Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Freezer Tetris

Some of you may remember our bad experience with U-Haul when we moved from our temporary rental home here to our new homestead.

The bottom line from this experience is it would be a cold day in hell before we ever rented a U-Haul again.

But we had one problem: Most of our shop tools, farm equipment, and a good portion of our household goods (notably books) are still in our old place, either stored in the barn thanks to the kindness of the new owners, or stacked in a storage unit in town. How to get them up to our new place without a rental truck?

So Don did a little digging and found a big box truck for sale. Not just any truck, either. It's a 26-foot monster that was being sold in a distant town by a furniture company so they could upgrade to a newer model. The price was right, and we had a mechanic friend check it out for soundness. Another friend (a retired professional truck driver) picked it up for us and deposited it at our old place (with the permission of the new owners, of course). Once we're finished using the truck, we'll sell it (doubtless to another person disgusted with U-Haul) and recoup our costs.

So there was the truck, parked at our old house while we transferred title, got insurance, got it registered, paid the taxes, got new license plates, and waited for the weather to cooperate.

Last Sunday, everything came together. We made arrangements with some neighbors to hire their strong teenage children. We left our house at 7 am, drove to Older Daughter's place to drop off Mr. Darcy for the day (where she took him on not one, but two day hikes!), and went down to move some items out of the barn. We were so busy, it didn't even dawn on me to pull out my camera and document the action until we were finished. (As you can see, we'll have to make another trip.)

With the help of so many willing hands -- boy, it was wonderful seeing some of our friends again -- we were actually back on the road sooner than anticipated, which was fine with us. We had a long drive ahead of us and knew the last part of the journey would be in the dark. Don was driving an unfamiliar vehicle. We had a lot on our plate.

The last thing we loaded in the very back of the truck (so they could be unloaded first) were two of our three chest freezers (one mostly empty, one very full). The third (full) freezer will have to wait until the next trip.

We stopped in town to gas up before hitting the highway. I called Older Daughter to let her know we were on our way. As I pulled out of the gas station and tried to roll up the passenger-side window, I heard a horrible grinding noise -- and the window went dead. Oh joy. (Give me old-fashioned hand-crank roll-down windows any day.)

Remember our mantra for moving to a new home: "It's an Adventure." This is just part of the Adventure, right?

So I had to drive for four hours -- stopping to pick up Mr. Darcy -- with the window wide open. In winter. It's an Adventure, yay! Besides, "Could be worse. Could be raining."

After many long and cold hours on the road, we pulled into our driveway. We were exhausted and (in my case) chilled to the bone. The only thing we did before calling it a night was to plug in the freezers.

An advantage of owning this box truck is we're not in a hurry to unload it (except the freezers, of course). Since it's not a rental, we don't have a deadline to return it and can unload it at our leisure.

The next morning, we dealt with the freezers. We removed the contents of the mostly empty one into totes, then moved the empty unit into the barn. Then it was time to tackle the contents of the very full freezer. It took many totes to empty the contents before we were able to move the freezer itself.

This box truck has a lift gate -- and oh what a joy not to have to shove and push and pull heavy items up and down a ramp! We slid the freezer onto the lift gate, and hey presto, it was lowered to the ground. Yeah, I could get used to this.

We put the freezer on a flatbed cart Don made a few months ago, and pulled it around to the back porch.

Then I started sorting the contents. Most of it is beef from the animals we butchered a couple years ago. It's nice to have beef again -- we haven't had any since leaving our old house.

But we had lots of totes filled with meat -- far more, it seemed, than would fit into the porch freezer. Did things multiply on the way home? Time to play Freezer Tetris.

I sorted the meats into rough categories -- ground beef, roasts, steaks. Ground beef was the biggest pile, so I got some boxes and began packing them as tight as I could.

Each box held two layers of meat, and I was able to stack the boxes three deep. Four boxes of ground beef, two boxes of miscellaneous steaks, random roasts as well as a turkey and some pork shoehorned in wherever there was room, and voilà: the freezer was packed to the brim, but in a logical order. I had one small box left over that we put in the freezer in the house refrigerator.

Oddly enough, though we're brand new to this property and nowhere near ready to have farm animals yet, having a freezer full of beef makes us feel less like city slickers.

