Monday, May 18, 2009

Portland Update

Hi all! Here's our new spot in Portland... doesn't she look purdy? We've neglected to update our bus blog lately, but only because our new town is so distracting! There is so much going on here and we are having a blast so far.

We're super excited about our new spot. Erin has a sweet sewing studio in the house, we put a garden in the backyard, and we get to play with our housemate's dog all the time. It was a tight squeeze getting her backed in there for sure, but Erin kept her cool while we blocked traffic for an hour or so. :)

Anyway, just wanted to give a quick update to let you all know we are alive and well enjoying the Spring changes here in PDX. Our neighborhood is chock-full of hidden rigs, so stay tuned for an Alberta Arts District bus tour!

Much love,

Friday, March 13, 2009

Paint Job Possibilities!

We want to paint the bus soon!

I was out there yesterday spray painting over the final vestiges of "MILO ADVENTIST ACADEMY" and "M.A.A." because I was sick of looking at it. Turns out WD-40 is killer for taking the adhesive nasties off our bus. I used it earlier when some duct tape left marks on the side of our bus...not sure how eco it is...I'm guessing not very...but it definitely works.

Ok, don't laugh at my silly photoshop drawings. It's REALLY HARD to freehand on that thing!!!! I'm going for a victorian thing here. But it ended up looking more gypsy than victorian. Go figure. The blue/red/yellow thing may also get a shot of green at some point. I think that would really cement the period look of it.

So this is the panel we'd like to do in the rear arch....(she is Luna, after all!)

One extending down to the ground....note the sun panel in the front!

Another option....just a blue stripe with some accent stripes. Paint is *expensive* after all. This is the "economy" option. The guy at the paint shop recommended spray paint for this endeavor...more research to be done. If we do use the kind of spray paint we were looking at, just the stripe would set us back $75-$80. I'm guessing I would do the sun in acrylics and seal it with something? We don't have the money just yet one way or the other so this is all speculative. In any event, the economy paint job could always lead into other paint jobs down the road.....exhibit A:

Here's the serous paint job. The investment paint job. I would need a team of hippies to make this one happen....which might be possible this summer.

In the end, I think we're going to start with the sun and moon and go from there. We are hoping to go and camp outside the Dead and the Allman Brothers at the Gorge Ampitheater this May (WOOOO!) and I'd like to put a little bling on the bus before this very exciting event. However, if we can't get the veg conversion done by then, we estimate gas from Portland to the Gorge to be $165 round trip. Plus $45 camping. (Plus waaaay too much money for tickets. Hence camping outside.) Several friends may be coming, too, which would cut costs but this rate we don't have the money.

BUT Julia has two job interviews this week!!!!!!! Fingers crossed!!!!!!!

<3 <3 <3

Love to all out there!


Monday, March 9, 2009

Moving to Portland!

Hi all - many changes are afoot. Last time we posted, we were tucked away in the Santa Cruz hinterlands... but since then we've decided to change scenery and move to Portland!!

Staying in Santa Cruz was wonderful and I think it was exactly what we needed to get re-oriented and figure out which direction we wanted to go in. We were blessed to be staying with a group of wonderful folks in Bonny Doon who gave an unexpected and grand send-off with much love, farm-fresh eggs, flowers and pastries. Thanks guys, you're wonderful!

Erin and I are super excited to be moving to Portland - it just seems like it will be a hub of the kind of activities we want to get involved with. DIY and crafting, sustainability and community organizing, etc.

Anyway, we drove our bus up the 101 a few days ago. We took about three days to come up and got to revisit some of our favorite spots that we discovered on our last trip some months ago. It was interested to see how the landscape has changed from peak summer to winter.

We re-visited our favorite free campsite called Madrona along the Smith River and Hwy. 199. This is where we had our magical encounter with our house-bus inspiration Michael.

The river was about 3 times as full as last time and it was roaring!

