...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: July 2017

Down to wire

Let’s talk power – a subject about which I know enough to endanger myself.  Out in the boonies, I will have several options.  The first and most obvious is wood.  After all, I will be in the Sierra Nevada surrounded by forests and, to date, no burn restrictions (hey, it’s a logging town).  I have concluded that my primary heat source will be a wood burning stove.  It can also burn pellets if required at some point.  There will also be a 120v fed fan/heater combo in the bathroom.  As far as illumination goes, I am going with electricity and predominantly 12v power feeding LED lights, the water pump, various fans and USB power outlets.  Though LED lights are expensive up front, they last a long time, burn less electricity AND are very cool compared to incandescent bulbs, a big plus in the summer.  12v wiring is also a bit easier and safer to work with.  120v lines will also be installed to power a dozen or so wall outlets, the on-demand water heater, the microwave, and the refrigerator. The 120/12v lines will be largely solar dependant, with two deep cell batteries and generator back up. Propane will power the stove/oven and also the combo propane/electric ‘fridge.

To acheive this vision the first order of business was tearing out the old power lines.  These dirty old suckers were not usable as the cloth covered, paper insulated cords were starting to crumble.  Pulling those lines was fast and completed in less than 30 minutes, resulting in this:

A Medusa-like tangle of cord

So this rat’s nest of wire left me with a multiple-choice propostion:

1). Remain true to my trailer-is-just-a-tin-can ethos and recycle it all by painstakingly splicing the wire to its copper roots.

2). Make like a tweaker and burn it all, poisoning the skies, and take what remains to the metal recycler at $2/lb..

3). Throw it out and move on.

The answer is both #1 and #2.  No, I haven’t become a meth-head, but as a semi-retiree I have both the time and the thriftiness to patiently trim the wire, bundle it and take it on down to the scrap yard along with the old copper plumbing.

This will keep me busy for awhile.


No Pressure

A comment about “Contents under pressure”, my previous post.  Technically, I misspoke.  My water system is not pressurized.  It is all gravity fed and vented, which is why I can get away with plastic tanks, fittings, hoses and PVC connections.  Unlike your home water where the H2O is “pushed” through by virtue of the tremendously high-pressure behind your municipal water system (anyone witnessing a ruptured line can attest), my water will just sit there in no hurry to go anywhere until my Shurflow pump is activated and “pulls” the water from my reservoir on its way to an open spigot.  As long as my system is self-contained and I do not plug in to “shore” water, my system will not be taxed too heavily.

Now, I am sure you are all tired of the water/floor discussion and ready to move on to electrical.  I know I am.  But one last thing.  Although I do not recommend proceeding on a trailer project as slowly as I have, there has proven to be one big advantage of moving so deliberately – oversights can be corrected, for example, before they become entombed under a finished and buttoned up floor.  As I lay in bag the other night I got to thinking about Sparta’s proposed destination – Quincy, California.  It gets fairly cold there.  In fact, I Googled it and learned that 9 months out of the year at least one night’s temperature will dip below 30 degrees F.  Brrrr.  Since my 63 gallons of onboard water will rest  below the subfloor and is not particularly well insulated, it could be subject to freezing.  So I ordered three thermostat-controlled self-adhesive heaters, one for each tank.  Because my tanks were still accessible I lifted them up (these heaters have to be on the bottom where the water rests), and affixed a heater to each, running the 12 volt wire up through the floor.  These heaters are pretty cool.  They automatically turn on at 45 degrees and below and are idle otherwise.  Although they draw over 4 amps each,  it will be worth the expenditure of power to ensure running water year-round.  Pictures will tell the story.

About $25

Contents Under Pressure

Before screwing down the subfloor once and for all, I decided to run a final test on the water system to see it perform while pumping water.   This I did for several reasons:

  1. I had a nagging doubt about my gerry-rigged outflow connection.
  2. It was important to see if the Shurflo pump (4008-101-E65) worked as promised.
  3. I wanted to see how the tank system, connected in series, could keep up with the demands of the 3 gallon per minute pump.

So I did this by refilling the system to 1/3 capacity (roughly 21 gallons) with a new water jug slepped multiple times to the spigot on the adjacent property.  I then hooked up the pump to the outbound hose and powered it up with the twelve volt adapter borrowed from the mini-fridge/cooler (purchased last month to keep my food stash cold.  Very handy, BTW).  Thank God I did this test because the outbound connection affixed to the tank failed miserably.

Originally, I could not find a connection that actually fit the strange nipple protruding from the tank, so my connection was improvised using a small section of 1″ PVC, split tubing as a gasket and black PVC glue.  BAD idea.  The minute I turned on the pump, water came spewing from this hokey connection, soaking the fiberglass insulation which, by the way, makes an effective sponge.  Oooops.  So, to avoid my folly please observe the photo lower right.  This stock pic illustrates the proper way to outfit your tank.  Specifically, the green ribbed 1″ hose affixed to the large nipple with silicone cement and a clamp should be the fill hose and the smaller 3/8″ connection should be the outflow.  Well I reversed this config. and, not wanting to pull the tanks, I simply adapted by using a PVC compression fitting, a reducing connector and a 1/2″ elbow (pictured lower right). Whew, talk about a work-around.  For those of you whose eyes have not glazed over, just pay attention and hook up the tanks as intended and spare yourself 8 trips to Home-Depot trying to get it right.

Well, all’s well that ends well and my trips to the well, well, they were rewarded with a nice, leak-proof flow and my first load of dishwashing was officially recorded.  Amen.



Hey.  I just got back from a 10 day vaca (of sorts) in Santa Barbara.  Actually, I was there to help a lady friend, Cristina, in her life-changing relocation from Miami, Florida to California’s beautiful central coast.  It was enlightening in several ways.  Of course, there was the predictable sticker shock comparing dwelling costs between the coasts.  Leaving behind Florida’s God-awful humidity comes at a price.  Though not quite in San Francisco’s league, Santa Barbara is getting insanely expensive.  The better part of our time there was spent finding affordable housing for her.  The task was made more difficult because of her 13 year-old schnauzer.  Though SB’s restaurants are dog-friendly, most of its rentals are not.

Ultimately we did find a cute but tiny studio for Cristina in Carpinteria (a homecoming, in a way, for me  because I went to high school there).  The studio measures about 10 x 10 feet and has a bathroom so tiny that I can soak my feet in the tub and brush my teeth, all while taking a poop – the ultimate in multi-tasking.  She will cook on a hot plate and a microwave.  Dishes will end up in the bathroom sink directly behind her.  Perhaps she should look at this as trailer boot camp.

So my big takeaway from all this came from observing the trauma caused Cristina from the prospect of downsizing.  She arrived in Cali with about 800 pounds of jam-packed luggage.  I am not kidding.  And that was just her immediate needs – everything else is in storage.  After all, we are talking here about a 50+ year-old woman accustomed to being a South Beach fashionista and not familiar with tiny spaces.  She was at a loss for what to keep at hand,  what to store and what to part with.  She was truly having difficulty wrapping her brain around this and it occured to me that downsizing, tiny houses and trailer living do not come naturally for most Americans.  I was also reminded of a hilarious and brilliant George Carlin routine regarding “Stuff”.

So I left Santa Barbara and my struggling companion yesterday thankful that I have already made the leap from obsessive acquisitiveness to modern minimalism.  A fact that will make my transition to Sparta much less painful.  I did, however, acquire an unexpected piece of baggage in the form of a old, though frisky companion named Karma.  Fortunately, she, too, is tiny.