Sunday, December 19, 2010

Before & After RV Remodel

Finally getting around to posting our before and after pictures of the RV remodel. Here goes!


Here's the Family Shrine, and the refrigerator with chalkboard paint. The kids love doing art work on the fridge.

Trying to show my favorite vintage hook I got, and the crown molding my hubby put in the bathroom.

Living Room:
See those beautiful glass windows above the chairs? We didn't know what to do about those. Then, we had an idea to paint them with chalkboard paint! They were covered nicely, and they're so useful. We write notes to each other, or our To Do list, or Grocery List, or meal planning on them. I love them now! My "after" picture didn't turn out for those...will have to post that later.

My Hot Contractor, working hard. Cute and happy.

Loft/Kids' Room
This is after The Hot Contractor tore it apart and rebuilt it.

Happy kids in their loft. They love it! We have their toys and books around the edges, and their bed in the middle.


My kids, helping the Hot Contractor work on things.

There's no "before" for this shot, but this is our "office".
I wanted to show the crown molding my Hot Contractor put up. This is the view from laying on the bed.

Here's the outside of the RV in process. The Hot Contractor rebuilt the loft over the cab because the outside wall had come off. There were some pretty amazing things underneath that three ant colonies!

He also took off all the windows for painting and repairing the walls. He had to remove many of the inner walls as he discovered more and more dry rot as he began taking things apart. I'm just glad we discovered it, and that it's gone. Plus, with all the walls torn out, it was a good reason to do new texture and paint.

Just before we left for our adventure. Yes, I'm hugely pregnant. I think this was at 34 weeks.

Here's us driving away. I'm driving the RV, pulling The Hot Contractor's tool trailer with The Princess in the cab of the RV. The Hot Contractor is driving his truck, hauling his flat bed trailer with my car on top, and he has Little Brother with him. We looked like something out of Beverly Hillbilly's traveling down the road.

Shameless Plug:
Now that you've seen what my talented hubby can do, may I ask that you keep him in mind for projects you or your friends might have coming up? We will be traveling the country, so we may be coming to a neighborhood (or RV campground) near you! We would love to meet people, explore new places, and be able to make some sort of income while we do it. For more about what The Hot Contractor can do, or to see pictures of past projects, you can check out his website here. Thanks, friends!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Update On Our Plans

Since it's been more than two months since I posted about out adventure, I figured it was time for an update.

We decided mid-September to move into the RV pre-baby, rather than try to do it with a newborn. The thought of packing up and moving while pregnant was also a little daunting, but I think it was the better option of the two. Considering this has been my easiest pregnancy so far, I was feeling up for it.

So, we began the remodel. First, The Hot Contractor rebuilt the area over the cab. It was all dry rotted, and he even found three ant colonies living under the loft bed! He rebuilt it, and now it's water proofed.

Then he tackled the dry rot in the other areas of the RV. He ended up replacing/rebuilding almost all the other walls, as he kept discovering more dry rot with each removal. It took a little longer than we planned. Once all the walls were done, he repainted them (and the cabinets). We chucked the gold cabinet hardware, and put on our oil rubbed bronze ones. I plan to do a before and after post, and I don't have my "before" pics handy right now, but here's a little sneak peek of the "after".

We also decided to paint the fridge and the gold laced mirror cabinet doors with chalkboard paint. They're super fun! The kids draw on the fridge whenever they have an artistic itch, and we use the freezer part for our grocery list. We've been using the other three (previously gold-laced ones) for our to-do list. Here's a sneak peek.

You'll notice our family shrine here too. :-)

Here's how the bedroom turned out.

The Hot Contractor and I both sewed new curtains. He did most of it, as he worries I might destroy them. Again, justified worry.

Without going into too much detail, we became very stressed as the Mad-Rush-to-Finish-Before-Thanksgiving arrived. We loaded up Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and hit the road! Somehow we made it. It was probably those days working from 7am-11pm for the two weeks prior. Ugh. It was hard, but it's over.

I left Oroville before The Hot Contractor because he had more things to load, and I needed to get to Sacramento to buy our refurbished washer/dryer before they closed. The Princess and I were in the RV, towing The Hot Contractor's work trailer loaded with all his tools. Unbeknownst to us, the ball on the hitch was a little too high, and every time I touched the breaks, I would skid. Sometimes not even stop. It was the scariest drive of my life! We made it (miraculously) to Sacramento 15 minutes before they closed. I told The Hot Contractor how scared I was driving. I thought the brakes had gone out, but he checked everything he could think of, and found nothing wrong with the brakes. He had the thought about the ball on the hitch being too high, and the weight of his trailer lifting the back tires on the RV when I braked. He lowered the ball, and it fixed the problem. I love that he's so knowledgeable, and that he can figure out stuff like this! I felt so safe and protected by him, knowing he wouldn't let us get on the road again until he was sure it was safe. We ended up spending the night in Sacramento, parked in the driveway of the RV salvage place. We left early Thanksgiving morning, and made it to Santa Cruz only a couple hours after we told my in-laws we would be there. I was full of gratitude. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Herb Drying

We decided this year, that we would dry our herbs instead of letting them die in our garden. I sent The Princess out with her preschool scissors to cut the herbs off the stems. Here's the little cutie.

