Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vintage Trailer Rehab

We've finally arrived at our first stop on the road - the grandparents' in Colorado. As we spend some time enjoying the holidays, here's a little bit of what we've been doing to make my 1975, 14ft. MeToo travel trailer more suitable for full time living:

Tearing out the bunks and dinette resulted in an large open space. Now, what to do with it? The bunks from the house would have fit, but too heavy. A lightweight futon was a consideration. Yak wanted a hammock to sleep in. The man of the place came up with the idea of removing the bunk from the old RV and making it a fold-up bed. That sounded good, so he went ahead with it.

Here you can see the bed folded down, with a little bit of a shelf next to the wall. The bottom picture is the bed folded up. You can see the mattress sticking out the top and the hinged leg supports folded against the bed. I still have to add a center support and straps to hold the bed in the up position. There is now quite a bit of easily accessible storage space under the bed, and when folded up, storage boxes can be moved outside, to give me a large workspace for sewing, writing, whatever.

Another modification we made was to remove the smaller, non-working fridge and replace it with the larger fridge from our old RV. This involved removing the entire door frame and building out the cabinet to accommodate the bigger fridge. A few more cubic inches doesn't seem like much, but it really makes a difference.

A former owner upgraded the electrical system, including putting in an independent battery system, which I have yet to figure out. I still have some work to do on the heater and oven, though the stove works. The hot water system is a battery operated pump at this time, until I get the hot water pipes replaced and can check the water heater. The cold water works fine. When it's not frozen solid. I fiberglassed a crack in the gray/black water tank and have a minor repair to do on the toilet, but then I think the plumbing will be ready to use.

Right now, everything's thawing out, as I had no electricity the first few days we were here. Now I'm plugged in and have the electric heater going. Luckily, we've been warm and dry in the grands' guest room while we work out the bugs.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like:

A New Direction
Outfitting The RV - DIY Mattresses and Drapes

Working and Homeschooling

Mobilizing the Homestead

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A New Direction

Sunset at Wild Horse Ranch
I have been a bit slower to post this past month, as we have been working hard on the new direction our life is taking. Preparing for full-time living in an RV and travel trailer has meant major renovation to the travel trailer, which I will post about in the weeks to come, and getting animals to the vet, to update shots and such.

The horses are now safely ensconced in their new home in Northern Colorado, under the watchful care of my daughter, the horse lover. We are taking a little break, to enjoy a late Thanksgiving and early Christmas together, and then will head back to the homestead to put the finishing touches on the travel trailer before heading up to the grandparents' in Southern Colorado, where we will spend the holidays. Both of these towns are wonderful, and I am excited to explore them and write about them in the coming year. There are lots of farms and dairies, local beekeepers and other homesteaders. As well as all kinds of activities and points of interest for travelers.

Moonrise over Wild Horse Ranch
For now, here are a couple of pictures of the horses enjoying Wild Horse Ranch. I hope to post a couple more times in the coming weeks, and then more often again after New Year's. Looking forward to sharing about our Homestead on the road.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy:

Outfitting the RV - DIY Mattresses and Drapes
Mobilizing the Homestead     

Simplifying the Homestead
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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Teaching My Son To Sew

If you sew a button on his shirt, he can wear it another day. If you teach him how to sew a button on his don't have to do it anymore. All 3 of my sons can sew buttons on their shirts and sew a straight seam in order to mend a tear. The older ones prefer to leave these things to their wives. Except for hockey gear. They can mend their own hockey gear. Possibly because the girls won't go near the smell. 

Yak is taking it a step further. Having spent so much of his life with me in my workshop, he has pestered me for years to let him sew on the machine. Yak started out with a needle and thread when he was about 5 years old. He had his own sewing kit, in a matchbox, with several colors of thread wrapped around old bobbins, a paper with a couple needles stuck in it, and a safety scissors. He would sew meandering seams on scraps of fabric and call it done. Later, I showed him how to sew on a button and mend a small tear. Finally, this year I set him up with my grandma's old factory model Pfaff.  This is the machine I use for sewing leather, heavy canvas and anything that might damage the Janome.

