Planning: overnights

Then there’s the question of camping/rent.  Leaving David’s job means living on a lot less.

As such, we’ll be looking for free camping as often as we can.  Our preference is to find lovely forests to camp in, because that’s where we’d like to be anyway.  Sometimes public lands can be found where you can camp for free in the wilderness (sans hookups and amenities) and this is called boondocking.  As in, you’re out in the boondocks.  The government calls it “dispersed camping.”

We’ll do that whenever we can, and it may be a whole lot easier to find such lands when we go west.  I’m not sure how often we’ll score a forest on our trip up the East Coast.

We will also be looking for family farms that will allow us to overnight free and we will happily purchase fresh food from them in the morning. Isn’t this a great idea: Harvest Hosts As much as we will enjoy waking up in forests and going for hikes, we will also enjoy waking up on a family owned working farm!

Sometimes there’s no forest and no farm, and we will be liberally using Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and other such establishments for their free RV parking.  These will not provide a bucolic playland outside our door, but we’ll not spend much time there, perhaps spending dinner at a playground (I can cook while David watches the kids on the swings) and retiring to the giant chain parking lot only when we’re ready to sleep!

Planning: the Drive

We’ll drive 2 – 4 hours per day, but probably not in longer than a 2 hour block. I think this is realistic with the kids. We can drive for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple in the afternoon without anyone feeling like they’ve been in the car all day. In between we’ll go to the park, the library, the grocery store, the laundromat, the zoo, the museum, or Monticello, and any one of those will be an adventure because it’ll never be the same grocery store twice.

We plan to move every day, not staying anywhere more than one night, but because we might move only two hours down the road, I hope that we will still find ourselves feeling unhurried and getting a good feel for the places we pass through.  This maiden voyage will last just a few months, after which we will undoubtedly have learned a lot about:

  • whether we like living in an RV
  • how far we’re comfortable moving at a time
  • how often we want to move
  • what kind of roads we’re interested in traveling on
  • what kind of campgrounds we prefer
  • how to find campgrounds
  • how to find vegetable oil
  • what kind of foods/style of cooking lend themselves to our lifestyle

After learning all those things, we will be able to plan our next trip accordingly!

It’s a . . . baby!

Sorry to have been silent for so long. You may have guessed, but I had a baby! That was more than two weeks ago, and it’s taken me this long to have any thought to spare for blogging!

But while blogging was on hiatus, our free range dreams were not. We’re closer than ever to the getting on the road!

First, here’s where you can find the birth story. I posted it on my other blog for consistency because my previous two birth stories are already there. Let me just briefly note here that we had a wonderful homebirth and a wonderful baby and I’m amazed every day that life is so good and wondrous!

With that out of the way, I can plunge ahead with our plans to get on the road. Here’s how things are developing:

  • David’s CD was released in April and he had his CD Release Party (hopefully I’ll get a chance to blog about that here soon)
  • We’ve officially decided to tour up the east coast (from Florida to Maine)
  • David gave notice that he will be leaving his job in the next three to six weeks

Benny needs:

  • a roof vent cover replaced (ours broke, and now we have to put a garbage bag over the opening when it rains—tre ghetto!)
  • a funny sound investigated and resolved
  • a fan to blow on the kids while we’re driving (and ideally one we can use when we’re parked, too, but not plugged in)
  • duvet covers(!) for the beds instead of the two-piece sheet/comforter set up we have now—for ease of making beds and converting the kids bed into benches for car seats!
  • A metal box built on the back to hold the 55 gallon drum we have acquired for storing MORE VEGGIE OIL (yay) and tools that David can use to make us some money while on the road
  • Oh, and it would be awfully nice if we could get the fan over the range fixed too.
  • propane detector installed
  • light bulbs switched out for LED
  • leak in storage compartment fixed so we can, you know, store stuff in it
  • water filter for drinking water

Benny’s so cool—I love him!