Oh! Another exciting bus modification happened. While at our stop-over in Santa Rosa, I think we fixed our leaking window issues once and for all. The answer...


Here's a pic of Erin's latest temporary interior decorating masterpiece. We've been doing a lot of insulating with that foil covered bubble wrap insulation called reflectix so there's been a lot of silver to cover up.

Anyway, we're now in Eugene and we're planning on moving our bus up to Portland any day now. We found a couple of really awesome houses to park at up there and we're just trying to decide which one to go for.

We're excited for our move and will update again soon when we get settled. Love to everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Storms, leveling and tarps

It all started with this...

Back at our old spot in the Santa Cruz mountains, we knew we had some bus-leveling to do. This time we decided to try a new tactic: digging out underneath the tire (as opposed to rolling onto boards or using a bottle jack). It was working great until we discovered that we had dug just a little too deep and were un-level the other way!

So we fell back to the tried and true rolling method:

We got it pretty much just level enough, unnoticeable on the inside. Last time we were here, we discovered that at the particular angle our bus was at, when it rained, the water dripped right onto the deteriorating window seal. This of course caused the epic flooding of a few months ago. We caulked that side up good and tight. Lesson #247: never postpone finishing a job. We didn't caulk the other side of our bus at that time because we knew that we would be coming back to this spot with that particular angle..... but now, of course, with our "superior" leveling we're tilted just slightly the OTHER way!

So the inevitable:

Erin's mom was a genius and suggested we use a clear tarp to cover our solar panels so that we wouldn't lose precious battery charging. But, without grommet holes, it makes it a bit tricky to secure. Hence our highly evolved tarping/bungie/weight method.

Anyway, it is an ongoing challenge to keep our little abode dry. Other water issues we've been battling of late include increased condensation on the metal interior, a non-draining grey water hose (cheap hoses apparently stay permanently kinked), wet firewood, etc. Wish us luck with the forecasted 60 mph winds tonight... I can't wait for Spring!

A few other exciting developments:

Since we have access to a bathroom where we are parked right now, we decided to convert our bathroom to a closet (temporarily)! Woo.

Erin finally fixed our range fan and mounted this sexy switch.

Stay tuned for furniture renovations in the near future.

- Julia

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tips on living without refrigeration

We're back in Santa Cruz, tucked away in a lovely mountain nook, working out kinks in our home on wheels, looking for work, and trying to plan deep into the future (with variable success).

We have exciting bus project updates to share, but that will have to wait until we actually get around to taking some pictures. In the meanwhile, I thought I'd share a few tips about living without refrigeration, for anyone else out there who might be curious about the possibilities.

Our experiment with non-refrigeration actually started by accident. When we arrived in California about five months ago, we were horrified to discover that block ice costs about twice as much down here than in Oregon. Ack! It's about $5-6 dollars for two ice blocks here, which run out in about 3 days. That realization coupled with with a 30 min - 1 hr city bus ride home (with leaking ice all over the bus floor) made it just a little too inconvenient and pricey.

Luckily, we discovered that if you are a bit more discerning in your purchases and put a little more planning into your meals, you can most definitely do without a fridge! The main change that has to take place is giving up some sweet luxury (yet perishable) food items. The main foods we have to do without are milk, yogurt, and extra soft cheeses like cream cheese. Jelly and jam also doesn't last that long before it starts growing mold, but you might have a couple days of jelly overdose.

I think it also goes without saying that they'll be no frozen food items or ice cream either, at least not on a regular basis. Boo.

It turns out that eggs and butter are pretty much good to go for quite a long while at room temp. Of course if it gets really hot, you may have melted butter everywhere, so be warned. Also, hard cheeses like cheddar last a while too (maybe about a week?). Plus, you can always cut off any suspicious looking parts. Foods preserved in vinegar like capers, kalamata olives and pickles seem to be ok without refrigeration after opening. Mustard too. Your nose and eyes are key allies in rooting out any possible spoilage.

