...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: April 2020 (Page 1 of 2)

Crunch Time

Not quite frantic, but working diligently to get Sparta shipshape. Right now, functionality is key and cosmetics must take a backseat. That means potty, power, pump and punchlist.

This stuff is dense! I need about 10% of the block in 1 gallon of water and…
Voila! It expands into about 3 gallons of medium to place in the main toilet bin with the hand crank agitator.

So I have the little 12v fan connected and it is quitely venting the system while awaiting the inaugural BM.

I learn something new all the time when it comes to electricity and my latest teaching moment came when I decided to call Progressive Dynamics and find out what I had done wrong. My 12v circuits were not working. The vague schematic they provide on their website was not helpful and this whole wiring thing gets crazy, especially when you consider the considerable downside of messing up.

Two of the four grounds necessary to completing a safe installation of the Mighty-Mini power station.

Yeah, thanks to a little help from Dennis at PD, my system works and so far my vast array of fuses and breakers (10 to be exact) is holding up.

Unfortunately, my water pump is acting up. Or maybe it’s the on-demand water heater. The latter will not engage without sufficient water pressure from the former. I’m confused because it worked fine under initial testing months ago. This may take a call to the people at Excell, makers of the water heater.

Meantime, back at the gray-water purification system, I have experienced problems with the lines clogging with bark, etc. causing the tubs to overflow. It turns out that screen door mesh is too fine and acts as a dam when clogged. So I cut up some rabbit wire as a first line of screening. It works now.

So what’s still on my punchlist?

  • caulk tub
  • wax sticky drawers
  • finish flooring under bathroom vanity
  • complete external a/c plugs
  • trim odds and ends
  • get house jack and level Sparta
  • Weed whack perimeter
  • there’s more I’m sure
Biocompatible soaps for laundry and dishes.
Photographed from my front door yesterday – a neighbor come to check out the new humans.

I think I may be working too fast. Pulling wire through tight spaces, using hand tools, digging it the dirt and getting generally frustrated has taken a toll on my right hand. Maybe it’s the dreaded old man skin – thin and crepey. Shit!

Sorry – too graphic for some of you.

Anyone who tells you that age is nothing but a number is full of coconut coir.

Sweltering in Place

OK, I’ve been waiting weeks to use that line. It is now hot enough to do so so and Sparta is heating up like a Dutch oven. I’ll admit it. I entertain myself coming up with silly titles for these posts. Bad puns. Obscure cultural references. Fractured cliches and painful bromides. They’re all here and I think I like this one best. This blog is, after all, a journal and the above sums up the times we now endure. Thanks for indulging me for this, my 200th entry.

The air conditioner has been ordered and should be delivered next weekend – none too soon. So now I am busying myself outdoors putting in a gray water system. For the uninitiated, gray water is everything coming out of Sparta except pee and poop. Those must be handled seperately as they are toxic to gardens and gardeners. Gray water comes from sinks and showers – even washing machines (also on order), provided one uses the proper detergents. They must be bio-compatible, not just biodegradable. In short, a gray water system uses a series of vessels filled with: 1) organic matter as a worm medium; 2) small and larger pepples/rocks for additional filtration and 3) a holding tank to allow substrates to further settle. Once done, the water can be dispersed into a garden or wash. It helps that Sparta is next to a slope as gravity is key to making the system function.

I found these at a pallet/barrel recycling business in Graton, Ca. They originally held chlorine but that was long ago.

Cut ’em in half
Position on slope. I will dig them in a little deeper this morning
1-1/2″ pvc running from underneath Sparta.

So after these tanks get better positioned and the pipes fitted and glued, I will fill with the proper medium and go find some worms. I don’t know if bait shops are considered essential.

Stay safe!!!

Post Script – So I just wrapped up this morning’s chores and have more to add re: gray water…

Each 1/2 barrel has an outlet just slightly lower than the inlet and it is sealed with caulk to prevent drippage.
The first basin has a layer of thick mulch on the bottom which is covered with what used to be my screen door. That is then covered with topsoil for the worms.
Everything has a role here. It’s great to repurpose.
Second basin features layers of rock. First larger pebbles
First the larger rock on left. Then the river pebbles.
Then a layer of black lava rock
Then, itty-bitty pea gravel. BTW, the board in the middle diverts incoming water downward and then it comes back up the other side.
Finally, off to the third settling tank before distributing

Ok, that was some boring shit. Sorry

Rack in the Box

America’s love for shopping online has taken us places I couldn’t have imagined. The pandemic has given health-saving urgency to this trend. From the comfort of your now familiar couch, you can buy a car (Carvana), a Slavic bride (mail-order-bride.net), therapy (talkspace.com), even a tomato (blasphemy!wtf?). Remember when it was just books and cd’s?