Other:

  • move completely into RV (which means figuring out where everything fits…and what just doesn’t)
  • empty house (which involves storage, selling things, and calling Goodwill)
  • rent or sell house (but we’ve got a property manager coming on board this month and this falls to him now)
  • buy PA for gigging that actually fits in our available storage
  • change address for my baby wrap business
  • change address with the post office
  • cancel all subscriptions (including Netflix)
  • arrange for mail forwarding (a la David’s parents, mostly)
  • book tour and plan route (in progress—and more fun than most of the chores on the list)
  • sell David’s work van
  • pay insurance on Benny for year
  • prepay phone/internet service
  • find smaller bread machine

Sadly, solar panels are not going to be purchased prior to our departure. We just can’t keep waiting to go, so we’re going and if we find a way to get solar panels we will, but we’re going regardless!

Our plan is to go up and then back down the east coast for a few months, possibly returning to see family and friends in Florida in September for Ada’s seventh birthday. Then we’ll want to head west, but planning that would be getting ahead of ourselves. One thing (or the hundred things listed above) at a time, you know?

More soon, Diana

Handwashing Laundry

Yesterday I received birthday presents from my family, and they were kind enough to get me just what I asked for: new toys for the new RV life.

While my sister makes fun of me for my list of practical items, I was seriously stoked.  These are the tools I’m using to build my new dream-chasing life.  They’re my baby steps to leaving behind bourgeoisie mediocrity.  I nearly jumped for joy as I opened them!

I couldn’t wait to do laundry!  This was the first time, so I don’t know what load size will be optimum, or how long a day’s worth of laundry will take me, but we did the trial run with five flat diapers and about as many cloth wipes, plus one cloth liner.

My parents thoughtfully provided a 5 gallon bucket with the breathing mobile washer, and we put it in the bathtub to contain splashes.    With only a couple gallons of water, nothing splashed out so now I know we don’t need the bathtub precaution, or a lid with a hole in it (which I thought we might want).

Putting the six year old to work.

I used four soap nuts, which is what I use in our washing machine.  I don’t know of anyone who has combined these two uncommon laundry methods–soapnuts and hand washing–but I love my soapnuts and don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t work.  In fact, the combo seemed to be a great success.  After a minute or two of plunging, the formerly strongly smelling cloth smelled clean and pure!

I emptied the water from the bucket and filled it with rinse water.  I’m not sure that this will be necessary with soap nuts for detergent.  Soap nuts do not leave any residue in the cloth that needs to be rinsed out, and as I said, the laundry was already smelling like a spring morning.  The water I dumped out was dirty.  After doing a rinse cycle (just another minute of plunging in the fresh water), I emptied the bucket again and this water appeared to be clean.

For those who want a better idea of how this device works, here’s a YouTube video:

Next I searched for a place to use the spin dryer.  I intended to put it in the bathtub, too, but the cord wouldn’t reach an outlet from there.  The spin dryer spits out water, which is why I thought to use it in the tub.  We eventually settled on the kitchen counter as the perfect location, with the empty tube hanging down into the sink.  It was easy enough to transfer the wet diapers to the spinner–I squeezed the water out first, which in retrospect I think was unnecessary because the spinner is equipped to handle water.  Set the timer for two minutes, and the thing turned on, releasing astonishing amounts of water into the sink, and humming a pleasant, quiet hum.

The diapers came out damp and I hung them over the shower curtain to finish drying.  They definitely aren’t dripping–the spinner did a great job and if there was any sun today, I’m sure I could have had them completely dry in 10 or 20 minutes outside.

So, I’m happy with the equipment.  The plunger shaped washer unscrews so that the base and the stick can be stored separately–nice feature for a gal moving into a 22′ home.

The spinner is tiny, but for our new home it’s kind of huge (18 inches tall).  I’m not sure where we’re going to keep it but I’m pretty sure it will be an invaluable part of our routine and worth making room for.  I don’t know of any of our cabinets it will fit in, except maybe the closet, but as the tiny closet is our only clothes storage, it will probably be full of clothes.  The spinner might fit under one of the bench seats at the dinette (each seat opens up like a chest for storage), but with vegetable oil collecting equipment in one seat, and my plans to store baby wrap inventory in the second, I don’t know about that.  It may be that the spinner lives in our shower (which we will not be using so often), and when we need the shower we’ll have to take the spinner out and set it on the floor/bed/table/kitchen counter.