Historically men were the sewists anyway. Tentmakers, tailors, dressmakers, most were men. Yak has developed an enthusiasm for designing his own patterns and I want to nurture that enthusiasm quickly before it goes away. First he watched studiously as I sewed the drapes for his dad's RV. He noted the working of the foot pedal, the hand wheel and how to guide the heavy fabric under the needle. Next, I let him take a turn. First he sewed on some cotton scraps to get the feel for the machine and foot pedal. He sewed up a number of bean bags, which he sold out of at the Farmer's Market where we worked for several weekends. His next project was hand bags. I think the simple design, along with the sturdy upholstery fabric looks great. He ran into difficulty attaching the straps, so the project is on hold for now. Maybe this is a good time to encourage use of the seam ripper...

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Outfitting the RV - DIY Mattresses and Drapes

Our 1989 28 foot Georgie Boy Cruise Air II came to us in top notch condition. All that needed fixing was some worn out plumbing. The microwave burned out after the first use, so we replaced it. The kitchen is easy to cook in, and the sitting area is very comfortable. All that was needed here were 2 twin mattresses for the bedroom bunks and drapes for the bedroom windows. 

We happened to have an old full-size futon mattress laying around so we recycled it. We cut it in half, I pieced fabric strips onto the covers so they would fit again, and sewed them closed. I also had a bolt of upholstery material in the workshop, so I measured, cut, ironed and sewed drapes for the bedroom and a long panel for a bedroom "door".

Mr. D is now happily ensconced in his new digs, enjoying the use of his electrical gadgets, powered by the solar panels he installed, along with several heavy duty deep cell batteries. He has already started on the first leg of our road trip, to snow country, where he will be wintering, taking care of his parents. 

We will be joining him soon. Now to get my trailer ready - that's a project! Thanks for stopping by.

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy these:

Mobilizing The Homestead

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

End of the Garden

Our bountiful harvest
We didn't have much of a garden this year, but what we did have did pretty good once it started raining.Those pumpkins were enormous! I think one was somewhere around 70 pounds! The other 3 about 20-40 pounds. We got about a dozen watermelons, about the same on cantaloupes. There was only one row of beets and one of onions, but that was enough to keep us well fed for a couple months, as well as several cans of beets for the pantry. A neighbor supplied us with zucchini and chard, another with cucumbers, so in addition to eating fresh and fried squash and greens, I was able to put up a couple dozen quarts of pickles. I am not really a pickle person as far as store-bought goes, but I love my homemade pickles. I love to open a jar of pickled cucumbers or other veggies midwinter, to add some variety to our staples of rice, potatoes, carrots, onions and beans. 
Zucchini, cucumbers and onions ready for the pickling brine
As for the pumpkin, well, the largest went to our local library so they could use it for a fund raiser. If you're near Ash Fork, stop in and guess the weight for 25 cents a guess - the winner gets to keep the pumpkin and the library gets a boost to its budget. This little fellow grew right into the fence. We had to pick him before he got any more attached, but he seems to have ripened just fine.

A creepy halloween mutant
After giving away several more pumpkins, the last few will be eaten for the next few weeks and canned for later pies, breads and cookies. Sadly, we didn't plant any tomatoes. I can always use lots of jars of tomato sauce. Maybe next year...speaking of which, we will be on the road next year, looking for fresh, local produce and experimenting with our homesteading practices in a 28 foot RV and a 14 foot trailer. Should be very interesting. 

Thanks for stopping by.

If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy these:

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Working and Homeschooling

Yak doing 5th grade math
I suppose it's time to start posting an occasional plug for my upcoming book, "The Working Parent's Guide to Homeschooling". I was originally planning to self-publish, but a friend in the biz convinced me to write a book proposal he could send to his agent. So that's where we are right now. Waiting and hoping for recommendations for representation from one of the top literary agents in New York! I am humbled. Okay, I'm over it. The truth is, I really believe in this book, and feel it addresses important issues for working parents who may be interested in homeschooling but think it's impossible. From my own 15 years of experience as a working and homeschooling parent, as well as that of friends and mentors I've met along the way, I hope to offer encouragement and real solutions to working parents who want to make the leap into homeschooling and discover a richer, more fulfilling life for themselves and their children. 

