Sunday, August 24, 2014

Living in the RV: An Update and Commentary

How's that for a dull title?   Dull and to the point.

So, I'm living in the camper full time now.  Have been for 12 days, though 2 of those nights I was working and didn't get to be here.  I'm here now.  I think it's the first I've used my computer in the camper.  I was trying to watch a DVD but it turns out I have to be connected to the damn internet to set up the DVD player on the computer.  Cripes.  I've watched other DVDs but I think those videos were burned as computer files and would not have worked in a DVD player.  These are actual commercial movie DVDs.  Anyway, it ain't a-workin' so I'll work on a blog post that I can put on the interwebs while I'm setting up the damn DVD player.  Maybe tomorrow.

As for now in the camper.  It's been fine.  I don't miss not having electricity.  The LED lights, battery, are fine.  I found cheapo and reasonably ecologically responsible, though not rechargeable batteries at an outdoorsy store the other day and replaced the batteries in my 2 main LEDs and WOW what a difference.  It's like daytime in here at night now.  Still, I'm trying to mostly follow the sun for a schedule.  I just use them to read in bed.  I've only needed them as flashlights one night that was quite cloudy.  Otherwise my eyes adjust to the dark and there is enough moonlight and starlight to get to the composting turlet without a flashlight even if I have to make a run in the wee hours. 

I am missing having a nearby water source.  I'm hauling in water by the gallon in jugs which is fine and most of the world would be delighted to have 10 gallons of clean water at one's disposal at all times.   But, hard to wash produce from the CSA and other things without a spigot and running water.   The sun shower is fine.  The inconvenience is that I live in a draw and the sun goes behind the trees on the west side a couple of hours before actual sunset.  At that point, the water in the sunshower starts to cool.  I've got about a 20 minute window before it's cold enough to be uncomfortable.  When I hit it just right, it's lovely.   It does mean that I don't want to do heavy work that would make me sweaty after the shower.  Right now that's at like 6:30pm.  I'm trying to save making dinner and other non-strenuous activities, but I'm missing quite a few productive hours.  A source of warm water and a shower (so I don't have to sleep sweaty and stinky in the trailer and make the whole place reek of armpits and feet) later in the evening would be nice.

The composting toilet...had a bit of a struggle there.  I don't have the "bulking mix" (peat moss and hemp) from the factory (cost, allergic to hemp) so I had been using straight peat moss.  The turlet started to stink.  The point of the turlet is it is not supposed to stink like an outhouse.   Hmmm....   So I called the company.  I told them I could not use the mix they market due to the hemp so was there something I could do.  Yes...wood shavings like you get for your hamster mixed in with the peat.  2 parts shavings to 1 part peat.   I've been adding just shavings (you add a cup of mix for each #2, or a minimum of 1 cup per day per person using the turlet) at a higher than normal rate until I catch up.  It started stinking less right away.   I also added more of the enzyme that is supposed to "activate the composting process."   I was also having trouble with ... um  ... "material" falling into the lower drawer (that's how the unit is emptied when full) when I did the periodic mixing.  (The whole thing is a rotating drum on a horizontal axis.  There is a door that you line up with the toilet seat.  The door falls open and ideally falls closed as you mix.  Turn the drum the other way to empty and the "material" falls out into the drawer to be emptied as fully composted non-stinky product.)  The nice lady at the composting turlet company said that sometimes the hinges on the door get "clogged" with "material" and have to be scrubbed out with a toothbrush and the enzyme spray.  I, AS A JOKE, said, "I guess that shouldn't be the toothbrush I'm currently using."   She, not getting the joke, replied, "A toothbrush you will never use for anything else.  Ever."   I found one for 50cents.  I had to buy one because MY toothbrush is a handle that little fresh brush heads fit into.  I've kept dozens of used plastic toothbrush handles out of the garbage stream (not much but one does what one can) not to mention the packaging.  I wasn't about to even get the handle anywhere near the "material" clogged hinges.   Now I have a turlet toothbrush.  If you visit, do not get in the bucket with rubber gloves and a yellow toothbrush and use that toothbrush.   Just saying.
After a quick, and icky, scrubbing, I did a test mix and VOILA!  It works!   Now I'm just missing the little rake used to clean out the "material" that might escape the cleanout drawer.   I'm sure something will appear at a thrift store that will be just the ticket.

I'm still considering switching to a simple sawdust bucket toilet after reading "The Humanure Handbook" but so far I haven't taken the plunge.  It does sound simpler, though harder to get past the county permit and health inspectors. 