With the spinner taking up so much room, I don’t know that we’ll have space for a five gallon bucket to wash in.  The 5 gallon bucket is about as big as the spinner (and, no, the spinner does not conveniently fit inside).  Maybe a smaller bucket (which might need a lid with a hole to contain splashes) would suffice and could be stored under the bathroom sink.  Or maybe the five gallon bucket could be secured to the outside of the motorhome somehow, being light when empty and durable in that plastic bucket kind of way.  Our shower has a little square bathtub which would work great instead of a bucket, but then there’s no easy way to dispose of the wash water without filling up our gray water tank, and I liked the idea of avoiding that since we’ll be boondocking a lot and not want to have to dump any more often than necessary.  Further brainstorming is required here.

For drying diapers and clothes after washing, I plan to get an outdoor clothesline and an indoor one for when we can’t hang outside.  We may attach a retracting clothesline to the outside of the motorhome that can be pulled out to hook onto a friendly nearby tree.    The indoor clothesline solution might be a simple tension rod in the shower (and the shower rod itself as a second drying rack since the clothes will not be dripping), or something snazzier like this telescoping rack.  So many possibilities.

Now that I’ve used my new laundry supplies, I’m thinking that once we’re on the road, it might work well to do laundry once a day, and that our trips to the laundromat will be infrequent indeed.  Every day may sound like a lot of work, but both the washer and spinner are so quick and effective, that I think even several loads could be accomplished without too great a time outlay, and by keeping up every day, we’ll not have the problem of storing dirty laundry, and we can get away with fewer changes of clothes–both important in our tiny home.

I should also mention that I don’t expect to wash everything we wore each day.  I’m a believer in re-wearing clothes if they don’t look or smell dirty.  Undergarments excepted.  Especially the bulkier items that would fill up a load in my new washing/drying system, can be re-used (thinking jeans here).  So the daily laundry would likely be a few loads of diapers (we’ll have two in diapers but the flats we use are not bulky, the wool covers do not need to be washed daily, and we practice elimination communication with our babies, which reduces the number of diapers we go through), a load of clothes including underwear/socks and some shirts, and maybe another load of rags (we don’t use papertowels or napkins).

I’m pretty happy to find a laundry solution that is:

  • more convenient than a laundromat
  • more sanitary than a laundromat (and free from scents/chemicals)
  • faster than conventional washers/dryers
  • lighter on the planet than conventional laundry methods (much less water, much less energy)
  • cheap and
  • compatible with our low-electric needs since we plan to rely on solar for most of our energy

Taking a big breath…and letting go.

house under the oaks

The stress of trying to arrange for an estate sale was too much for me, so I let it go and have been giving our things away.  I’ve found that there is a greater benefit to this decision than I knew:

We’re letting go of the an accumulation stage of our lives.  We’re saying, “Nah, we don’t need things,” and, “That IS beautiful–I’m glad I got to see it but I don’t need to own it.”  We’re saying, “I don’t need more than five outfits–it’s easier to keep up with laundry this way.”

Selling our possessions is still granting them too much importance.  It is letting them continue to loom large in our lives, hearts, and pocketbooks.  It is still living life in accordance with ownership.

Giving them away is much more in the spirit of this great endeavor we are embarking upon.  Giving them away says that possessions are useful to those who use them, and we begrudge them to no one.  It says that we are open to things (material and ideological) flowing in and out of our lives unhindered by sometimes-irrational emotional ties.

I also figure the karma is bound to prepare us for a life of needing and using little, and relying on being able to conjure up what we do need as we need it.   Letting our things go out into the world, creates a world where things can flow to and from us more easily.  Being less greedy makes it possible for us to have things more easily.

Practically speaking?  We have lots of expenses to cover in preparation for this trip.  Wouldn’t selling our things help get our solar array?  Yes.  But it’s not worth it.  We will just have to get our solar array without hoarding and haggling.

I’m struggling now to figure out how to apply this newfound release (and relaxation) to our house.  Debt is always a complicating factor, and that’s the problem with the house–we owe as much, or more than, it’s worth.  How do we release the house when it is tied to obligation?  We looked into selling it, but it doesn’t seem like we can get enough to pay it off.  So we’re looking into renting it, which is not our preference because we want to be cut free from the ownership of it.  We want to not be collecting money from it, and paying money out on it.  We want to not know or care if something broke, or even whether the trees are fruiting.  We have other things to rest our attentions and intentions upon now and we’re ready for a different game.

