Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Making it Work for RV Living part one

So now we had an RV all our own, and obviously we had to modify it to fit our family. I was advised against this from a friend, who was sure it would devalue the RV to add to or take from; but with as many of us as there were, and with our lifestyle, change was necessary. We did these things over the months to make this RV work for us.

 The first thing I did was to clean it. It had been cleaned by the sellers and looked great, but I felt better putting shelf paper down in all the drawers and shelves. I also removed the bullets and crayons in the cracks by the couch (obviously this had been a family hunting season camper). 

 One of the first to go was the DVD player and TV screen. As luxurious as it would be to have them, we homeschool and needed a place for BOOKS!

Next was the microwave. We needed kitchen storage and we don't use a microwave to cook with anymore. Another modification was to not use the gas oven/stove. Partly because I don't like the smell of cooking with propane in a small space, and partly because it seemed to be the favorite haunt of mice. So we put a board on the top of it for extra counter space which was sorely needed. I used slow cookers and a toaster oven for a while in place of these things. Probably not a good idea for the electrical system.

We had the repairman out many times to fix and replace (I'm so happy there are mobile RV services, we didn't have a truck to haul this thing to town!). Electrical problems, water problems... I can't remember now if there were heater problems too. It wasn't because it was a bad quality rig, it is just when you live in one full-time things can get worn out faster . For instance, the electrical system was overtaxed. Partly because the electric line, a beefy thing, was too long to do the power we needed (sorry I can't explain that better). Also because it was asking too much of a holiday camper to be running cooking appliances 3x a day every day for a large family. It could have handled a vacation, maybe, but constantly wasn't a good idea.

 The other modification was the beds. Though the ad said "sleeps ten" it meant ten very short people. The queen-sized bed (which in an RV-speak means short queen) was half on some structure that covered one of the storage bays, and half on an indoor under-bed storage box. There were built-in drawers on each side. We took took out one of the drawers, then took out the storage box under the bed. We sold the mattress and made the space into a twin-xl-daybed.




Yes it was ugly. And sleeping against that thin wall was COLD. But it made a much longer bed. 

We lost a lot of storage with this modification (you can see the remnants of the storage box above) but there were other advantages. The extra nice one was the floor space! No more crab-walking around the bed!

There was room for a portable crib and a dresser of sorts. (The mini blinds were not in good shape, so we took those off and made some curtains to go in their place. We don't like mini blinds anyway!)

The "dresser" was really just a frame to hold bins. It was one of the first woodworking projects one of my sons built. He also took the wood from the drawer and made a little cart for the kitchen, sort of a mini "island" for some extra space.

Since we were not going to use the camper as a traveling vehicle, we were not worried about adding such furniture to it. If it had been for going on the road, we would have built-in all additions, and made them of lighter materials.

There will be more things I learned about RVs on Friday's post!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Thanksgiving Reading


 image from Graphics Fairy

I just wanted to pop in here to talk about Thanksgiving Day. 

I have been reading out loud for school some books by Governor Bradford and Edward Winslow. Not easy reading, between the language structure and the gobs of business letters. Once you can get to a point of understanding it, though, it is quite interesting. I cannot summarize it well enough, but I will point out a few things that struck me.

Since the time in school that I had learned that the Pilgrims were not the first to make a settlement on this continent, their story has not loomed too large in my mind. They were just one group of many, but of course important because of the principle of freedom of religion they brought with them etc.. In those first-grade  school books they are associated with the construction-paper turkey, funny hats, and some rock they stepped on. And the story of Squanto is told, of course, still teaching us the usefulness of fish fertilizer and corn crops.

I am reading these books for our school history this month to try and find that "First Thanksgiving" feast. I  know that there have been many days of "Thanksgiving" announced by our nation, that were not strictly about the Pilgrims and their harvest, or even food. Was the Pilgrim's Thanksgiving feast  (with turkey)  real or just a legend? We've read up to the year 1623 and somehow we missed it. But I have noticed that the Pilgrims practiced a lifestyle of thanksgiving, when they had something to eat and when they didn't.

We have read of only one good harvest between 1620 and the summer of 1623. This was after barely making it to land (with no mast or sails left), losing half their people to illness that first winter, having a weakened group of workers, and taking time to build a fort for defense.  When the colony did manage to have enough food from that one good harvest, a shipload of un-supplied (and rather useless) men were brought from England and dumped on them to feed. This happened more than once in their story, and of course it always took the harvests and food storage to feed the extra people. The Pilgrims had to beg passing ships for bread, or trade with the Indians for food. Often they had to leave what they bought from the Indians because through various problems with their boat they could not carry it home. Once, another colony miles away somehow mismanaged their own food supply, nearly starved, and had to be supplied by the Pilgrims.

