Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fire in the Sky!

I apologize for the unrefined post here, but I am posting from my phone.

For those of you in the Southwest I hope you caught the massive meteor that shot across the whole sky around 7:00 MST.  To say it was amazing would be a huge understatement. I was bummed to have missed the Geminids Meteor Shower last week due the extreme cold we had, but this more than made up for that & more.

If you missed it, there are pictures & videos on the internet & I'm sure news stations will show footage. Do check out a good video of it if you can. It was like fireworks as pieces broke off in other directions.

What a way to say farewell to the long nights & usher in longer days!  THAT is exactly why i chose to live this life; to experience the unforgettable wonders nature has to show us.

(NOTE: The authorities have said this "light show" was debris from a Russian rocket re-entering Earth's atmosphere and not a meteor. Either way, it was still quite breathtaking to watch!)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Hello Again Light!

Wishing you Tranquility, Magic, and Inspiration 
on this Winter Solstice!




Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hipahipa!!

Break out the Hula Skirts and Coconut Shells folks!  
We're havin' a heat wave!




We finally got out of the low / mid 30's for overnight temps!!  The next couple of days will bring us slightly warmer weather of 40's and 60's.  It will be short lived, but every degree in the upward direction helps!  


Friday, December 18, 2015

Water Conservation MacGyver Style!

Thirty years ago I participated in a semester long field study program in the desert southwest.  That was the first time I had ever been to a desert or even this part of the country.  Coming from the lush, green, moist mid-west I thought I would hate the desert, but I fell in love with it instead.  That experience changed my life in so many positive ways.  One big way was sparking a deeper passion for the environment and a career as an Environmental Educator.

One of the topics we studied during that semester was water issues.  Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, this was such an alien concept for me.  I basically thought, 'If you don't have water someplace then don't live there!'.  Simple.  But I was stunned by how many people lived in the desert and even more so by the amount of water that was wasted - huge fountains and lush, green lawns to name a few ways.  Today, I feel that even as a nomadic full-timer, I have to be conscientious of my water consumption.  I may think that since I have limited water storage that alone makes me a good water steward, and to some extent that is true, but I can still be wasteful if I'm not careful.


So, in the spirit of my first desert experience 30 years ago, I bring you my simple, cheap, and "MacGyvered" approach to water conservation.

Water Storage:  I don't have tanks on my trailer and have limited storage space in general.  I use & refill five, 1 gallon jugs for my drinking water.  I also have a big blue 5 gallon jug & two 1 gallon jugs for "other use" water, like dish-washing or hand-washing.  I have those two jugs marked so I don't mix them up with my drinking water jugs.  I also refill these two jugs with the ice water from my cooler.  That alone keeps these jugs full most of the time, so score one for the annoying cooler!

My 2 "Other-use" Water Jugs

Hand-washing:  I have gone through a couple of trial tests with this one while living on my friends' farm.  First I bought wet-wipes, but they are too wasteful, too expensive and the chemicals are really bad for your skin (though I do use baby wipes for my hands if I use the pee jug at night).  Then I had an idea - use an empty soap pump dispenser filled with water as a "faucet".  It worked, but took a long time to rinse all the soap off my hands with the little squirts of water that came out.  The concept was good, but I needed something that would squirt out a little more water.  I found it at an antique shop.  This little drink dispenser works great.  It is glass, but that weights it down and helps warm up the water in the sun.  It puts out enough water to rinse easily and fits perfectly on my wheel fender with a foaming dispenser of very diluted Dr. Bronner's soap.  Those plus a towel hung to my trailer MacGyver-style and I have a great little hand-washing station.  

My Hand-washing Station

Hair Washing:  This one took me a little longer to come up with a simple set-up that didn't waste so much water.  I had made a garden sprayer shower to use, but it was too big for my hair washing needs and took too much time setting up, drying out, and storage space, so I returned everything.  I only wash my hair 2x a week (weather permitting!) and didn't want to be bothered with the contraption.  Since my budget it so tight, I felt that the money could be better utilized right now.  I may change my mind down the road and make another one, but for now, what I have works great and only cost me $1.00 - my kind of set-up!  It consists of a reused a 2 liter plastic bottle, colored black with a permanent marker, set out in the sun to warm up the water; along with another reused plastic water bottle with a squirt top to wet and rinse my hair that I refill with warm water from the bigger bottle.  I basically hang upside-down over the blue dish pan and wash away.  Since I don't use shampoo or conditioner, it doesn't take much water to rinse my hair (I use a baking soda / soap solution and apple cider vinegar - which is an amazing long hair detangler by the way!).  I use about 1 liter of water to wash and condition my long hair.  Of course, sun & wind dry when done!  The hardest part is the bending over the dishpan - OUCH on the lower back!