Yet, the debt, and the house remain.  It is a beautiful house, that I would dearly regret letting go if I wasn’t so excited about letting go.  We got married on the lawn surrounded by the people dearest to us.  Our daughters were born in the house.  We built half the house ourselves, painted fanciful murals and details, tiled imaginative and personal mosaics, planted blooming vines that have flourished…

And now that I am finding it so easy to let go, I can appreciate the house, and the memories, without any urge to hold onto the physical markers of those things.  I have my husband, my marriage, and my children.  The place where wonderful things happened–and whether or not we keep it–is not nearly so relevant to the wonderful things themselves as it used to seem.

While I contemplate how to release the house, debt and all, I invite anyone looking for a love-filled family home to consider buying or renting ours, seen here: http://www.wrapyourbaby.com/house/details.html

And anyone who has advice or words of encouragement–always welcome!  Please comment with your insight.  I could use some right now.

Progress!

Getting rid of stuff–or dekludging, as we call it–happened to an actual perceivable degree this weekend.  You see, Sunday was my birthday and what did I want?  LESS stuff!  My darling husband obliged by taking a day off from the giant mess of things we always have to get done, and just sorted and boxed things instead.

dekludging

Then he took stuff to charity.  I should have counted the boxes.  At least two big boxes, several littler ones, and random objects like a stool, a rug, a box fan, a globe…all gone!

I want to run with this momentum.  If I can get a couple more boxes filled, I can have someone pick them up, and maybe take some furniture too.

We’ve been reluctant to get rid of things like the couch until we’re really moved out, because why not leave the creature comforts until we’re done with them.  But I’m beginning to realize that we’ll never be moved out until we do get rid of them!  I want to give away the couch, our big livingroom chair, and an old beat up but cool organ.  We’ll see if I go through with it.

I have some things boxed up that I foolishly boxed in our plastic lidded boxes.  Well, we may need to keep the boxes, though I want to give away their contents.  Good planning, right?  So I have a box of Christmas ornaments to re-box, and a box of kitchen items.

I decided I would be fine not toting Christmas decorations around (or storing them).  I thought, what a nice tradition it will be to make new ornaments with the kids each year.  Popcorn strands and cranberry garlands, orange slice ornaments, paper snowflakes…

I still love that idea, a way to fill up our Decembers with productive Christmas activity.  But we also discovered that we have some ornaments we just don’t want to give up.  Things made by David and his sister as children.  Some passed down from my grandmother.  And some ornaments gifted by my mother or which we got ourselves over the past seven years since we became a family that commemorate various times or occasions of our life together.  So we have a small box of Christmas ornaments to store and the rest are outa here!

The Things That Own You

The world has to learn that the actual pleasure derived from material things is of rather low quality on the whole and less even in quantity than it looks to those who have not tried it.  – Oliver Wendell Holmes

stuff piled up to go

Wow, I’ve had a rough week.  I feel positively weighed down by the stuff in this house, and everyday I make huge efforts towards getting rid of it and it hardly seems to make a dent.

And I wondered, why is this so hard?  Shouldn’t I feel lighter everyday that the weight of my possessions is lighter?  Shouldn’t this exercise leave me feeling buoyant and free?

Do you know what I think the problem is?  I think the things are clinging to me.  I have no problem letting them go, but they are not so easy to convince.  In embarking on this plan to eliminate the stuff, I have opened up a can of worms.  I am up to my elbows in things I don’t want, and whereas their weight has been sitting on the floor of my closets up until the present, now their weight is in my arms and on my shoulders.  I feel like the Shell Silverstein character: ah, heck, it’s up to my neck!

I think this is the natural resistance of chaos to simplicity.  I think I have to stay strong and keep my saber swinging to and fro through the thick jungle of it all until suddenly I will find myself in a peaceful meadow and the job will be done.