To top off the food problems, the promises of support and supplies from England hardly ever came through. Their main sponsor was a liar, and other sponsors would back out. It often seemed like they were going to be abandoned. If there was still someone sympathetic to their cause back in England, there were enemies  who tried to blacken the colony's name by writing letters of slander. They dealt with two-faced, unprincipled, criminal men and shysters. They wrote home to defend themselves, but it took so long for letters to get across the ocean and I cannot imagine how frustrating it must have been.

Through all their trials, even when extreme measures had to be taken, they would thank God for the outcome. They were often discouraged, and admitted it. They must have felt hopeless many times. Yet, they had an attitude of thanksgiving, giving thanks to God and looking for the good, or at least the lesson learned.

This thankfulness also made them a forgiving, or at least merciful, people I think. They helped out that liar, who abandoned them with hollow promises of supplies, when he was in want. They cared for, fed and defended a neighboring colony of people who were not honorable to the Indians, which behaviour by default would ruin the Pilgrim's honest reputation.  They kept care of Squanto, even though he turned out to be a disappointment to them and a detriment to their peace with the surrounding tribes. 

(You can read about Squanto here for yourselves. I'm glad that Squanto helped out with the corn, but I'm sad that he wasn't quite the friend through and through we all thought he was. And I'm upset that we don't hear more about Massasoit's right-hand-man Hobbamock [you can read about Hobbamock here], who should be getting a lot of credit in history books for his help. I don't remember hearing about him in the early curriculum that I went through. I think that history writers for little kids must think that "Squanto" is more fun to say when you are five or six... maybe they decided that since Hobbamock's name means "devil" that they wouldn't include him. Anyway, at least this year my children are learning about a loyal man named Hobbamock!)

I think we finally found when the Pilgrims had an "official day of thanksgiving" in 1623,  but it was after fasting & prayer (it was amazing to us that they announced a fast, when they were regularly starving as it was). There was a terrible drought at the time, and they were petitioning God for rain. When He sent rain, they declared an official Thanksgiving. 

 It is lovely to have a feast to celebrate the concept of Thanksgiving, and have a time set aside to be thankful. We say a prayer for the food and feel thankful for it. We are thankful to gather with our family. I know that this "thankfulness" for our meal would mean more if we had to suffer as the Pilgrims did, and it is worth remembering what they went through. For ourselves, perhaps we need to recall the trials we have been brought out of by the Lord's mercies, and thank Him for that specifically.

 There is a great lesson in all this, and it is one I am still learning. I hope someday I can be a thankful person in everything and at all times!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Another Spring, and Yet Another RV

 The winter had been exceptionally mild and was nearing its end. I didn’t know then how deep the well of Nancy’s hospitality went (surely she was sick of us?), but with that last RV long gone, we felt that there wasn't much of a chance that we would bump into another one to rent. 

 It was time to admit to ourselves that this house building adventure was going to take a lot longer than we thought. As affordable as our rent was with the previous two RV’s, it appeared that buying one was even cheaper. So, we packed up the kids and went to look at what we could afford locally.


Seems like all that was in our price range were fixer-uppers. As in, maybe we could gut this thing and... oh yes, we needed another construction project, didn't we? So we kept looking.

God blessed us with a great find in a bigger city about three hours away, and we bought a bunkhouse trailer. The sellers even delivered it to our town.  

It was smaller in living space, and had only one slide out, but the fact that the children had their OWN BEDS, as in NOT ON THE FLOOR like the last RV??? Oh, this was a step up in the world!
 These pictures are after we moved into it, but there is quite a story that came before that point.

We have a wonderful friend with a truck who is expert in RV matters (this is important-- always have a friend with a truck!) and was willing to help us. Poor man, he didn't know what he was in for. 

I stayed home for this story- which was a very wise thing to do- and have no photos to share of it, but picture a cold grey day in your mind.

Our friend picked up the RV and took it out to the site. It was a bit tricky to park the RV because it had to be backed uphill on the elevated RV pad, one side of which was a cliff. My husband and sons went out to help groom the gravel on the driveway and aid any way they could.

They were there all day. 

It rained, and the ground turned to mud. A fellow on an ATV came by, stating that he could have that thing up in 5 minutes for them. Not knowing the fellow, and thinking they could handle things themselves, they declined. 

It sleeted. They tried putting lumber down to make better traction for the truck. Mr. ATV came by and offered again. Sensing that the can he had been drinking from was not soda pop, they declined again.

