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!