To wit, my latest home delivery – a bed for Sparta. Have you noticed of late the plethora of online bed companies with cute, fuzzy names like Casper, Nectar, Puffy, Purple, etc.. I have never seen so many ads for beds on TV. Was it always so? Am I just now watching too much teli? Or, are humans getting so lazy that the future portended in WALL-E has arrived. I guess I have.

Picking a bed took hours. I shopped and shopped without touching a single mattress, relying only upon buyer reviews and the assurances of 120 night guarantees of comfort. REALITY CHECK – according to feedback, almost no customers exercised their rights of return. To do so, one must cram a 100 lb. mattress into a box. There’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

Yesterday my bed arrived with the rather bland name of Cool Comfort (sounds like shoe inserts). No prizes for clever originality there. But the price was right on Wayfair and their promise of swift delivery was a factor. Despite a Covid-19 related delay, it arrived in time. To resume its intended mass, the bed must rest (?!?) for 72 hours before using, so I dragged it over to Sparta immediately upon delivery.

First, outa the box and across the field of dreams.
Thank God it’s not a king
Position it in place. Ready, set, poof!
I felt like I pulled the cord on a life-raft in an elevator. I didn’t know pillows were included.

So now I let it rise for another couple of days and attend to other things.

I have put 3 out of 4 possible 120v breakers in my power center.
I cleaned up the wiring rat’s nest. Note motion-activated LED light to right. Very handy.
Shoo fly. We can’t be starting a maggot-farm in the potty.

Today, I am gonna go to the tiny little burg of Graton, Ca to buy two used 55 gal. plastic barrels for my grey water treatment system. Stay tuned.

All Aboard!

This train’s getting ready to leave the station. To do so, it needed a stool to facillitate boarding. Done!

This sturdy little thing has collapsible legs that adjust in height. Big improvement.

And, of course, the sleeper car needed a bed. With drawers to stow my stuff. Cristina has claimed the armoire.

First, some adjustments to slider clearance.
Measure twice…always.
Especially when you are bolting the slider to the floor and then the bed to the floor. Only on a trailer, where there is but one option for the bed’s location, would you actually bolt it into position. It ain’t moving.
Slats are down. Where’s my bed? Wayfair says Covid-19 shipping delays. Shoot!!
Cristina is busy laying contact paper in a nice vintage newsprint she picked out.
Oooops. Almost forgot to trim the OL’s front window.
…with leftover pieces of 1/8″ birch trim.

Today I wire the power station. Wish me luck.

Lost Weekend*

Under the restrictive pall of Covid – 19, there is the almost universal sense that time itself has become an amorphous, unrecognizable entity. Obviously, without humankind to label, differentiate and characterize time (minutes, days, weeks, Mondays, Fridays, September, good times, bad times, etc.), time would always have remained so – but for the cycles of the seasons, moon, and so on.

Our knack for assigning value judgments to time results mostly from how we have chosen to spend it. For example, in most countries there exists a workweek, typically Mon. – Fri.. Depending upon how people regard work (think drudgery, repetition, obligation as many people do), some days become better than others. Even songs have been written about them. “I don’t like Mondays”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and so on, are illustrative of our fondness for or, even, expectations of certain days. Friday, nearly everyone’s favorite, was even honored by what once was the largest restaurant chain in America, TGIFs.

It is no surprise, then, that absent the markers that used to define time, everyone feels disoriented and adrift. Without work, every day feels numbingly similar without much emotional attachment. It’s as if our water supply has been spiked with Prozac. Everything is just OK. Where are the joys and the lows?

But it not just work that is missing. All the things that used to make weekends especially fun are gone. Sports, Friday Happy Hours with friends, weddings on Saturday, sleepy Sundays watching golf (replays don’t really count), Saturday “Honey do” lists (now, every day gets that. Yeesh), even church – all gone. Weekends feel empty.

I used to have a fairly typical relationship with the days of the week and my feelings for them rested upon how many days were left in the workweek and how much I could drink. Sad, but true. Sundays, usually hungover and filled with dread. Mondays and Tuesdays, dry and a bit “white knuckled”. Wednesday, a clearing head and glimmers of fun ahead. Thursday, the drinkers crow-hop. Friday, it was on and so on.