If you've really got to have a spot of milk in your tea, or in a bowl of cereal, dried milk works just fine. It may not be the most tasty, but it does the job. Plus, you don't have to feel too deprived, because you can still buy such perishable items, you just have to make sure you eat them FAST! For example, I recommend the single serving containers of yogurt for a treat. Pre-made salad dressing might not do so well, but a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar is all you really need!

Vegetables will last a long while too, and with a little fore-planning, non-refrigeration won't be an issue for them either. Lettuces and leafy greens probably wilt the fastest, so make sure you just get enough for a few days to a week at a time. I have found that actual heads of lettuce last longer than those bags of mixed greens. Beets and cabbage are especially good at staying fresh without refrigeration. Again, the trick is to just keep an eye on them, and eat your foods in a timely manner. Keeping veggies in a cooler part of your house can also help - we have started keeping our veggies in a bag/box under the bed, which seems to always stay very cold.

The last thing to consider is left overs. This doesn't have to be a major problem either. Instead of making enough food to last a week, we tend to make enough beans/rice/veggies to last about 2-3 days, which seems to work fine.

Come summer-time when our entire bus becomes an oven, our non-refrigeration scheme may not hold up as much. We'll have to see.

I'm sure there's many more tricks to this, so if anyone has anything to share, we'd love to hear it!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Buses, Biofuels and Climate Change

I just finished reading Vandana Shiva’s book Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis. Shiva’s work has been an inspiration to me ever since I read her book about ecofeminism. Her writings talk about science, sustainability, economic theory, social justice, and feminism in an accessible and articulate way – for anyone interested in these topics, I highly recommend her work!

The issue of global warming has been on my mind for some time now. Pondering the immense changes that humanity now faces sometimes makes me feel paralyzed – there’s just so much to be done! For myself, I have found it productive to think of the climate crisis as an opportunity towards community transition to sustainability.

I am often dismayed by the popular solutions to this issue, like nuclear energy, carbon trading, and geo-engineering. Shiva’s book reaffirmed for me the need to break out of the limited choices put before us by the corporate establishment – we must continue to seek our own answers that are rooted in re-localization, self-reliance, and resiliency.

The whole point of this post was to actually talk about biofuels, since it directly relates to skoolies! When Erin and I first grasped upon the idea that we too could convert and live in a bus some three or so years ago, doing a WVO-conversion on our diesel engine was a key component. In fact, we decided early on that in making the choice to fully enjoy the benefits of living in a rolling home, it was essential to take the necessary steps to ensure that our choice impacted the environment as little as possible (especially since the automotive and construction industries are both notorious polluters).

Our plan has always been to do a full conversion so that we can run our bus on straight veggie oil. However, we've always wanted to leave the option open to use biodiesel too. It might be encouraging to read about how nations around the world are starting promote biofuels as a means to curb global warming. I am realizing, though, that it is becoming more important than ever to make a distinction between local, sustainably-produced biofuels and the growing global industrial biofuel industry. It turns out that industrial biofuel production actually continues to jeopardize people's food and water security and the planet's ecosystems and climate.

Industrial biofuel production requires deforestation and the conversion of lands used to produce food to fuel. It is heavily reliant on monoculture and genetically modified crops that in the end destroy biodiverstiy and serve to benefit large corporations, not small farmers. These crops require massive inputs of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, water, and fossil fuel itself. Industrial biofuels maintain a car-centered infrastructure, contributing little to fuel efficiency or more sustainably designed communities

When faced with such facts, it's hard to know which direction to take. I think we all desire to limit our contribution to pollution and global warming as we drive to work or visit our friends and relatives (or travel in our housebus!). But we also want to support real, long-term solutions to the converging crises humanity now faces.

Industrial biofuels are not a solution to global warming. They are a means for the automotive and agribusiness industries – those most responsible for the climate crisis – to continue to pollute and expand their profits.

