Restoring My Vintage Spartan to Glory

...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: March 2017

Manure musings

Perhaps an explanation is in order.  I closed out my last blog entry with a comment about going to shovel shit.  It was not a figure of speech purloined from General Patton’s famous motivational oratory delivered to the troops before the US invasion of France.  No…I was actually going to shovel shit.

My new job as chef at Mountain Home Ranch Resort and Retreat Center involves a significant amount of organic gardening, part of which is amending the soil.  We have 20+ rescue animals here (horses, mules, goats, etc.) and they produce a lot of poop which has to be dealt with – first on the compost heap and then, after time and “seasoning”,  worked into the soil before planting.

So, if I were to carry this photo montage to its conclusion, the last pic would be of food, happily consumed by a guest.  Another time.  For now, I have to go cook breakfast.

What do you know, not a single trailer reference here.  My apologies, DIY’ers.

Air, water and food first.

One of the more interesting aspects to this trailer project is running into a reality that challenges my assumptions and forces a course change – requiring that I innovate. To wit, central heating.  If you have been paying attention you know that Sparta came equipped with a really large Coleman Model 710 furnace (like 42,000+ btu’s) which provided, in its day, ample heat through an extensive ducting system with SIX registers.  That’s a lot of heat and is yet another example of Spartan Aircraft Company’s tendency to over-engineer things.  But, in the interest of authenticity I had originally decided to stick with a furnace.  That is, until this: Yes, I probably should have anticipated that my 21 gallon water tanks would not squeeze between the ducting and the belly skin.  Silly me. So, the ducting had to come out.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, water comes before heat.

The decision to abandon central heat was not a hard one.  Since I will be boon-docking in the mountains where wood is plentiful (and city ordinances restricting wood-fired heat unlikely),  I saw the duct problem as an opportunity to abandon Sparta’s original heating system in favor of the charm and abundance of wood-based fuel.  In a matter of minutes a decision was made and my favorite implement of destruction (a reciprocating saw) laid waste to the ducting.  So, instead of a drab looking furnace hidden in a closet, I will have this:

Imagine warming up to this as the wind-driven rain pelts my tin cocoon.

Pictured left is actually a pellet stove which may be a more environmentally responsible choice.  We’ll see.

More later.  Time to shovel shit in pursuit of farm-to-table cuisine.

Saturate before using

I just spent two fairly productive days at Sparta including an overnight since a bit of travel is now involved.  I say “fairly” because, typical of any DIY project, too many trips to the hardware store were required with time spent fishing through nuts, bolts, washers, etc. and wandering the aisles of Home Depot looking for help.

Before I get started on the tank installation I wanted to share this curiousity.  Pictured below is a section of wood stripping which ran the width of the trailer in the vicinity of the kitchen and supported the subfloor on a cross-beam. Notice it is burned.  Now I am not a forensic fire investigator so I can only speculate – kitchen grease fire that ran down behind the stove?…misplaced cigarette?…who knows.  But I am glad Sparta avoided the ignomious fate of so many trailers – either burning  down or getting demolished in a tornado.

An all-too-common trailer fire narrowly averted?

So, as I mentioned last blog, the fresh water tanks arrived and the first order of business was to test them.  Since my Flow Dynamics is a bit rusty, I decided to actually confirm that my plan to link them actually works.

Notice fill inlet on left tank, a 1/2 ” opening

I dragged them to the nearest water faucet 100 yards away, connected them with fresh water vynyl hoses and proceeded to watch as I filled the left tank.  Because the fill inlet is 1/2 inch and the shared water line inlets are 3/8″, the first tank filled more quickly than the flow into tanks 2 & 3 could accomodate, resulting in overflow from the tank #1 air vent.  This would not be a good thing during actual usage so I determined that I needed to reduce the faucet flow into the first tank and allow the others to catch up.  Note to self: I may need to install a flow regulator to ensure that I don’t exceed the tanks’ ability to equalize and have water exiting the air vents.  Having successfully tested my theory,  I turned my attention to the installation. Part two of this missive to be continued.

3/8″ lines connecting all three tanks can’t quite keep up with unregulated flow into tank #1

Getting tanked

Wow! I just noticed that it has been a month since my last entry.  Not surprising really.  I moved to Calistoga, CA at the end of February in connection with a new job and that process, plus added distance from Sparta, has made work on, and discussion about, her more difficult.

So I have ordered three 21 gallon fresh water tanks off Ebay at $39 each, ensuring me a maximum onboard capacity of 63 gallons – admittedly not a lot but, hopefully, enough to get me through between water deliveries, well-water production, a spring-fed aquifer or whatever my future water source may be in my off-grid set-up.  It is possible, but unlikely, that my land in Quincy,  Ca will have municipal water available.  I don’t plan on buying a piece of property with improvements like water, power, etc..

After shopping around, the best deal I could find on these tanks was at R & P Carriages in Seneca, Illinois.  I just rec’d them yesterday so I can’t yet comment on their quality but the buying experience (on Ebay) and follow-up customer service was good.  I saved well over 50% from other sources that popped up first on a Google search, so shop around.  Keep R & P in mind, though.

I have decided to situate these three tanks in the spaces between the cross-beams and the two wheel-wells.  As I have mentioned before, these particular gaps are deeper (by 4 “) than those elsewhere in Sparta and will accommodate larger storage vessels.  The waste line vent pipe (pictured below left) will be pulled out.

There are actually four deep spaces. I may add a fourth tank, making a total of 84 gals.

Depicted below is a picture of a representative tank and a crude drawing of the installation.  I will be linking three tanks together by connecting tanks 1,2 &3 with water lines (see “Drain Valve” below) and common Air Hose vents.  Steel mounting brackets will be affixed below the belly skin to the frame to support these tanks.

I neglected to draw in the pump hose (supply line). Kinda important. It will attach to the pre-drilled nipple to the upper left of tank#3.

The water supply line will feed tank #3 and overflow into tanks 1 & 2 as it is filled.  The drain valve will be on tank #1.  All three tanks will be vented to breathe, permit more rapid filling and avoid a vacuum.  Installation next week.