Now that I am sober the vast majority of the time and a weekend chef, the equation has flipped. I love Sundays and Mondays and, because I actually like cooking for pay, everyday is good. Booze has ceased to exert a gravitation pull drawing my attention to the weekend.

So, back on subject, with Sparta now filling the bulk of my daylight hours, my time has been reduced to increments defined by Amazon deliveries (today my bed in a box arrives), tasks thus associated (today I install under bed drawers with slider mechanisms that arrived yesterday and tomorrow I unleash said bed, giving it the requisite 72 hours to assume its intended mass) and new Amazon orders (on Thursday I order the portable washing machine. Yes, this is all on my iPhone scheduler).

Today’s task ahead

I guess I’m really lucky to have such an engrossing hobby.

*This was one of many classic films made mid-century about alcoholism. Ray Milland won Best Actor for a timeless, spot on performance. Some things never change. Man’s relationship to booze is one of them.

Fine Tuning

Here’s a collection of little tasks I’ve been distracting myself with of late.

I have several old and original light fixtures left to be dealt with. There are a couple of ceiling spots wired for their use.

Finding the right putty to cover my sloppy workmanship is a problem. No OTC products seem to match. I have concluded the only solution is to blend one myself.

Four colors used to create anapproximation
I am not too keen on the result. This shit is too crumbly and doesn’t smooth-out well. Note crumbs on the floor. I may have to invest in custom colored
I had to bore another 1-1/2″ hole in the side for my 10 gauge power cord
I chose not to bring power in through the original left aft position because my power station is midship. I didn’t want all that stuff (battery, control center, converter, etc.) in my bedroom closet.
I bought some copper polish for Cristina to clean up the sink. It worked great and she applied a final coat of beeswax to slow future oxidization.

I included the above picture to illustrate the burnt orange and green theme that I have asked my daughter, Leslie, to incorporate into a custom, butcher-block dining table she is making for me. But as you look at this photo, something else is revealed. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Almost nothing squares in the above photo. Hmmm. Perhaps the result of building on three different locations over the past three years, each with a different grade (nothing has been perfectly level). Or perhaps it is just a consequence of amatuer carpentry. Whatever, this place is definitely unique.

Drizzle, drazzle, druzzle, drome…

As I have said before, one great benefit of trailer restoration is learning by necessity- through trial and error, owner’s manuals or, mostly, the Internet. From the banal to the arcane and everything in between, I have become conversant with the best composting medium for poop, Pex plumbing and the intracacies of electricity/wiring. Sometimes I get in over my head but it’s kept my brain active when it otherwise may have atrophied – particularly during these covid – 19, sensory-deprived times. Let me demonstrate through pictures what my grey matter has been up to lately:

Up to now, I had never heard of this. Shredded coconut husks are supposedly a better composting medium for human feces than peat moss – though opinions vary.

The 12v fans pictured above are designed to affix to car radiators to supplement cooling in especially hot conditions. Who knew? After a lot of research, I picked these up to move air in and out of Sparta on the ceiling and behind the stove. Many tiny-housers use large computer fans (also 12v), but I chose these for their superior capacity (CFM) and ruggedness. They will be a bit noisier, however.

To pierce the trailer skin and vent the toilet
I always get a bit nervous when I change the exterior.
An old piece of scrap waste pipe comes in handy

It’s even treaded so I can make a twist-on filter to keep flies out.
Carefully position throne for her highness
Note hose twisting and turning to the outlet. Supplemental oxygen may be required.
The bathroom is done. This was a must to make Sparta move-in ready!

Meanwhile, I came up with a solution to the rounded floor trim for the observation lounge. It’s not pretty but what the hell. It will be behind the couch.

Color-matched wood putty will make for a smoother transition.

To further the excitement, look what arrived yesterday:

The Progressive Dynamics “Mighty Mite”.
What!?! No owners manual included?
This will be an adventure

Stay tuned. I may be in for a shock. Help, Mr. Wizard!

Wash, rinse…..

