Category Archives: Camper Living

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Our new baby girl

Welcome to this world Chickie

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!

Winterizing our pipes, and other stuff

Ever since our pipes first froze in December, we’ve been meaning to share with you our experiments (failures and successes) in thawing the pipes and preventing future freeze-ups. We still haven’t got it mastered, but we have learned a few tricks that might be useful to anyone planning to live in a camper during the cold winter months.

This video includes a few clips over the past couple months from these experiments, along with discussions of heating, and what it’s like to live in a camper in the cold months. Eventually we may have a how-to video or post with pictures on how to effectively manage this, but for now you can join us on our journey of trial and error.

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.

AFN featured on Frugally Sustainable!

Our guest post for Andrea’s challenge to frugal living in 23 days has been published today, on downsizing your home.

Andrea has a wonderful blog with great resources for every family. Please visit her at!


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!

the compost toilet

Papa says he likes waiting until minor emergencies occur before taking care of the messy jobs. Having the sewer freeze up before replacing the RV toilet with the composting toilet would certainly count as one of those projects! Eewww!

But now it’s done, and a compost toilet now sits in our bathroom. Papa made it out of a 5 gallon pail with an oak box and standard toilet seat built over it. The pictures below don’t show the finished product because Papa has some trim work and doctoring left to do, but you get the idea.

When you lift up the seat you see two slits, one on either side, which allow you to pull the pail out to empty it.

I know a lot of people use compost toilets, but I was honestly afraid of the smell. Who wants a pail of poo in the bathroom, right? But the amazing thing is, that sprinkling in some peat moss once or twice a day eliminates the smell! You could walk in there and honestly have no idea what is hiding behind that box.

The waste will be emptied into a steel 50 gallon barrel where it will turn to compost. Theoretically, the humanure can be used on vegetable gardens, but seeing as I plan to expand the flower garden this year, I think we will start there. The idea of my you-know-what sitting around my food is not very appealing.

Anyway…. we did it, it works, and now we can move on from a necessary, yet yucky topic to something nice.

2012, a year for growing roots

I love the New Year. It is fresh. It is new. It is full of opportunity. You start the year with a clean slate, except you get to build on the past; lessons learned, accomplishments made. I know creating goals are a tradition often kept at this time of year, even though these same goals are often broken before the year has gotten well under way, but I still like to create an outline of sorts that helps me to figure out what I want to do with myself for the year. As our family grows, this has also become a convenient time of year to review where our family is at and where we want to see ourselves this time next year. Without creating unrealistic goals, this has been a helpful way to guide us as we move forward.

For starters, I updated our Who We Are, Q&A, Favorite Reads, First Time Here pages, and even our welcome note. No longer are we in the middle of a move, or unemployment, and our progressive changes in lifestyle ought to be reflected in the background we have provided for you, so please check them out!

It has been a while since I gave you an update on where we are with the foreclosure process. Not intentional, I assure you; there are just too many things to write about! So, in a nutshell, this is what’s going on. While Papa’s new job has enabled us to bring home a little more mula, it is still far too little to pay our mortgage as well as take care of our family, so we cannot pick up the mortgage payments and attempt to get back to where we were in May 2011 when we stopped paying them. We are, however, still paying on the home equity loan we had, at least until our mortgage company and bank decide this is not necessary.

Foreclosure, we’ve discovered, is not as simple as handing in the keys and avoiding the payments. Papa has filled out countless forms, mostly repeating the same information over and over, as to why we are unable to make the payments, etc. In early December we were finally handed a notice of foreclosure by the local court house, saying that the mortgage company is threatening to repossess the house. We have not been issued an eviction notice, but because we told the mortgage company we’re not living there, they have winterized the house.

In the meantime, the mortgage company, and the bank who owns our home equity loan are arguing over whether or not the lien on the property for the secondary loan can be dropped in order to make the house available for short sale. At this point that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Politics.

However, with all that said, a relative of one of our neighbors, as the property used to be in the ownership of their family, has recently made an offer of $25,000 to buy the place. Our realtor agrees with us that it would be stupid for the mortgage company not to accept the offer, but again, it will be mountains of paperwork and countless phone calls, and who knows how many weeks before it is decided whether they can purchase the place for that little or not. We don’t know exactly how a sale would impact the foreclosure process or our relationship with the mortgage company or the bank, but it appears that one way or the other, the house will no longer be in our possession by the end of 2012. Time will tell.

Not entirely a nutshell I guess…

On the home front, our addition to the camper is closed in. Papa has installed windows, a temporary door, and closed in the edges of the exposed side above and to the sides of the camper so that it is protected from the elements. When we are able to save up enough money, insulating the porch will be the next project. We may begin heating with the woodstove anyway, to help thaw out the 50 gallon barrels of filtered and bleached well water, but we’re taking it one day at a time.