Hair Washing Station

Dish Washing:  Since I haven't been able to do much cooking, I haven't had many dishes to wash.  Typically I try to use only about 2 cups of water or less to wash, unless I have a lot of dishes.  I use a small amount of environmentally safe dish soap for washing and a spray bottle of water with a little vinegar to rinse with.  I also strain out any food particles from cooking or the dirty dishwater with a coffee filter in a funnel before the water goes into my gray water jug.

Bathroom:  My family and friends are quite familiar with my "morning constitutional" routine and beautiful sunrise pictures when I lived on the farm; but for the rest of you, I will share.  (Com'on, you were dying to know! Fidgeting on the edge of your seats aren't you?).  I have re-purposed wide mouth jugs for my "pee jug" which I keep inside the trailer.  I wanted to build a urine diverting composting toilet, but the urine diverters were too expensive and came with a bunch of stuff I didn't want; plus adding one to my bucket made it too big to move in and out of the trailer daily.  So, after 2 years of designs and redesigns, I finally came up with a "composting" toilet that works for me and cost less than $20.00.  Using my pee jug, I keep at least 95% of my urine out of the bucket, and it has been working well so far with no smell from the bucket.  As for the bucket, I double line it with tall kitchen garbage bags and at the moment, use peat moss for the covering medium - I know, GASP!!  So horrible for the environment!, but all I could get at the time.  I want to try coconut coir since it is environmentally sustainable and comes in small, light weight, dried bricks.  When the inner bag is mostly full, I take it out, tie it up tight so nothing can fall out and put it in a plastic shopping bag which I tie up tightly and toss into the garbage.  I hate using the plastic bags, but I don't have anywhere to compost it.  Digging catholes in the desert is NOT easy with the hard, rocky ground and dumping that much waste in a couple of catholes is too much and not a good idea for established dispersed camping sites.  Packing it out has the least impact.  

My "Composting" Bucket Toilet
(Kitty litter bucket holds the medium to put on top of the waste)

Gray Water:  I collect all the gray water that I can't reuse in an old kitty litter jug (1 1/2 - 2 gallons), then find a place where I can dump it safely.  Everything I use (with the exception of toothpaste) is not harmful to the environment, especially with how diluted it gets, so I don't feel too bad about the waste water I produce.  I have only just filled my gray water bottle once in a month.  I could have used some of what I put in there for another purpose, but wasn't able to utilize it at the time.  I may re-purpose another bottle to hold that water for a time when I can reuse it.

My Gray Water Jug

"Wait, you forgot bathing!  Don't you bathe?"  Hey, I have to live with me, so heck yea I bathe!  Though I wish I could say it consisted of soaking in a hot spring this time of year, but sadly it doesn't.

Bathing:  I use 2 cups of water for bathing which lasts me about a month!  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, I do bathe daily.  I make homemade "bath wipes".  I prefer to make my own so I know what is going into them.  The store bought wipes have so many chemicals in them and I don't want to use them all over my body, plus they are much more expensive than mine.  I make mine with paper towels and only use 1/2 - 3/4 of a paper towel to bathe with.  They work great and are good for my skin as well.  The only downside is the storage area in my trailer gets really cold, so I try to warm them in the sun a little first before using them - otherwise they are better than a whole pot of espresso for getting one WIDE awake!

So there you have it, my water usage and conservation methods.  I still have areas where I can make some improvements, but for the most part, I am pleased with what I have in place.  It may seem rather primitive to most of you (maybe even horrific), but that's what I like about it.  Conservation doesn't stop at water but is about all resources.  I have so much fun trying to come up with "MacGyvered" solutions to the challenges that leap out at me.  Simple, inexpensive and re-purposed are my parameters and that combination is what makes it fun for me.  Living deliberately does take extra time and creates more "chores", but living that way also makes a difference.  For me, that is important.  Less impact on the earth lets me enjoy its beauty more.

Shores of Lake Erie



Monday, December 7, 2015

Simple Life, Simple Wisdom, Simply Lived

I was talking to a friend last Thursday when I realized it was December 3 – one month since I left Ohio and started on this adventure!  So, in hopes of maybe helping others who are considering embarking on a simple life on wheels (or providing entertainment to those of you all cozy in your warm, stand-up homes), I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned during this first month on the road in my tiny abode. 