It snowed. The boys looked on while the men were under the truck trying to arrange things for the wheels to get traction (thankfully the brakes didn't fail... don't do this at home, folks!). Mr. ATV came by, rather frustrated.

Hours later, wet, frozen, and discouraged, they stood there in the dark having exhausted all methods. They got so low that they handed the keys to Mr. ATV, and let him do whatever he wanted.

He had the RV backed up to the pad perfectly in 5 minutes. 



Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Quick & Easy Drooly Bib Sewing Tutorial

 I know this is a different kind of construction, but these photos were in with the others and I thought I may as well get around to posting them! Here's an idea to make some quick bibs in an afternoon.

When the baby got to drooling excessively, I went to Joann's and bought an interesting flannel yardage with a sort of "grid" on it. Sorry I cannot give the measurements now (it's been a while) but a nice sized rectangle cut out of it covered all of the front of the baby. I'm guessing this was at least 8" across the bottom, and maybe 12" or more up the sides. Come to think of it, you could just about use a piece of printer paper as a pattern. I was going by the grid on the fabric. Whatever size you make it, cut two rectangles.

(Since I made a stack of these, I had as many rectangles as I could get out of the yardage.)

Find an appropriately sized round object to trace around, and do that centered, about 1.5 to 2" down from the top on one of the rectangles. Make sure your round object is big enough to allow some slack, because the circle will be pulled in a bit when the bib is fastened. Sorry I don't have a diameter but every baby's neck will be different! If you were to make it as a gift I would err on the generous side.

Trace it on the INSIDE/WRONG side of the fabric. 

Start sewing around the edges, right sides together with your drawing on top. Begin on the side (you will be leaving a 3" or so gap for turning in one side).

 Make sure to turn down from the top and go around that circle! You can see at the top that I left a good gap where I turned down to sew around the circle.

You can do curves on the corners if you like instead of pivoting. I did some of both. Whichever you choose, trim the corners to reduce bulk for turning. Clip down into the circle, trim the neck hole and clip into the seam allowance a bit for turning.

Turn inside out. Gently poke out all the corners with scissors or a wooden stuffing tool. Smooth and press with an iron. You could top stitch around it if you like, folding in and stitching down the opening as you go. Or just hand-stitch the opening closed. 

Now add some velcro to the top two inner "flaps" and fasten. This is why you want to be a bit generous with that circle. 

I made about a dozen of these, which was an appropriate amount for changing out several times a day.

Friday, November 12, 2021

A Fixture

The house-building went on that winter, but I did not go out often to take photos. It was too cold, and one time the baby and I sat out there for a while, freezing, while a contractor decided not to show up. Eventually I did get out there and what progress had been made!

Plumbers had come to hook the downstairs bathtub drain up.

Wires for ceiling lights! The Electrician made it back out. I need to explain something-- it was extremely difficult to find an electrician with any openings back then (and almost impossible now). Ours was busy, and not always available to schedule nor easy to get a hold of. One evening my husband and sons were driving back from the site, and said "let's just go to the electrician's house and beg him to come." Just as they were turning towards his driveway, the phone rang and it was him! He had finally checked his messages! Or else he recognized headlights? The electrician was nice enough to work patiently with our boys to get the wiring and outlet boxes done. It was COLD out there on site and I'm sure they were working with numb fingers most of the time!

Now for the big news: that winter we passed our Rough Inspections. 

It was rather NOT like I expected. I didn't faint, or cry, or breathe a sigh of relief. The inspector did not pat us on the back and say "You've done a great job!" (I didn't really expect that, I thought it was maybe an in-and-out-routine type inspection), or go around with a checklist full of "yes" marks. Instead, it was lots of questions. "What are you doing here?" "Why is that there?" and when he finally signed off, "Well, I'll sign this as approved but I want to see that you have done XYZ by the drywall inspection." Really it didn't feel approved at all!

  Well, later it sunk in. We had passed a major inspection! The next phase was open to us!

So we went to Lowe's to buy something we could not have before Rough Inspection. We were bubbling with joy and wanted to grin and giggle-- or try not to cry in front of a Lowe's employee. We were going to buy an important fixture. 

As we turned down the aisle we were seeking, lined with white porcelain, under the bright lights, a white-haired employee from the plumbing department was walking toward us. "Can I help you folks?"  He looked like an angel...

Yes, it was our huge leap into the 19th Century (oh, is it the 21st now?). Our house was going to join the rest of Western Civilization and contain indoor plumbing. Well, 2/3 indoor plumbing (there wasn't a sink yet).