I feel the key concepts here are decentralization, local community control, ecological biodiversity, and a resiliency rooted in diversity. I am excited to participate in ongoing conversations about how to foster this kind of energy program, especially with other bus-folks who may be thinking similar things! Obviously, addressing the question of energy and biofuels cannot be an isolated endeavor, but must be integrated in the full dynamics of sustainable community transition.

Onward to exciting vagabond DIY energy adventures!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bus Project Brainstorm

Now that Holiday Market is over and Erin and I are finally starting to come out of our recuperative period, we've been dreaming a lot about all the exciting things we want to accomplish on our bus! Though we haven't had time quite yet to delve in (besides tidying and cleaning), we have a pretty extensive list of projects that we'll be undertaking in the near future.

Up until leaving Eugene, our main focus was getting the "main systems" in place - making her a functioning living space. Now that we've had a chance to really live in our bus full-time and travel a bit, we're about ready to start the "tricking out" process. Well, before that actually, there's still a few function issues to be smoothed out, as I expect there'll always be. To get us started, I thought I would share our rough brainstorm of the projects at hand. In no particular order:

  • Tile around wood stove and on kitchen counter - we're ready to replace all that grey Wonderboard with some color and texture! Plus, I think our bare wood kitchen counter has about had it from all the sudsy water from the sink, uck. While in Santa Rosa, we scored some sweet recycled tile at the local ReStore perfect for the project.
  • Fix range/oven issues - the range fan still needs to be tweaked and the oven is mysteriously not working either.
  • Install our 3-way mini fridge we scored at Bring - this project probably won't happen for a while since our fridge is in Oregon and we are now in California. Interestingly, we've pretty much been living without refrigeration completely this winter. All it takes is not buying milk and eating your veggies pretty soon after you buy them! We'll see how that goes come summer-time though...
  • Extend couch - we've been re-designing our whole living room zone. We took out the sewing table corner and are changing the space up in exciting ways. Making the couch zone more comfy is a key ingredient of this.
  • Carpentry finishing work - this includes putting some sweet doors on our cabinets to start, but also finishing all those rough edges to our novice and hasty construction job. Also, we still have that pile of recycled hardwood oak flooring we want to put down! Other small jobs like making our kitchen table a few inches shorter, putting up a few more shelves, the list goes on...
  • Re-design clothing closet system - we've realized that two people actually need quite a decent amount of space to store their clothes. The main thing we are lacking is some kind of closet rod to hang our jackets and some precious garments of Erin's... but where??
  • Re-vamp some electrical kinks - this involves installing a DC plug so we can charge our computer more efficiently, rigging up a sweet stereo system, finally covering up all our dangling wires, perhaps investigating some new lighting fixtures and/or investment in a strand of 12v LED lights to make it super cozy.
  • Finish ceiling details - our bus-friend Michael that we met on the Smith River had ingeniously used a cloth tapestry as a ceiling covering (instead of paint or wood, etc.) This is a very exciting idea for such a fiber-lover as Erin! Now we just have to find the right tapestry and a nifty non-toxic glue to attach it with.
  • Streamline fresh & grey water systems - we want to create a fresh-water fill nozzle on the outside of the bus. Also, we are very much looking forward to finding a more permanent spot where we can build an experimental constructed wetlands to process our grey water! No more yucky smelling grey water to empty...
  • Beautify the driver's cab - self explanatory. This also involves finding a more convenient and permanent location for all our tools (right now they ride right under the passenger's (me) feet when we drive... a little awkward).
  • Build a sweet roof rack/deck.
  • WVO conversion!!
Well I'm sure there are a million more things to be accomplished, but this is a start. We will keep you all updated on our progress. First thing up - re-designing the living room zone. We've already started on this and hope to post pictures soon.

Thanks to everyone's patience as we slowly get back into sharing our bus-life adventures after a short hibernating hiatus.

All our love.