After all, what farm doesn't play Freezer Tetris once in a while?


  1. I couldn't help but laugh at freezer tetris. We moved our homestead in October from 5 acres in SW WA to 20 in N Idaho.

    We moved freezers full of meat and garden bounty. We had to unload the freezers to get them loaded on to the truck, reload them for the trip, and then unload them again to get the freezers off the truck, then reload them once we got the freezers in place. Somehow in that process I lost a few things. Hoping I don't find rotten tomatillos in the barn come spring time!

    I've enjoyed your posts about moving as we have been going through it also.


  2. Maybe you should keep the truck and rent it (cash) to friends who need to move things. In between, you'd have a truck with a lift gate.

  3. How did Darcy do with Frumpkin?

    1. Older Daughter kept them strictly apart. Frumpkin stayed in the bedroom, Darcy stayed in the living room.

      - Patrice

  4. Is meat from years ago still safe to eat?

    1. Absolutely. It's properly wrapped and has no freezer burn. Defrosted, it's as good as fresh.

      - Patrice

  5. I am with Mr Gorges above about keeping the truck. I did what you did buying a good used cargo van truck like you did many years ago for a move across country as it was cheaper then renting a comparable U haul monstrosity as I too had problems with Uhaul in the past. I am glad I kept it as we ended moving back across country and in between used it for construction material and moving people at the local church and I did rent it out, but me as the driver to again people moving locally. I also used it for storage and it too had a lift gate, that was nice!

  6. We are making a major move in a few months, I am also not crazy about using U-Haul. I can get a Penske, but it is more expensive. Budget does not have any drop off locations in North Dakota,so that isn't an option. If I lived closer to you, I would be tempted to buy your truck.

    1. Linda, have you checked out Enterprise?

      I don't like their Hino trucks with lift gates because they're hard to drive if you wear a shoe size over US 9/UK 10/EU 43.

      The problem is that the steering column isn't recessed into the front panel, but instead sticks out and blocks the area around the brake and accelerator pedals.

      It's especially worse if you're used to driving automatics with both feet.

      Maybe they still have some International trucks for rental, those are usually better than the cheaper models that U-Haul buys.

      But there's another option.

  7. The skinny on DIY rental trucks and why what the Lewis family did may be optimal ...

    U-Haul: lower loading decks, but only the 10 and 14 foot trucks have truly easy to load decks, and the larger trucks are still harder to load even if the decks are lower than their competition.

    Penske: well-maintained trucks, but also higher rates, now at a disadvantage because their standard fleet no longer has lift gates.

    Budget: a mix of trucks that are maintained well enough, but typically do not have lift gates, and the decks seem to be higher than Penske.

    Enterprise: Hino trucks with lift gates are problems to drive for people with larger shoe sizes and/or people who drive automatics with two feet, while International trucks remaining in their fleet are reasonably better despite being a higher break-down risk.

    Cargo vans: they're all pretty much the same in terms of capacity, but Chevy/GM products seem to hold the road better than Ford and the rest, so try to steer the leasing agent toward giving you a Chevy/GM cargo van.

    Buying your own: unless you hold a class A or class B licence (an HGV or large caravan classification for non-US people), forget about anything other than a small box truck with a maximum capacity around 10000 kilos (or 22000 pounds) because of variations in driving licence limits across states.

    Some western states will call you into the weigh station office to see if your driving licence allows for greater weight limits while crossing the state with a DIY rental, giving you an on-the-spot variance.

    I was given one of those when crossing Wyoming with 800 pounds over the Wyoming state limit.

    That may not work as well with a box truck you own, so you'll want to check the weight limits for the states you're crossing through.

    Finally, one remaining option: containers.

    Past 1000 miles, expect somewhere from $3 to $6 per mile for a quarter TEU container shipment, plus there's a typical weight limit of around 9500 kilos (about 21000 pounds) total weight.

    The advantage is that the container company picks up the container, but the disadvantage is that you have to have someone on-site already to receive it. If that's not possible, you may have to pay storage costs for the container at the nearest intermodal facility until you can take delivery.

    But there's another option besides moving trucks.