One decision I’ve made to help myself in this task is to forgo the estate sale.  We’re going the goodwill route (as in, you provide a big truck, and we will give you all our things).  For me, at this point in my life and times (and pregnancy), the effort of getting rid of things without getting them out of the house, while placing value on them (in the form of price stickers), and getting them cleaned up and sorted, without my kids breaking, removing, or playing with them, was just an impossibility.  Do you know how much easier it is to say, “I don’t need this, I don’t need this, I don’t need this…” as you toss things higgeldy-piggeldy into a cardboard box?

There are some big ticket items that we plan to sell on Craigslist because it’s hard not to try to recoup something out of this mess, especially when we haven’t bought the solar panels for our motorhome yet!

And the biggest task lying in wait for me is paperwork:  filing cabinets full, baskets brimming over, piles and stacks, and random particles that have drifted down to form a blanket of forms, envelopes, reminders, invitations, coupons, receipts and records on the floor.

For inspiration, here are some people’s ideas and suggestions in dealing with the dilemna of stuff:

100 things challenge

insight from a minimalist

Cloth Diapers On the Road

Question: are you crazy to move into a 22 foot motorhome with cloth diapers for two and no washer/dryer?!

Answer: yes

But here’s the plan: First, I am switching to flat diapers in preparation for our newborn-to-be.

flat diaper vrs fitted diaper
Flat diaper, compared to a fitted diaper that we have been using.

I love flat diapers for several reasons:

  • they are super cheap
  • they take up very little room
  • they are a cinch to wash
  • they dry if you look at them hard
  • they are one-size-fits-all
  • they are old-fashioned

It will be easy to wash wet diapers in the sink or at a campground and hang dry them inside of an hour to use again.  In this way, we will not get too desperate for a laundromat.

Both babies will use the same diapers so there will be no need to store them separately.

Storage space will be much less than with fluffy prefolds, fitteds, pockets, or all-in-one diapers.

Many, many flat diapers will fit into the zippered hanging wetbag that will be our diaper pail.

We use only wool covers, which are re-used again and again without washing due to wool’s amazing properties.  When they do need to be washed, I will hand wash them in the sink/a bucket/the tub.

Concerned that I am using a public laundry facility to wash cloth diapers?  I am too, a little.  Baby bottoms are so pure and sensitive, and it is important to me that only clean cotton be used to cover bottoms and genitals–that’s one reason why we cloth diaper in the first place!

So, while I have no worries about the cleanliness of my diaper washing routine (the diapers come out perfectly sanitary and so do the machines), I am used to having my own washer and not having to worry about the cleanliness of the other users!

I plan to use vinegar in each wash as a disinfectant against what might be lurking in the machine.  I will use baking soda as a deodorant in hopes that it will counteract any residual scented detergent.   And I will take comfort in knowing that flat diapers are so thin that they do not hold onto bacteria or chemicals, but wash out very thoroughly.

I will dry on high heat as an extra precaution, nonetheless.  Flat diapers can take that kind of treatment.

Toddler wearing a flat diaper with snappi.
So cute in cloth!
Rear view of the flat diaper.
Rear view of the flat diaper.

Bartering for Laptops

new (used) laptop

One of the things keeping us from moving out of the house and into Benny is the fact that our desktop computer and our projector and giant movie screen are in the house.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit that such modern, technological luxuries have kept us from our tiny-house dream, but, well, we like a movie before bed at night–it’s our way to relax when the children have been put away…

Movies aside, a laptop computer is a necessity for our new lifestyle because we rely on a computer for most of our income, correspondence, and planning, and there is just nowhere for a desktop to find a home in our new home.

So we’ve been researching laptops.  After reading an article about the poisonous side effects of computers both in the manufacture and disposal, we were committed to finding a used laptop so as not to add to the nasty mire, so that–at least this time–we would not be personally contributing to the terrible situation.

Well, David did some renovation work for a friend on Saturday, and mentioned our laptop search.  Turns out his friend has two laptops he has replaced and would love to trade them to David for the work he’s doing on the house.  Two laptops that are great for our purposes (including one with a big screen perfect for watching movies), with some beautiful, cushy laptop cases thrown in to boot!  And we bartered for them, which always makes me happy.

nice laptop case
Nice case, right?