  • The total cost in gas to get here was shocking, and not in a good way.  I didn’t have a clue how much it would cost and honestly, I didn’t even try to calculate a ball park amount, but the total was (maybe unrealistically) more than I had . . . hoped?  But when I sat down and figured out how much it was per mile, towing a trailer into the wind, I guess it really wasn’t all that bad.  However, when you are living on a tiny budget and you see almost 3/4 of that month’s budget gone so quickly, it’s a little scary.  But therein lies the benefit of this lifestyle, I can cut back on expenses this month to try and even things out – so that is good!
  • Things you thought would be simple tasks can actually be a little intimidating at first; like finding boondocks, water, and trash disposal places.  You can read what other full-timers do and think “Oh that will be easy”, but until you have to do it yourself in an unfamiliar town the first time or two, it isn’t always easy.  The best advice I can give on this is ASK!  Ask other boondockers, staff in stores, or people at the local BLM office or Visitor’s Center (if the town has them).  These people can be a great source of information for handling these tasks.
  • Keep your bags of trash small.  It’s much easier and less conspicuous to drop a shopping bag size bundle of trash into the small opening of a bin than trying to stuff a giant bag into it. 
  • Water.  I don't have holding tanks.  I refill my empty gallon jugs instead of buying new, so I’ve had to learn how and where to find places to do this.  Look out front of grocery stores, gas stations and other stores for water dispenser machines, they don't cost much per gallon.  This is also a good thing to ASK others about, there may be a public water source you can use for free. 
  • You never know what surprises will come your way – like having a small herd of Desert Bighorn Sheep walk past your campsite.
What a THRILL!!

  • Save your change.  Quarters, dimes and nickels.  You will need it for laundry and water dispenser machines.  You may not always be able to get change.
  • You will run into inconsiderate, “entitled” people no matter where you go (some heinously so).  Unfortunately fresh air, natural beauty and the possibility of seeing unique wildlife doesn’t change them.  I don’t have any advice for dealing with them (at least none that are appropriate to print!).  Just be prepared.
  • You will also meet wonderful people!  Lots more of them around – thank goodness!
  • Heat.  Heat would be nice!  I have discovered that, yes, a space CAN be too tiny to heat safely without electricity.  Go figure.  Just me livin’ in my tiny blue igloo.
  • No matter how many times you go through your stuff, you will inevitably bring too many things you don’t need and not enough things you do need.  (Chalk up another win for Murphy!).
  • Flannel sheets probably would have been a good investment.
  • All electronics need to be able to be charged via your car’s 12 volt outlet – including the charger for your camera’s batteries.  Oops!    (Thus my not so great photos)
  • Dog.  Probably should have been on my “To Get” list.  A big, warm, cuddly dog.  (Preferably one that doesn’t drool)
Teddy Bear Cholla - NOT warm or cuddly!  But at least it doesn't drool.

  • Even a cooler that you think is too big, and IS too big, still won’t be big enough to puzzle fit all the ice and odd shaped and sized grocery items you buy.
  • When choosing your full-timing home on wheels, insulation is a good thing – but don’t forget the floor!!  Cold feet are unhappy feet, and you don't want to deal with unhappy feet!
  • There is a lot to be said for an indoor bathroom when it’s 37 degrees outside; but the view usually isn’t one of them!  My rear may freeze to the seat, but my view is magnificent!
  • Electricity, though extremely wonderful, can make us complacent.  When you don’t have it, you really have to exercise your brain cells to think up creative solutions to problems.
  • When your bathroom is of the primitive outdoor variety, ALWAYS take full advantage of nice indoor ones when out and about, especially running hot water!
  • A comfortable place to sit is very important to both your rump and back.  Not having such a place makes one an unhappy camper.
  • A good pair of warm socks is crucial for a good night’s sleep when it’s cold.  (Come to think of it, thermal underwear probably should have gone on that “To Get” list too!).
  • If you plan to boondock in the desert, the best superfluous item to bring is a hummingbird feeder and something to hang it from.  Endless, nearly free entertainment will be yours.  (Just be prepared for Hummer Wars!)
  • When you can’t cook inside your home, a good thermos is a comforting friend on cold nights.
  • You can read about other full-timers experiences and suggestions, but your experience will be different not only from theirs, but even from what you imagined.  Not better or worse, just different.  Don’t be disappointed if it’s not like you imagined, just go with it and let it unfold into something wonderful.
  • The sun, moon and stars will become your dearest friends that you look forward to seeing every day.
Desert Sunset

  • Just because someone told you they took their 35ft. RV on that dirt road boondock and so you should be just fine, doesn’t mean you will.  One person’s insanity is another person’s “OH SHIT!!”
  • Your mind can go on and on believing you’re still 20 yrs. old, but your body will always prove it wrong!  (I knew this one before I left, but I’ve been reminded of it again recently)

Well, that is all the wisdom I have to impart for today.  Simple isn’t always easy, but it is fun in that it challenges one’s brain cells to think in new ways.  Plus you live life more intentionally, something we often don’t do.  Have there been nights when I’ve wished for that big 40 foot McMansion on wheels that I can stand up in with heat and electricity, comfy chairs and bed, indoor bathroom, and  indoor kitchen with all the appliances for cooking gourmet meals?  Sure!  I’m not going to lie.  But in the end, I think I would still choose my little tearbaby Zelda and Grania and a simple life full of purpose, creative problem solving, and adventure.  Maybe somewhere just a little warmer!  

  
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.  But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
- Steve Jobs