Tag Archives: living in a camper

Our new livingroom, and remodeling plans

As I hinted at in this post, Papa and I have been brainstorming some reorganization ideas for our quaint home. We are just several weeks away from my due date now and figuring out how we can manipulate our environment to make it more comfortable for a home birth and the sixth member of our family have been weighing on my mind.

So when I told Papa I was ready to take out excess furniture he was more than happy to oblige me!

Our next renovation project is putting shelves in each of the kids’ beds to hold quieter toys, since they refuse to set their toys neatly in the toy cupboard, instead chucking them into what will be the baby’s bed, but which I currently call the toy dump. Can you sense the frustration?

Honestly, I doubt keeping toys in their beds will help much (picture toys being catapulted off their beds when they are supposed to be going to sleep), but something needs to change in that department before baby arrives and I’m willing to try something new!

Anyway, I’m writing about what I’ve already covered in this video, so I’ll stop now before I make the video pointless!

If you have any brilliant ideas on organizing small spaces, especially toy areas, please share!

the middle of nowhere

Our home is planted in a big field, a decent walk’s distance from the nearest neighbor, on a side road in a not so highly populated town. Before we moved here nine months ago I made it very plain that I felt uncomfortable being alone with the kids without a vehicle. Not that I expected that to happen, but it was still an important issue. My one reassurance was that if we ever encountered a threat with a sick animal or a dangerous person, I would at least have my phone and a gun.

The first several months of living here, I had the advantage of summer and Papa’s frequent presence to help me adjust and become confident in our surroundings. By the time winter arrived and Papa returned to the workforce, I felt very comfortable on our land, with or without a vehicle (although one does come in handy).

Yet there are little reminders that keep popping up about how unusual a lifestyle we are living, and just how much we really are in the middle of nowhere. There is no sight of the road, or even a real driveway, from where we look out the window. We have no electrical lines, no underground plumbing, no internet or cable TV. If we chose to lose our cell phones we would be nearly disconnected from the world!

And it seems strange to feel like that this is life as usual now, that there is nothing odd about how we live our daily lives. I don’t concern myself with potential threats because I know I can defend myself and the kids and I know that the woods are not crawling with wild animals and bad people.

It is hard work dragging belongings up and down the 700’ hill when we can’t drive a vehicle on it (due to mud or snow), it is frustrating at times to deal with the generator because the fridge is buzzing, “charge me”, and I do sometimes miss the internet, but there are so many positive things about it that I enjoy.

I can send the kids out to run and they have endless space without having to think about traffic. We have privacy from neighbors. We can choose, for the most part, who knows we live here nad who doesn’t, and I get real exercise walking to the car and back (with laundry and children in tow).

I had doubts I would ever say this, but I welcome the frustrations that come with the joys, because I like living this way. It’s peaceful, it’s simple, it teaches me lessons I want to learn.

Now that we are half way through winter we feel confident that we will be able to stick it out the rest of the season (yay!). We have managed to thaw the pipes when it has dropped to -10 or -15 degrees overnight, and we figured out that the car is easier to drive on our roads than the truck, so Papa takes that to work in bad weather. This has also been a comparatively mild winter for us, which does make it a little easier for our first winter in a camper.

I can already feel the promise of Spring (only 41 days left!) and I know it will be a wonderful year, living in the middle of nowhere, right where we want to be.

Porch Progress

A while back we shared a video series with you on how we organize our camper-home, and I fully intended to make an additional video on our outdoor storage space, which would include the compartments under the camper, the “storage camper”, and our new porch. But it’s so easy to avoid sharing aspects of our lives that aren’t so pretty!

Take the porch for example. We still haven’t finished it, so I can’t show you our additional living space, woodstove in use, or how we closed it in. During a windy storm gusts still drive snow in, and when the makeshift door gets blown open the chickens make themselves at home – waking us up at 5:30am to a rooster crowing right outside our thin wall. The joy.

And yet, this is real life, this is the way it is right now (like it or not), and the porch still offers benefits as it is. We can hang up wet snow suits, and not trip over wet boots. Tools that need to be accessible don’t have to sit on the kitchen counter, and certain pieces of furniture are kept safe out of the weather.

The roof is finished, the outside walls are papered, and there are few spaces left exposed to the elements. Unfortunately, we ran short of cash to insulate it, making heating with wood impractical, and our use of stored well water impossible. Papa has plastic he could cover the inside walls with to hold in heat, but time has also proven to be an issue.

The next improvement will be shelving on the unfinished wall to hold games and books, enabling us to remove the seat that goes to the dining room table, but which also blocks much of the entryway inside the camper. A stool will take its place and more space will then open up.

But this post is about the porch. It will get done eventually, and in the meantime we can enjoy the additional conveniences it offers to a family of almost six living in a camper.

The Big Change

Enough hinting, I’m ready to tell you AFN’s big news. I’m so excited! First, a little background.

 

Recently, some of our readers began coming forward and emailing us their personal stories. Let me tell you, I had no clue our little blog had become an influence on other families! I tell you this humbly, but it honestly shocked me when one woman said she and her husband bought 20 acres and a camper, in part because of the encouragement our story offered them!