Full chapters address scheduling, child care, working at home, resources, freebies and more. This is not just a quickie 20 page ebook. Nearly 200 pages offer examples of working parents, including office workers, nursing assistants, waitresses, front desk workers, swing and night shift workers, 9-5ers, self-employed and work-at-homers. We are singles, couples and families on the road. Our children play music, hockey and baseball. We sometimes watch too much TV and sometimes play too many video games. In other words, we are typical American families - who work and homeschool.

Stay tuned for occasional updates as we move through the publishing process and check back for more posts on the topic of working and homeschooling.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Farmer's Market

Homemade breads, pickles, cronuts; cucumbers, zucchini.
First, a correction to my last post. Our new homes are a 28 foot RV and a 14 ft. travel trailer. What's a few square feet here and there, anyway?

Kreations by Katy, a member of Mrs. D's Homestead
We've really been enjoying participating as vendors at the Saturday Market in Williams, AZ. Helen Gorney, of Open Studios set this up as a venue for local crafters, bakers, and gardeners to market some of their products. So far, we have enjoyed local apples, pears, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and eggs, home canned jams, salsas and home-baked goodies, gorgeous hand crafts and local honey. Our last Saturday for the season is coming up on September 28th. Hopefully next year we'll see lots more home grown produce.

Lotions, lip butters, soap cozies, rice bags
Mrs. D has picked up a number of new customers for her handmade all natural shea butter and coconut oil lotion bars and lip butters, as well as meeting with loyal repeat customers. Katy's Kreations are attracting positive attention, with the Dammit Doll being particularly popular. (Hope to have some up on the Etsy store soon). Jacob's Store is selling out of his handmade rustic crosses and his new beanbag ice therapy packs. He's also doing a booming business with ice cold lemonade, made with lemons from grandpa's backyard tree, and ice tea. Now to just get him to update his Etsy store.

Yak's lemonade and ice tea venture

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mobilizing The Homestead

It's finally here. We've spent the last year downsizing and preparing to hit the road in our 37 ft. RV and 16 ft. travel trailer. We've butchered the cow, a sheep and a llama. We've given away or sold the chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, guinea, goats and lambs. We are down to 3 horses, 2 dogs, 1 cat and 2 llamas. They will stay with family in Colorado when we are on the road. We will also spend part of the year in Colorado with the animals. 

How do I feel about closing up the homestead and moving on after 15 years? I have such mixed feelings about leaving this place. I've wanted to travel full-time for quite awhile, but the timing wasn't quite right. Now, opportunities have fallen into place and I have made the heartbreaking decision to part with animals and homesteading and stuff, live simply in my travel trailer, visiting friends and family, exploring the country and even seeing more of this great world. I do not leave this place lightly. I have loved it here. I have many friends here. In the meantime, every road trip, even the mini ones just for a day, remind me that travel is another of my passions and since it is harder to travel extensively with an overload of possessions and animals, I gladly, yet reluctantly let go of them. 

Well, you can take the girl away from the homestead, but this girl will still be cooking from scratch, growing what's possible in an RV, canning, sewing, and homeschooling. So really, I'm still me, and will continue to write about these topics, as well as the particular challenges of slow, minimalist travel and simple RV living. Of course, we'll have a variety of locations to share with you, too. I look forward to reporting on locating local, fresh produce, raw milk, home raised meats (more of that once the freezer's empty), and farm fresh eggs.

My homeschooling book is out to the literary agents, with hopes that it will be picked up by someone soon. I will continue to post about our adventures homeschooling on the road. I'll also share about our downsizing efforts and transitioning to an even simpler lifestyle right here. Thanks for stopping by and come back again, soon.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Trouble In Store - Book Review
There's Trouble In Store, when a young governess finds herself alone in the world, with only a letter from a distant cousin bequeathing his share in an Arizona mercantile to her. Melanie Ross takes the next train west but what she finds when she arrives in Cedar Ridge, is not what she expected. Instead of a warm welcome from her cousin's business partner, Alvin, she discovers a rival claim to her inheritance. Alvin, now deceased, has left his half of the store to his nephew and Caleb Nelson doesn't want Melanie around. Melanie is determined to claim her inheritance - it's all she has to hold onto. Soon, bigger problems come their way, as a mysterious stranger is murdered on the steps of the mercantile and no one is free from suspicion. Will Caleb and Melanie lose their last hope of livelihood? Or will they join together to solve the murder and find something more precious?