While we intend to have the porch complete in preparation for winter next year, Papa and I have been toying with the idea of (once summer comes) attempting to move the camper out from the porch, selling it, and using the income to build an additional room on the opposite side of the porch (where the camper was) to basically create a small home. The sale of the camper would more than cover the cost, and it would give us more freedom to create a furniture layout that works while we save up for our forever home. The downside: having to figure out a new water system if we aren’t using what’s in the camper. However, this is all in the talk stage right now. It may or may not happen.

Sometime before Chickie/Chap arrives, we also need to purchase a family car. Right now we are still using Papa’s truck and a borrowed car. I was hoping to cover the expense of a car with my herbal remedy sales, but the transition from unemployment to employment left us with no income for three weeks and the herbal money was pretty much what we lived off during that time. Now, we hope that the income tax return we get in February will cover not only our midwife expenses, but a used car as well. Something will work out.

I do want to stop here and point out something I know I’ve mentioned before, that while each of the difficulties we’ve faced are disappointing, there have been blessings throughout: we may be without a car of our own, but we have family who have lent us one to use in the meantime; we weren’t able to use the herbal sales as a jump start for a car fund, but it bought our groceries when we didn’t have an income; we weren’t able to finish the addition before winter, but we have a place to store water and we’re staying warm. There are just so many ways that God has provided for us and we are so thankful, because we know we don’t deserve it.

Moving on into the year – sometime in March we will welcome our fourth baby into the world, here at home with our midwife team. During and after this time we’ll be taking a break from homeschooling. I suppose that may sound funny to be thinking about considering Buddy is only in PreK, but I do like to keep track of all our projects and activities, and I don’t want to commit to that during my babymoon. I am also working on scheduling about eight weeks worth of guest posts during that time frame. This part I’m really excited about because there are so many bloggers who I know would be able to make a wonderful contribution to this blog. More info on this will be coming soon I expect.

Our homeschool year begins June 1st and ends May 31st. This year Buddy will begin Kindergarten and Girlie will begin PreK. Their education is largely based on experience – applying early reading, math, science, and social studies to family conversation, farm work, home duties, baby care, art and craft projects, etc. I have a few ideas for basic “book work”, but will be avoiding textbooks, fill-in-the-blank or rote work pages, and tests for a few years at least. I have ideas for posts on our homeschooling practices, which I expect to be sharing in the next month or two, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’m very excited about our early education plans!

In 2011 I took my five years of backyard herbal growing and home remedy making to selling them. It was on a very small scale, using herbal parties among family as our platform. Based on the performance of the sales, I do believe it is worth pursuing this as a home business. However, it is a lot of work, for which I am not entirely prepared to do with a new baby this year. Instead I want to focus on preparing more tea to sell to past customers, and researching business development for herbal sales in 2013.

Papa and I do want to expand our vegetable and flower gardens this year. Last year we produced enough food to have more than we needed to eat fresh veggies for the summer, but not quite enough to make preserving them worthwhile. This year we want to produce enough to can for winter eating. We also found a more local heritage seed company that we want to support when we’re ready to begin.

As for the chickens, we are pleased with the production we’ve had this year. On a good day we collect 10 eggs and a duck egg, on a bad day we find 5 or 6 eggs and no duck eggs. What we don’t use we sell to family and friends for $2 a dozen (with donated egg cartons). We have had to keep the birds in the coop for a couple days at a time to ensure they are laying the eggs where we want them, but they are mostly free ranging. This year we are planning to experiment with raising chickens – incubating a small number of eggs and seeing if we can get them to hatch. If we can, raising chickens for meat and eggs will probably become a long term project for us. And, believe it or not, meat rabbits have also been discussed around here.

Another change that I will try not to spill too much about because I want to devote it to another post has to do with a sudden jump in readership here at AFN. As I will share with you soon, it has been a surprise and a joy to see that not only are we attracting readers with similar views, but they are actively pursuing similar lifestyles, and apparently, we are helping them to accomplish their goals! I had a vision for this blog, but I honestly did not expect for it to take root as quickly as it has. Because of this, Papa and I are researching development of this blog to keep up with the growing needs of our readers. I am absolutely in over my head here, but excited all the same! Stay tuned to hear how you can help, and to learn what ideas we have in mind for the future of American Family Now.

Christmas eve and morning in the camper


On last week’s blogging night I was busy assisting at my 25th birth, so all the fun things I’ve been thinking about blogging are again put on hold. Seems to be a pattern developing here…

Here are pictures of our Christmas eve and morning in the camper, which entailed retelling the story of Jesus’ birth, getting gifts out of storage and getting the camaras ready for the morning.

Then opening gifts, breakfast of bagels, and a morning playing with presents and listening to Christmas music. Fun, fun, fun!

Oh yes, did I mention ALL the pipes froze last night? Tomorrow’s project for Papa’s day off – bypassing the water pipes with new pex tubing over the ceiling to help keep it from freezing again. More on that later…

Merry Christmas everyone!