This morning I got up at my usual hour, 6:00 am, and as I brewed my morning joe had a terribly unoriginal thought about Groundhog Day. Who hasn’t by now likened their Covid – 19 experience to this classic film, where the protagonist is hopelessly stuck in a time loop perpetuated, it seems, by his cynicism, contempt and borderline misanthropy. As the days of sheltering in place roll by with little to distinguish one from the next, it wears on our collective psyche. Hopefully, we will not resort to suicide attempts as Bill Murray’s Phil did repeatedly as his futile means of escape. The movie’s salvation and the thing that made it bearable to watch was its comedic tone. What could have been a bleak, Dante’s limbo experience was redeemed by its humor. And Bill Murray’s character was ultimately saved by love. Love and laughs – two nice antidotes to our times.

My siblings and I share a message board where we exchange our thoughts, grandkid pics and, mostly, humor – some of which have been Coronovirus song parodies. Standing in front of Mr. Coffee this morning (talk about a captive audience), I attempted a variation of the Sonny and Cher theme song from Groundhog Day. I got as far as the refrain but stopped because “I got flu, babe” just wasn’t cutting it. I decided to stick to my day job, put song-writing aside and throw myself back into Sparta where my creativity could be put to better use.

Cristina picked the color and sprayed away
A nice touch, in moderation.
Crown over bathroom door
Vanity project
Still awaiting ceiling lights
The great thing about vintage trailers is that one’s color palatte is broadened without seeming tacky – like golf clothes.

Today, I wire the potty vent.

Dis ‘n’ dat

While awaiting delivery of my kitchen range, a/c and other large items, I am taking care of little things…truly puttering. This stuff is fun and mostly consists of using available resources like leftover trim pieces, tons of screws (both brass and steel) and sheets of finished birch ply.

Lots of leftovers of various hues

In the last week I have:

  • built shelves for my pantry closet
  • layed cork flooring in closets
  • reassembled bed frame
  • switched sliding closet doors for better mirror location
  • finished 1 x 2″ birch trim around floor perimeter
  • finished trim on fireplace cupboard
  • Installed threshold on open closet where washing machine will go
  • peeled plastic coating off kitchen counter to reveal its beauty

Not much to add here other than photos.

Pantry closet. 3 shelves.
flooring in closets
Trim around fireplace mantle
Nook for washing machine
Trim around floor. Still debating how to do rounded front.
So shiny and nice with plastic film peeled off.
Love this original diamond mirror
I have got 12v push/pull fans on order for here and above stove

That’s all, folks.

Ohm My!

Sometimes my expenditures on Sparta lack consistency or even common sense. For example, I will spend a boat-load on flooring, a largley ornamental component. And then, I will cut corners by scrimping on the electrical system, inarguably the most important and, potentially, dangerous element aboard my dwelling. To wit, as an interim solution to my need for 120v and 12v power, I chose a $23 Chinese converter – thinking that would suffice until my big solar project down the road. I bought a big, beefy 10 gauge extension cord to deliver the 120v shore power to Sparta. Ok, that seemed sensible.

But then, I linked that cord to this little converter I found on Amazon. It arrived without one bit of information – no owner’s manual, no schematics…nothing.

I even had to fabricate a plug which was not included

The little guy pictured above was designed to reduce 120v shore power to 12v low-voltage juice to supply all my lighting, water pump, etc..

From this converter it was a seemingly simple matter of connecting it and all 5, 12v circuits through another inexpensive component – the fuse block.

Grotesquely disfigured plastic. No bueno.

In fairness, these components may have been fine, but for the fact that I connected them with flimsy 20 gauge wire. Once linked, I turned on the power and the lights went on for a moment and then “pop”, a fuse or two blew. I smelled that sickening, acrid odor of burned insulation. Looking at the fuse block I saw that the + wire affixed to the approprite terminal had burned up and that the terminal itself had melted. See above.

OK, so the fuses worked as intended and no real harm was done but my choice of wire thickness clearly defied Ohm’s law. I had stepped down too abrupty to a wire unsuited to the task and I had misjudged the power of 12 volts.

The lesson here was that I am really not that smart when it comes to electricity and perhaps I was out of my depth when I tried to improvise an electical converter/fuse block solution.

I decided to scrap the two little components and just buy an RV power converter fully integrated with a distribution panel, appropriate wiring and a battery charging capability to prepare me for future PG&E hiccups. I ordered a Progressive Dynamics product for almost $300 and when it arrives next week, I’ll tell you more about it.

As a nice counterpoint to my electrical mishaps, I managed to finish the trim on one side of the Observation Lounge yesterday.

Not bad and too nice to burn down because of cheap wiring.

So long.

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