Once again, Carol Cox paints a vivid picture of 1880's Arizona, alive with piercing blue skies, red sunsets and raging flash floods. Even the townspeople are a colorful mixture of the rogues, rebels and wanderers that inhabit small-town Arizona to this day. Meticulous research and a love for history keep Carol writing enjoyable and interesting stories about old west Arizona, with a healthy dose of spiritual direction. I enjoy her wry sense of humor and had to laugh as Caleb kept trying to get rid of Melanie, while Melanie kept trying to "improve" the store.

I recommend this book for ages 12 and up. Available from Baker Publishing for $14.99, as a 352 page paperback or in e-book format. Also available from Amazon and other distributors.

Thank you to Carol Cox and Baker Publishing for providing me with a free review copy of this book. Looking forward to your next one, Carol.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What IS a Lotion Bar?

These yummy looking candies are actually solid lotion bars.  I have been making lotion bars for many years, now, but since a lot of people don't know what they are, I will give you a brief overview.  

Lotion bars are solid lotion. Not soap. Lotion. Rub one between your hands to soften, then spread wherever you need extra moisture and silky softening.  I use mine on my face, hands and body.  My friend uses hers on her cracked heels: she massages it in before bed, puts on cotton socks and in the morning - soft feet. For especially tough dirt and grease, even makeup, rub some lotion bar in and let it set for a few minutes. Then wash with some good old-fashioned homemade soap (which I also make) and watch the grease float away. Baking soda can provide grit to help get the grease out, if necessary.  Rub some more lotion in to moisturize after that tough scrubbing.

Now for the exciting news!  For years, I have been making my lotion bars with shea butter, beeswax, olive oil and essential oils. This combination makes a nice, solid bar, which is just a bit too solid. I have had an ongoing discussion with my friend and sometimes business partner (mostly brainstorming partner) Maryruth, about the virtues of coconut oil and at what percentage to incorporate it into the lotion bars. I am happy to say that I have finally hit upon a formulation which produces a solid, spreadable, silky-soft product. The addition of coconut oil was pure genius on Maryruth's part. Getting it right has been purely hard work for me. 

Mrs. D's new and improved lotion bars now contain shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax and essential oils. They are also available in unscented. We are also offering the same formula in our Lucious Lip Butters, in a handy tube. Several flavors and unflavored available.

I hope you will give Mrs. D's new formula lotion bars a try. I think you will be as pleased as I am at the improved performance. Visit one of our stores below:

Mrs. D's Homestead
Mrs. D's Etsy Shop
Cool Canine Clothing

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We have ants.  Lots of ants.  Ants of every size and variety.  Crawling ants, flying ants, carpenter ants, red ants, black ants, white ants, who knew there were so many ants? Ants all over the garden, ants everywhere after a rain.  Ants all over my feet in sandals! 

According to  Wikipedia,  "More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified".  Apparently, the flying ants are males and new queens.  After mating as they fly, the males die and the queen finds a place to start her colony, breaks off her wings and starts tending to her eggs.  Wikipedia also mentions that ants, depending on species, eat anything.  The Orkin man says that different ant species require different treatment to get rid of them.
I have tried to eradicate some of the worst anthills with Borax, the ones where we tend to walk and work and stand the most - in the driveway, next to animal pens.  I've had some temporary success, but they always come back.  I believe their tunnels are deep and meandering.
Yet, they are all by the living areas.  There are none out in the "back 40" or the "east 20" (okay, the "back 5" and "east 2.5" acres).  Why do they stick so close to the house?  Luckily, I don't have them in the house.  Here is an interesting article about how to get rid of ants, I ran across it while researching ants for this brief post:  How to Get Rid of Ants.  Can't wait to try it on a couple of my more annoying anthills.