We brought them in and washed them; thyme, oregano and basil.

Then The Princess put them on the food dehydrator trays. Here's thyme.

Sparse, I know. Then there's oregano.

We had a couple trays of oregano. I put them in this order because I figured the tiny thyme might fall through the cracks onto the bottom tray. Oregano would be less likely, and basil very unlikely. I figured they wouldn't get too mixed together this way. Here's basil.

We had basil coming out our ears!

I turned the dehydrator on to 95 degrees. I'll leave it all night, and check them in the morning. From what I read, it shouldn't even take that long, but I'd rather be safe, than have moisture (and eventually mold) in my herbs.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Crockpot Soap

I made soap today for the first time. I was a little intimidated. Mostly because I was using lye, and everything I read online scared the bageebeez out of me! Especially being pregnant, I wanted to do this with the utmost caution. So this is what my husband brought in for me to use.

It's a haz-mat face mask. Ok, I didn't really use it (I found some regular face masks around the house), but I thought it was cute that he wanted me to be *that* safe.

So, I read a little about making it in the crock-pot. It seemed easy, so I went for it. Here it is cooking.

Instead of using oils or fats I had bought from the store, I used some tallow I had rendered from the steer we just got (tallow is rendered fat from a cow, goat, or sheep). I had some tallow left over in my freezer from some goat fat someone gave me a while back, so I used that too. I figured it was a great way to use up the tallow, since I really don't like the taste or smell for cooking. Plus, it's free! The whole batch of soap (about 20 bars) cost me less than $2 to make. I bought some Lye, and used a few drops of essential oils (that I got on Freecycle, so I didn't really pay for those either). That's it!

In the end, it was way easier to make soap after actually doing it, than it was before trying it. Kinda like using cloth diapers for the first time, or making your own cleaning supplies: It's always harder before you do it. But once you try, you think, "What was I so afraid of? This is even better!"

Here's my final product.

I tried coloring it purple (to go with the lavender essential oils that I scented it with), but it didn't turn out too well. I definitely need to work on the coloring aspect. They might look like poop, but they smell like lavender!

The Hot Contractor tried it tonight and said it made nice suds and smelled good. That makes me happy. I was a little worried it would smell like stinky tallow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Here She Is!

The beauty.

Notice the duct tape on the loft over the cab. That was what our friends did to stop it from leaking last winter.

And here's my kids enjoying some sibling time on the front step. I thought it was precious that they just sat down together, and put their arms around each other. The Princess was asking Little Brother, "So, how was your day?" Precious.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hittin' the Road!

So, it's been a long time since I've blogged. What's new? But, I have a great reason to blog right now. I'm super duper excited about this adventure we're about to embark on. We're moving into an RV, and are going to explore the great U-S of A!

Here's how it all transpired:

We've wanted to leave California for a long time now, but for various reasons just haven't. Partly because we haven't known where we want to go. This summer, we took a family vacation to New Hampshire to check it out. We've done some research, and New Hampshire is rated as the "freest" state, and home of The Free State Project. Our little Libertarian hearts are longing for some of that freedom, so we've been mulling it over. It would be a big move, but we've got some adventure left in these spirits, so why not? We're planning on this being our final destination after our adventure, but we're also open to having our minds changed by our adventure.

A few weeks ago, some friends of ours gave us an RV that they no longer needed. Our other friends had given it to them. And some friends of theirs had given it to them. So, we're the latest recipients of this love, and are so grateful for this huge blessing! Traveling the country with our kids has always been a dream of ours. We've always said we wanted to do it for a year while homeschooling them, but since they're not quite school aged yet, that probably just means we'll have to do it again someday.

Since I'm currently with child (did I neglect to mention that here?), we are trying to figure out the timing of our move into the mansion. We're not sure if we should bust tail and get in there before the baby is born, or wait until a few months after he comes to move in. All just details, but stuff we're working through right now. The Hot Contractor has been getting more work in the Bay Area than he has here (which is pretty much none), so we're considering just movin' in and going down there for a while this Fall/Winter, and "practicing" living in it. I think it will be fun.