Driving the MotorHome Around Town

*I wrote this on 26 January, but it didn’t get posted until now–documents my first driving experiences with Benny*

mirror view

It’s true, we plan to fulltime in the motorhome without a toad, or pulled (towed) car.  That means that we will use our motorhome for all of our errands, grocery shopping, and any other getting around.

I’m getting plenty of practice.  We transferred the registration from my car, to Benny the Brave, which means Benny is now my only means of transportation.  I learned to drive it this weekend.

Monday I drove to the health food store.  I drove around the parking lot until I found two empty spots, back to back.  Benny fits in the width of one parking space but is just a couple of feet too long.  So I usually center the vehicle with the front in one spot and the back in another.  Also saves me from having to back up when I leave, which would not be safe in a busy parking lot without someone to guide me.

Benny also takes up the full width of the parking spots, so squeezing in between two parked cars would not be easy, nor appreciated by the owners of those cars when they returned.  So I look for two spots front to back, and space on both sides.  Grocery stores usually have plenty of wide open spots in the back of the lot.  Maybe I won’t go to the mall on Black Friday, though.

The drive was so easy and comfortable that on the way home from the health food store we stopped at the Salvation Army to look for wooden plates and metal cups (I want our dishes to be not-delicate, and not-plastic).  Most of the parking is only one space deep (we wouldn’t fit) but behind the building are several unused spots and I just pulled into them horizontally, making sure I had room to pull forward when we were ready to leave.  No problem!

Tuesday we stopped to mail a wrap to a customer at our tiny corner gift-store/post office.  They definitely don’t have parking to accommodate Benny, but across the tiny residential street is an unused storage building with plenty of open paved space.  I just pulled right onto the paved space which is sort of like the shoulder of the road.  Trotted across the street to the post office, then back to Benny where I could have pulled forward to leave, but because I wanted to head in the opposite direction, I did a tight little U-turn that Benny is remarkably good at.

Benny parked
Parked at vacant business across from Post Office.

Then we headed for Goodwill, hoping to find what we hadn’t found at the Salvation Army the day before.  Goodwill is in a shopping center and it was easy to find a pull through spot (2 spots, really) near the rear of the parking lot.

Today (Wednesday), I drove to my weekly Moms Group which takes place at a church.  I almost parked in the corner, where I felt we would be out of the way, and then remembered the no-backing-out-if-possible rule.  I circled around and found a double spot near the back where I’d be able to pull forward and out when it was time to go.

After Moms Circle, I headed to the bank to deposit some cash.  Totally forgot I wouldn’t fit in the drive through.  I circled the building optimistically hoping to use the ATM for my deposit but it had a little roof too.  I realize now I could have just parked a yard out from the ATM and hopped out the drivers door to do my business, but at the time it didn’t occur to me, so instead I parked at the grocery store next door.  I was planning to go there next, anyway.  Then I trotted across to the bank and made my deposit inside at the counter, then went over to the grocery store.

What I didn’t think about when parking at the grocery store was that pulling through the two front to back spaces had me facing the wrong way when I pulled forward to leave.  This parking lot had the diagonal spaces where each row is supposed to be one way traffic.  Of course, it’s not a big deal when you’re in a sedan to go down the wrong way, but with Benny’s bulk I didn’t want to block up the passage.  However, there were no cars parked on either side of me and this made it easy to pull out and turn back in the correct direction (a partial u-turn) to leave.  I’ll remember to be more careful with diagonal spots, and park where there are very few cars around to give myself plenty of maneuvering room.

Next learning experience, when leaving the grocery store’s parking lot, I drove around a bank in the same lot, as it looked like the way around the smaller building would be more straightforward and clear of traffic on my way out to the street.  Unfortunately, the far side of the bank was a drive-through with a roof, and no way to go around it.  I had to back into a parking spot to turn around and go another way.  Luckily, the parking lot was not full or busy!  From this I resolved not to go around buildings that I didn’t have to, if I didn’t know for sure what was on the other side!

So, learning more every day, but so far nothing nerve-wracking has come up.  Benny isn’t so hard to drive.  In fact, he’s a really fun drive, with a great view.  And it feels nice to have so much space (our whole house!) around us in the “car” instead of walls and ceilings so close together.