Every reader here is so important to us. We really appreciate the small, but growing community we have found ourselves in, and hearing from you has inspired us to take this as far as we can.

What does this mean? Papa and I want to take the giant leap from basing American Family Now on a free blog to starting our own blog-style website! This would enable us to have more control over what our blog looks like, and what features and resources it has to offer you, our readers. There is but one little setback.

Neither of us are computer programmers or website designers, and when it comes to making a website of our own, we are in way over our heads. Believe me, we’ve tried other web pages in the past, and never got beyond a basic front page design.

With that said, Papa and I are always up for a challenge, so we have downloaded a program to help us, and expect to use WordPress hosting so we are familiar with the management aspect. I can’t give you a date when our new site will be open, but I wanted to let you in on our project for two reasons – so you can join in on our excitement, and so you can offer us ideas while we are in the development stage. Is there something missing from our blog that would make it more enjoyable or useful to you? Anything you would like to see more (or less) of? Here are a few ideas we’re working on.

  • A page with how-to posts and videos to help you on your own homesteading journey
  • A community page to help bring our readers together
  • Sponsership and affiliate programs to support the website

We have even created a slogan, and a button you can share that express our family and our purpose for AFN, but you’ll just have to wait until the website is open to see them!

Papa and I have been tossing the website idea around for a while, but because of you we decided that 2012 is a good year to get started. If you have friends or family interested in a homesteading, off-grid journey, please share our blog with them. The bigger the community we build, the more helpful and supportive we can be for each other. Let’s do this!

hosting in a camper

“The practice of hospitality is not dependent on having the perfect home. I went to the home of a wealthy friend one day, and she did not even offer me coffee. Later, I visited a friend of limited means, and she gave me tea, homemade bread, and jam.”

It is one thing to figure in the size of your family when purchasing a camper-home, it’s another completely to host family and friends with your family in a camper.

Summer days make it a bit easier for inviting loved ones over for dinner, since you can dine outside around a picnic table or bonfire, but what happens during an unexpected rain shower, or on an extra cool, or even, a snowy day? Can you still have family over?

It may not be the ideal space, depending on the size of your family and the one you wish to fellowship with, but I can answer with a resounding – YES!

We have hosted a few families for dinner, including one couple with four children. That makes four adults and seven kids under age eight! With the couch, table, and yes, floor, we find room for everyone to sit. Since I have learned to cook nice meals in my little kitchen, once everyone has a place to sit and a plate with yummies, keeping company becomes a matter of a welcoming spirit and learning to adapt. If you feel comfortable in your space, your guests will feel comfortable too.

Some guests of ours love that we live in a simple, off-grid home, and this makes hosting easy. The most awkward visits have been with those of our loved ones who obviously feel that living in a small space is less than adequate and only a desperate person would choose to live in a camper. Yet with time, this awkwardness does appear to be shrinking, and I don’t expect it to be much longer before hosting becomes no big deal.

Tips for hosting in a camper?

  1. Have a cheerful, relaxed attitude. If you feel comfortable, your guests will too.
  2. Prepare your home to keep the space clean, simple, and attractive.
  3. Kids may be fine on the floor, but make sure your guests have a comfortable place to sit.
  4. Food is always a nice way to welcome someone! Even if you aren’t expecting them for a meal, offer your guests a home baked or prepared snack or beverage. Just because you live in a small space doesn’t mean you can’t feed a lot of people, so show them!
  5. Ambiance makes hosting pleasant. Try playing a CD in the background, or play music together.

Even at our small table, guests have enjoyed card games and lively discussions! These things all seem like common sense, but when comparing hosting in various-sized homes, it has occurred to me that it’s really about the same. Jump in and it will get easier each time!

Contemplating 2011

Anytime a lesson has been learned, an adventure is embarked upon, or a new fact is remembered, I encourage our kids to process their thoughts with crayon or colored pencils and paper. They enjoy it, and it makes a wonderful alternative to journaling for the pre-writing person.

But this post isn’t about narrations, journaling, or homeschooling. This is my chance to process the highlights of the past year, review my own lessons, feel accomplishment, and consider how the past influences the future.

This past year has been a wild ride. Like, I don’t even know where to start. Unemployment and foreclosure, moving, living in a camper, beginning homeschooling, getting pregnant again, selling herbal remedies, attending six births, Papa’s new job… and every one of these had/has so many facets I could write about them over the course of several posts (or you could start here).

All of the ups and downs have taught us valuable lessons in character, values, and creativity.

At heart I am a ‘put the roots down’, ‘follow the schedule’ kinda gal. I like normalcy, predictability, and dependability. If this year’s adventures have taught me anything it’s learning to enjoy the flow of life. Life is crazy no matter how much you want to plan it, but when I decided to look at ours as an unfolding story, a journey together, I realized that it doesn’t have to be “just so” in order to enjoy it.

As part of my processing, I tried looking back to last year’s year-end reflection on Papa’s phone. Of course, my tech-savvy self permanently deleted the post instead of opening it, so I can’t tell you if I met my goals, although I’m pretty sure I did.