The cool part is that we took it camping last weekend (can I just pause here to tell you what glorious Camping Sleep this pregnant Mama had in that thing? Seriously. Camping Sleep and Pregnancy just don't go together well in my experience). While camping, we discovered all these things that are broken/need fixing on it. Like how the generator doesn't work, and the hydraulic system is broken, so we aren't able to level it. And how if it's not level, the fridge and freezer don't work. And how the water pump leaks, so whenever we use it (which is whenever we want to turn on water), it leaks a lot of our water, and we end up with an empty water tank in about a day. And the window coverings that don't exist. It might sound like I'm complaining, but really, these quirks excite me! Know why? Because we get to make it our own while we fix it! Woo-hoo!!!

When we first got it, the front door wouldn't close, so The Hot Contractor rebuilt the door. It took a few days, but it was well worth having some privacy when we went camping last weekend. We also decided to tear up the carpet, and put down laminate floors. We found some really fun stuff at Home Depot, and since it's a sprawling mansion of 29 feet, it cost us about $200 in flooring to replace it all. I also got a carpet remnant (shag, of course) at a carpet store for $35. We're going to cut it to size, and have a nice cushy carpet runner under our tootsies. homey does that sound???

We're going to repaint the cabinets and walls eventually, and replace the oh-so-retro (but not in a good way) cabinet hardware with some cute oil-rubbed bronze knobs I got cheap on eBay. I'm going for a vintage country look. We bought some upholstery fabric, and are making cute curtains for the lodge (The Hot Contractor is doing that too. He's just a better seamstress than I am, and has a hard time letting me sew important things...because he's a little afraid I'll mess them up. Justifiably). A few of them ended up shorter than we wanted (width-wise), so I have an idea of adding some fun fringe or tassel fringe to the edges to extend them out a bit. I'm still looking for the prefect fringe, so let me know if you see any. ;-)

Another idea I had....since storage is an issue when you're living with five people in a 29-footer, I'm collecting vintage hooks to put on the walls all over the RV. Whenever I think of this, I imagine cute little hooks decorating spacious feet of wall space.

And then I go in there.

And I realize there aren't very many places to hang hooks because there is very little wall space. Even though I will be spatially challenged, I'm determined to succeed with my vintage hook decorating idea. I think it will be functional, yet cute. And that's what I'm going for.

One aspect of our adventure that is really challenging is laundry. If we're living in this thing full-time, I really don't want to be dragging three kids to a laundry mat every other day just to keep up on my laundry. I use cloth diapers, cloth napkins, cloth towels (instead of paper towels), and even more "cloth" stuff that I won't mention here. Some things I'm willing to give up, but some things I'm not (like cloth diapers), so I must find a way to do laundry in this RV. If I don't do one to two loads a day, I'm behind, and that's only with two kids! We came across this machine that washes and dries your clothes all at once, and is about 2'x2'x3'. We think we have a place for it in the RV (we'll lose one of our nice Lazy-Boy type chairs, but I think it will be worth it....especially since we'll add a counter top to it so we expand our kitchen counter space). It's about a $1,200 unit, and a little out of our budget for this "Design on a Dime" endeavor, but I called around to RV salvage places, and found a used/refurbished one for $600. Cool, huh? It's down in Sacramento, so we'll go check it out the next time we go that way. Maybe y'all should start calling me Frugal Mama, because I'm SO feeling it right now.

There's a lot of dry rot we're discovering, so The Hot Contractor is planning on tearing all of that out and replacing it. There's a little teensy bit of me that is afraid of what we will discover, but it's all a part of the adventure, eh? And again, we get to make it our own!!

There's the update. I think I need to start an RV blog. RVMama? What do you think? I definitely need to find some way to document our adventures. For now, Homesteadmama will have to suffice.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Movers

Our baby chicks graduated today. We moved them outside, into our smaller chicken tractor. They're a little nervous about this unknown territory, but we're confident in a few days, they'll feel right at home. Mmm...fresh, green grass.

Here's an up-close of the scared little things.

Here's their little nesting box.

The bees that came by a few days ago decided to stay. I really thought they'd make a short inspection, and find that the tree they were scouting out was sub-standard. But apparently not. They're staying. At least for now. I just hope they leave me some honey.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Is In The Air!

It's been a while since I've updated about what we are doing around the homestead, so I thought I'd give a little update.

The Hot Contractor and I have been going to the local Weston A Price Foundation chapter meetings, and have been learning a TON about why eating a traditional foods diet is so good for us.  We are slowly making changes, and most of them have to do with our homestead.  We've also met lots of amazing people, and found some awesome connections there.  Annnnd....they have been offering classes on Urban Homesteading, Raising Poultry in Your Backyard, etc.  In April we will go to the Heirloom Tomato class-can't wait!

After losing almost all our chickens to predators last winter, we were a little disheartened, and worried it might happen again if we use the same coop.  Through the Poultry class, we learned that the most healthy way to let our chickens live is in chicken tractors.  We have a small one that The Hot Contractor built when we moved here, but it isn't big enough to hold ten new laying hens (which we will get this week), and 25 meat chickens (which we will hatch soon).  Here's our old chicken tractor.

