. And when we got home, how we would get food, water, etc. Luckily, a friend from town rescued us and drove us home, along with the dogs, and took us to Aldi’s on the way to buy food. Since then, this same friend has been extremely helpful, driving us a few times a month. I don’t know if we would have made it without her.
In the next couple of days, we rigged up a primitive water collection system, and when it rained we got about 100 gallons of water. We still need to get actual gutters, but the way our roof is built, the edge hangs over the walls and with tubs lined up along the house. When it rains, the water collects off of the edge of the roof in the rubbermaid tubs. Its not perfect and I’d rather have and IBC tote or 55 gallon barrels, but again, we were without a vehicle and had to make do with what we had. We then filter the water through a coffee maker and boil it in an electric kettle to make it safe. It can be time-consuming but it’s what has to be done. We need a burkey filter one day, its safer, quicker, and makes the water taste better, but those are at least $250. What we are doing now will work for a while, especially since we are heading into winter.
We stayed in contact with the owner of the business where our truck stopped, so it would not be towed right away. That way they would know that it wasn’t really abandoned and I would get it out of there as soon as I could. They were really very nice and understanding. On Friday the 23rd we were finally able to get the truck the towed to a car repair place. But when the car place called the next day, we found out that it would be $600 to fix the brakes. They didn’t just go out. A spring was broken, and the cab fell down and severed the brake line.
At first we weren’t going to fix it, but we ended up doing it anyway. We were hoping it would last for just two more months, so we could get something decent. So, on the 4th of October, we finally picked it up. The brakes were fixed, but we were planning to take it back in November to fix the tie rods and ball joints. That was not to be. Less than a week later, we a city even farther from home when the back tire began to shake off. The lugnuts were loosened, and when we pulled over to the side of the highway, all but one of them were gone. The bolts that hold the lugnuts on were sheared off. It wasn’t just a matter of replacing the lugnuts. We managed to get the truck to a car repair place, but they refused to fix just the wheel. They said it was too dangerous, even if they fixed the wheel the truck is not roadworthy anymore. The back leaf spring was broken, the transmission was leaking, the tie rods and ball joints were going out, there are no shocks to speak of. It would be THOUSANDS of dollars to repair. Quote from the mechanic: “the best way to fix it would be to drive another truck up under it.” This is also essentially what the other mechanic from the week before said, but he was willing to fix the brakes, even though he warned me it would not last long.
If we had already had two cars, it would have only been a matter of finding a ride home for us and the dogs (ONE RIDE, ONE TIME), and our back-up car would have been waiting for us at home. The really, really stupid thing is that we have not repaired the truck over this last year because we couldn’t decide if we wanted to pour a lot of money into this truck, or buy a new vehicle. we debated the pros and cons back and forth, over and over, we thought we made a decision and then 2 days later changed our minds. So nothing happened. We ended up just being paralyzed. Indecision is a killer. Ignoring problems doesn’t make it go away.
This has been a really stressful couple of months. And it’ll be a couple more months before I can save enough money to buy a decent vehicle. Being stuck on the homestead does mean we’ve gotten some work done (that’ll be another post, another time), but what we can accomplish is limited by the supplies and tools we already have out here.
I made a gofundme, (gofundme.com/strandedruralfam) if anyone wants to donate. And if you’re interested and do donate, once our homestead is established in a few years, I could send you a gift of our homemade honey or jam. If you want that, you’d need to email me with your address, but that’s an option if you want. It’ll most likely be either blackberry or persimmon jam, since we have an abundance of both those fruits on the homestead already. I’m 1/4 of the way to my goal of $800, which is incredible, but I think I can’t cash it out until it reaches it’s goal. I’ve never used gofundme before so I’m not quite sure how it works.
For the month of October, we had to borrow money to pay our land payment, because I spent so much on fixing the brakes of the truck. And it wasn’t even worth it. I’ll never make that mistake again. The land payment comes first, from now on. We’ll be fine out here, our neighbors have been helping out a few times a month to take us to the near-by town to get to the store, and other than that we are pretty self-sufficient. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bummer. But we’ll make it. We’ve survived worse. We’ll survive this and get back on track.