 Rather an odd thing to do to mark the celebratory occasion!  But we were so happy to be in the next stage-- now we were on to FINISH plumbing, not rough-in. FINISH electric and FINISH everything! We were FINALLY done with rough ins. I was hopeful that we would be done with the whole house by Spring!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021


 We weren't being totally useless to our hostess. She turned us into house-sitters while she was gone on trips to see her great-great grandkids, or flying off to places for vacation.

Nancy spent her time helping everyone. "This isn't my house, this is God's house" she would say, and if it weren't for a big family being hosted there at that moment, her doors would have always had someone knocking on them who just had to talk to her (with us there, she tended to go and see people instead of them coming to her). She also had God's phone, God's car, God's dishes in her cupboard... basically all God's stuff (did you know that could happen?). 

She wasn't a person of great means but she used them all for the Lord.

God favors helpful people and sends them special loved ones in their lives who say "come with me on vacation, I'll give you a plane ticket."

Yup, Nancy was the sort of person who God sends on vacation to Paris. 

The routine life was suddenly enlivened with  weeks of emails from the traveler abroad. Email became more exciting with photos of Paris in the frost, museums and cathedrals, and descriptions of fresh croissants for breakfast.

While our hostess was in Paris (and London), we faithfully house-sat, but did not neglect our own house-building. No, we had a special event. 

We bought a fixture! 

But in the interest of time, I will put that amazing story in Friday's post....

Friday, November 5, 2021

More memories of that winter...


 One of the things that was so good about being with Nancy that winter was that while I was going through that baby-life-adjustment time, the kids could tag along with her. They loved it, because unlike their mother (homebody), Nancy went places.

For one thing, she went to church early (we were always late). 

For another thing, she went to all the church parties (being so far out of town, we often stayed home, and worked on the house instead). So suddenly the Game Night, the Christmas party, the gingerbread house making party, the Christmas tree hunt, the New Year's Party, every potluck, every fancy dinner, every shared meal, and anywhere Nancy went were easy to attend. 

The best part though, was watching Nancy prepare for these events. She would not show up empty handed! She was in the kitchen thinking ahead, and putting something together for the fellowship.

As a great-great-grandmother, Nancy was well practiced in the art of baby hypnosis. I'm glad we afforded her an opportunity to sit down for a while!

Sunday dinners with guests were without question, as well as entertaining any visiting speaker at church. And she had stories of (epic, in my mind) times when she had 30+ people over at once. "We just threw in some baked potatoes!" she said.

If someone was sick or grieving, she would say "Do you think this or that soup would go down easy? I'll make some bread and we'll have it there by 5." The days that need hospitality with food happen more often than you think. 

Besides all this, she had an open pantry to all her "kids." 

I was so thankful that the kids got to see how Nancy lived, and go along with her to deliver meals. And I would marvel that she said she wasn't doing anything for the Lord, and was thinking about running off to be a missionary to Mongolia.

 Nancy was the kind of person who wanted you to eat up the newly bought ice cream in her freezer, because it might get "freezer burnt."

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Metal Siding?

It was time to initiate our new family member into this crazy family build project, so one of the first outings for baby was to the metal place. 

We were seriously talking about using metal siding. I liked the look of the old-fashioned (pre-1920) very narrow horizontal wood siding, but even if I could find it it would have been expensive. I thought corrugated siding on its side would imitate that old narrow siding in the lights and shadows.

People, including Roger (our valuable source of building supply knowledge) down at the lumber place, thought this was not a good idea. But what's not to like about metal siding? It's inexpensive, it's got a 50 year paint job, styles and colors are getting better, and the durability is tops!

(By the way, the corrugated metal on the wall in the above photo had a beautiful shimmery smooth finish; it wasn't like galvanized roofing type stuff)

The metal place even had board-and-batten look siding, which was the style my husband had been thinking about.

There were some good-looking modern integrations and applications of metal siding that were popping up here and there in architectural photos. I was sure with my husband's background in design that he could make it look good. So, he did some computer models to explore the idea further. 

(Sorry about the quality of these pics-- I was taking pictures of his computer screen! Someday maybe I can put better screenshots up.)

So this is our house model! If you look at the far right of the house, lower story, you can sort of see what my idea for the narrow siding was. This model is showing corrugated metal, and it looked just as I had imagined it would.

 Blurry close-up, but if any of you are familiar with that old very narrow siding I was talking about, you might see the similarities between that and this corrugated horizontal application. 

Well I liked it, but we remained undecided. Our siding decisions (like sooo much of this house) lasted too long. In the end, we didn't (or couldn't) choose metal for a few reasons, but I still wonder what it would have been like...

What do you think of metal siding by the way? Do you think it is a crazy idea?