Honestly I can’t remember more of what was on my list than that!

This year it was also a pleasure to watch our children grow in new ways. Living closer together and being in the middle of a giant field with access to gardens, tools, and wildlife has inspired them to try new things, learn new social and physical skills, and even to be more in tune with their own thoughts and feelings.

We’ve had some pretty intense parenting challenges this year, some we’re still in the middle of, yet it has also been such a joy to see them reach higher, become more confident in themselves, and to feel that we are becoming an even stronger family.

Soon I’ll be sharing some ideas of what we see in store for ourselves in 2012, but to sum up, I see this past year as being a valuable chapter in our family’s story. It will help us to move forward to bigger and better things. We’ve learned to be thankful and adapt to fewer resources without being uncomfortable, we’ve learned to enjoy less screen time and more time spent in reality, we’ve learned to be thankful for seemingly minute, yet precious details that could get lost amongst the challenges, and our faith, spirits, and I believe even our health have been strengthened by it.

Good night 2011, good morning 2012.

lit up for Christmas

After much experimenting, adjusting, and new, interesting ideas, we did it. We decorated our camper-home for Christmas.

Two 3′ Christmas trees on the bookshelf, decorated with lights, balls, and light-weight ornaments. Six stockings hanging from the curtain rod over the couch, candles, a snow globe, Christmas tins on the counter, and lights. Strings of lights all around the ceiling.

With LED’s, we can run them all on the inverter using very little battery power, and they are bright enough to provide a gentle light to the evening instead of the built in lights we normally use. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this holiday season, living in a camper and all, but I like it. We all do. (more pictures to come?)

cleaning a camper

One of the benefits of living in a camper is being able to clean our entire home in a relatively short time. Things like mopping the bathroom floor become part of my weekly routine, since it takes so little time and brightens up the home so well.

However, if you live in a small space with children, you already know what I learned soon after moving in – just because it takes less time to clean doesn’t mean it stays cleans. When you have kids, your home will have regular messes to pick up, whether you live in a 2,000 square foot home, or 200.

In case you are looking for ideas on cleaning small spaces, here is what my routine looks like. And, FYI, it is important to keep on top of the cleaning, however little time is spent, because in my experience, a small messy home is more irritating than a large messy home. Yet when it is well kept, it can be an enjoyable, welcoming, peaceful place, no matter how small.

Mondays are our “thorough straightening” day. After a weekend of outdoor projects or family outings, there is inevitably laundry all over the floor, little toys [painfully] underfoot, and the compost dish by the sink is full. So Monday morning I spent roughly 45 minutes putting things back where they belong. The rest of the week usually requires a 15 minute pick-up and sweep, plus dishes each day.

Tuesday is almost always our laundry day. Whether I use the clothesline or the laundromat dryer, this is at least a half day event because I bring all three kids with me, and laundry must descend and then ascend our 700ft “driveway”. Then there is the folding…

Wednesday there is usually a little more picking up to do after Tuesday’s absence.

Thursday is bathroom day – wash the counter, mirror, tub, floor… yada yada.

Friday I make an extra effort to clean up my mess on the porch, or whatever mess I can manage. Right now it’s mostly construction materials and tools, which are out of my jurisdiction. Instead I take care of snow clothes, bags of trash, boxes on their way to the storage camper, etc.

On days when I happen to have less clean up and the kids are entertaining themselves well, I pick odd cleaning projects to work on, such as decluttering a cupboard, washing a door or windows, mold duty, or whatever else I’ve been putting off.

If you added up all the time I spend cleaning it wouldn’t come to very much, but we are a very utilitarian family – we clean to keep our family healthy, safe, and comfortable, not to have a spotless home always ready for unexpected guests. We have other interests like crafts, cooking, games, reading, and exercise. So we clean a little each day and do our best to maintain a comfortable home.

To see how we organize our home, check out these videos:

Do you have a useful resource for cleaning small homes? Do share!

a fall blizzard

Snow in the forecast? Naw, it’ll fall lightly in the mountains and pass us by. Yeah, right. Instead we had at least a foot dumped on us in October.

Mowing the lawn one day and shoveling it the next, that’s Maine for you I guess!

The day after the fact Papa posted a couple of pictures from our fall nor’easter, but as we are all sitting down to our Thanksgiving dinners, I wanted to follow up with a few more of my favorite pictures from that day. A reminder of the wild weather we had, the sunny fall days we’ve had since, and the winter snow that is sure to join us before long.

French toast, games, music, kerosene heater, a woodcock, breaking sunlight glistening off the snow, and the sound of water trickling as it melted.

Not your typical day in October, but a lovely one anyway.

 (a neighboring woodcock)

AFN featured at Little House Living!

Check it out! We wrote a guest post for littlehouseliving.com! The couple who runs the website lived in a camper for a year themselves, and may be doing so again as they build their new house in the near future. They asked to share our experience with their readers and you can read the short version of our six months here in our mobile home by clicking here and reading the post for yourself!