Cooking at the camper has been interesting.  The stovetop works and it has become clear that I brought too many kitchen items.  I brought maybe 10% of what I had in the single-wide.  Still too much.  I've used the skillet, the tea kettle (for hot water for washing dishes mostly, couple of cups of tea), and a small sauce pan.  I did well with the knives though.  I brought 3.  A Rada paring knife (thanks Sher!), a serrated 5 inch "ginsu" type knife, and a 6 inch chef knife (thanks again Sher).  I also have my filet knife.  I've used the first three every time I've cooked.   Very handy.  The spork I got at "The Silver Spork" in DC is my main eating utensil.  Fun.  (ooo...gorgeous sunset tonight!  pink storm clouds).   I've been eating mostly off an antique enamelware pie plate.  I have other plates but I haven't even bothered getting them out.  I've been doing my mixing in (like for french toast) and eating salads out of an oval GI issue stew plate/bowl thing.    Coffee is made either in my wee bialli style espresso maker (though it had an issue this morning and may need a new gasket), or my french press travel mug. 

I brought 3 thermoses (is that the right plural?)  thinking I'd heat up water in the evening and store it in a thermos so I could wash my face in warm water in the morning.  Haven't bothered.  I have an ice-tea-jar with a spigot on it on the back of the sink.  I fill that with water and it makes for a reasonable faucet for tooth brushing and hand and face washing.   I use "Camp Suds" biodegradable soap for everything so far.  It looks like one small bottle will get me through this time no problem.  For showers and handwashing after using the toilet I put a squeeze bottle, like you'd have dishsoap in,  with mostly water and a bit of the Camp Suds mixed in, near the turlet/shower area (under the west side of the spruce tree) and that's been working just fine.  I couldn't tolerate not washing my hands after I use the toilet.  I have the toilet covered with an old sheet (so the sun doesn't wreck the fiberglass it is made of) and I've been using that as a hand towel.  I had hung a hand towel up there but it kept blowing off the hook/twig.  I'll just wash the sheet like I would the towel.   I do admit that after having to scrub the hinges and otherwise deal with the toilet the other day, I didn't find the squeeze bottle wash very satisfying.  So I walked 10 or 15 minutes to the far north edge of the land, crossed over to the rest stop next door, and used the sink there with hot running water and industrial soap.  The irony is that that industrial non-biodegradable soap will end up in the septic drain field for the rest stop...which is on my land.

That little trip brings us to another fun bit of living here (over all it's fabulous!).  On the way to the rest stop I was walking over the septic drainfield vicinity, which I don't often do.  At the very north edge along the east-west fence on the boundary with neighboring properties...GIANT POO!  Either moose with a mild case of diarrhea from too much fruit, or a bear with a bit of constipation from too much grass.  It looks more like the bear poo in my poo field guide.  But I've seen moose poo at the north west end, and this was the north east end.  Exciting.   On the way back from the rest stop I accidentally flushed a large family of quail!  I added them to my notes in the bird book (Thanks again Sher!) of what I've seen.  There were cedar waxwings eating bugs over the pond the other day too.  Very cool. I haven't identified the humming bird who eats at the feeding hanging off the camper.  I'm sure it's not exotic but I just haven't grabbed the book while it was actually there eating.  It has a surprisingly long beak and isn't very colorful.  Must be a female (due to coloring, not beak format).

Gram and a variety of other relatives got me an excellent wildlife camera with external solar panel back up on the battery.  I first set it up on the island (now peninsula because most of the water is gone) in the pond.  I put it on a milk crate as there wasn't a tree or post.  I set it for motion detection and to take photo every 15 minutes.  I went back a couple of days later and grabbed it to see what I had.   Well, it seems after a couple of hours it fell over.  I had many many photos of blurry ground.   A couple photos of me setting up the camera.  Sigh.  I decided to put the camera somewhere handier while I learned the ins and outs of it.  It's quite a hike to the pond and I didn't want to use up my precious pre-shower-post-work window running after it.  Now it's on the front of the camper on the non-active propane tank.  At last check, I had about a hundred really nice photos of an empty hay field.  I'd like to point it west past the toilet but I don't have anywhere to hang it that wouldn't also shoot me as I use the toilet and shower.  No one wants to see that.    Once I get the hang of it, I may try back up at the north end, or if I can find something to hang it on, I'll point it at the culvert crossing the creek on the east side of the property.  There is plenty of poo on that so I know things are crossing it.  I also know these things are deer but photos of deer would be more interesting than photos of an empty field.

It's 8:07pm and quite dark now.  I think I'll bag it for the evening.  I'm sure I'll wake up at 4am per usual, but such is life on the land.  It's not just that the sun is about to come up and things are getting light at 4am, that's also the time the semi's start going up and down the road again and I don't have much sound isolation from the road here in the camper.  I don't mind though.  It doesn't really matter which 8 hours I sleep as long as I sleep.   The lack of security lights shining in the windows is wonderful!  In the single wide I had 3 layers of dark fabric over the south windows and "room darkening shades" over the east windows and STILL I could practically read without turning a light on.  I was having trouble sleeping.  Not here.  It's dark and the wind and frogs and crickets are quite soothing.  The occasional thumping on the camper weirds me out but so far it's come to nothing.

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