There's our two remaining girls in there.  Sniff, sniff.

So, The Hot Contractor has designed and built a new chicken tractor.  We plan on it holding up to 24 chickens.  We'll use a different coop for our meat chickens when they are big enough to be outside.  Here's the tractor he's working on now.

I also thought I'd post a pic of our garden.  We've been enjoying lots of greens from the garden.  We have some cute little carrots growing too.  Right now we are planting lots of things for our summer garden, and even have some potatoes growing.

Here's The Princess after picking some kale for dinner the other night.

Here's our mini greenhouse with our herb starts growing.

And here's our strawberry patch.  I have high hopes of strawberry jam this summer, so I'm praying these things go OFF!

Yesterday the kids and I planted lots of seeds using a method I'd love to share.  The Princess got poison oak in the process (bummer).  I'll upload those pics soon, and share a little more about what we're doing (like getting raw milk, and a steer to slaughter.).

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

I've had a couple friends recently ask me for my cleaning supply recipes.  Instead of typing them out over and over, I figured this would be a great topic for a blog post!   You need very few ingredients to make up all these concoctions.  If you gather up these items, you can make almost everything I'm about to list:

Baking soda
White Vinegar
Your favorite Essential Oil
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Hydrogen Peroxide

So, here goes...

1) Multipurpose Cleaner/ Window Cleaner (for me, this is used for anything I would have used Windex on in the past):
Take a spray bottle (your emptied out Windex one will do just fine ;)) and fill it with:

1/2 vinegar
1/2 water
2-3 drops of your favorite Essential Oil (EO).

I use this for all my mirrors and glass in the house.  Vinegar is also great for removing hard water stains---best to use straight vinegar when doing that.  I use it on our shower door to get those yucky spots off.  I also use the vinegar/water solution for wiping down the kids' toys, cleaning off the counter tops, a quick wipe down of the bathroom sink before guests come's a great multipurpose cleaner!  The EOs are not necessary, but they will make your cleaner smell better than vinegar!  You can buy EOs at your local health food store, or online here.   My favorite is a combination of Lavender and Tea Tree Oil.  Sometimes it's nice to use a lemon or orange EO, or  lemongrass, for cleaning supplies---there's just something fresh and clean about those scents. 

2) Soft Scrub (I use it for everything I used to use Comet on---the stained kitchen sink, the dirty tub or shower, the bathroom sink, etc.)

Are you ready?  It's a seriously hard mixture consists of......baking soda!  I know, you probably are believing it as much as I did at first, but I promise if you try, you will watch things disappear right before your eyes!  I just sprinkle it on dry, then wet a sponge and make a little paste. Then spread my paste all over whatever porcelain thing I'm trying to clean.  It's like a magic eraser.  If you have something really dirty, use a little vinegar.  After the chemical reaction is over (it will fizz and bubble a lot--remember that from chemistry class?), you can spread it and scrub with it.

3) Toilet bowl cleaner (non-toxic, and about 1/10 of the price of commercial bowl cleaners)
I use the vinegar and baking soda mixture.  I flush the toilet, then after the water drains from the bowl, shut off the water valve.  With little water in the bowl, I pour some vinegar in, then a handful or so of baking soda.  I then take the brush and swish it around.  After about 20 minutes, I come back and brush it again, then turn the water back on.  Sparking fresh! 

4) Disinfectant
I fill a squirt bottle with:

1/2 vinegar
1/2 hydrogen peroxide

I've heard that this disinfectant is better than any commercial disinfectant you could buy.  I use it for anything I want to get the germs off, especially my daughter's training potty after she uses it. Blech.

5) Furniture Polish (replacement for Pledge)
I've been using:

1/4 cup of lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 drops essential oils.

I can't say I'm in love with this recipe.  It will go rancid, so you have to use it up, or throw it out.  You can keep it for a little while in the refrigerator, but I don't dust often enough to use it again when I do keep it in the fridge, so I usually dispose of the leftovers.  The next time I dust, I'm going to try this new recipe I came across:

1:1 ratio of vinegar and olive oil
2-3 drops of EO (I really like using Lemongrass for my furniture polish.  It's so fresh smelling!)

6) Laundry Detergent
1/2 cup soap flakes (like grate a bar of soap with a cheese grater)
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup washing soda
1/4 cup Borax

This will yield like three loads of laundry (you use about 1/2 cup each load), so you would want to multiply it by a lot. 

The laundry detergent is a bit of a labor of love because grating those bars of soap takes a long time!  I've stopped doing it for now because I don't want to sit and grate like ten bars of soap.  But, it is nice to use when I do make it.

Enjoy your clean, non-toxic house (for about 1/10th of the price of buying commercial cleaners!).