Making Life Without Running Water a Little Easier

This is not yet another post about conserving water while RVing. It’s about those times that, for whatever reason, you are unable to fill your RV fresh water tank but still have a plentiful source of water nearby to haul home in jugs.

I will have spent a sizable chunk of 2013 in this position and finally have a system that almost makes me not miss being able use my holding tank. It helps, of course, that I can have a hot shower any time I want, something I was sorely missing on the beach last winter, as well as access to free laundry. But that still leaves having water handy for dish and hand washing as well as freshening up.

When it’s warm out, like it was on the beach last winter and on my property during the first part of the summer, I don’t miss not having hot water at the ready. I’m fine with washing my hands or freshening up with cool water. I heat up a kettle of water at the end of the day for doing the dishes, but that’s the limit of my need for hot water.

But when it’s cold out and you only keep your rig at about 60F, washing your face with cold water in the morning really sucks! Heck, even washing your hands with cold water after using the bathroom is less than pleasant. It’s also nice to have hot water on hand for making hot beverages during the day.

After spending so many months hauling water, I’ve got my method down pat.

I start with hauling water home in this Reliance 5-gallon water container:

IMGP7661

On the beach, I used a similar containers by Reliance in a flexible material, but both developed leaks (after three years of great service) so I replaced them with what I could find locally.

This is exactly as much water weight as I can carry a few staggering steps, like from my truck or Laura’s wagon to the rig*. What I like about it is that it has a tap, so it’s just like having cold running water. I have it set on the table by the entry so it’s out of my way yet accessible. When Neelix needed his perch 🙁 I would sit my water container on the stool by the counter. This is a much more desirable location.

(*It’s about 100 feet from Laura’s back porch to my rig so the only way I can get the water home without breaking my back is by putting it in her little heavy-duty wagon!)

I also have a typical water container used with water refrigeration systems that I can have filled at the grocery store:

IMGP7662

Laura loaned me a pump for this container, but I haven’t try it yet. If it doesn’t work well, I’ll transfer from this container to the other one.

Hauling water from Laura’s is really luxurious because her water is potable and I don’t have to filter it for drinking. It’s a treat to be able to open a tap and have drinkable water!

Next up, hot water. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I needed a large capacity Thermos-type unit, preferably with a pump so that I wouldn’t have to worry about lifting and pouring from a heavy container with dirty hands.

I happened to find this vintage double-Thermos unit on eBay for a great price and it matches my kitchen perfectly!

IMGP7671

If I’m going to have something like this sit on my counter all winter, I’d much rather it be aesthetically pleasing! As you can see, I can pump water directly into the sink. Each side holds exactly one kettle’s worth of hot water. And they don’t make ’em like they used to! I have added hot water in the morning to find it still scalding in the afternoon for doing dishes. It was then still nice and hot for a before bed wash and was still pleasantly warm in the morning for the morning wash! Pretty impressive!

Now, what’s that in the sink?

IMGP7672

I do my laundry at Laura’s, but I find that dish cloths and the like pile up very quickly. So I make it a point to wash what I used of those that day in the sink, using a kettle of hot water to soak them first in a little bleach and soap.

For the bathroom, I get water from the kitchen in a large bowl and I refresh it as needed during the day.

IMGP7674

If my hands are particularly dirty, I wash them in the kitchen using my hot running water! 🙂

Finally, I spray all my used dishes with a little soapy water from a spray bottle:

IMGP7675

Since I do them when they’re fresh, no soaking is necessary. I wipe everything clean, then rinse with the hot water from the Thermos. Having the hot water at the ready guarantees that I wash everything right away instead of waiting because it’s not worth heating water just to wash a bowl and spoon and ending up with a huge pile that needs loads of water to wash.

So that’s how I’ve been getting by without running water this fall. Hauling heavy jugs is a pain, but between that and the propane, I’m getting good exercise!

Taut As a Drum

Here’s a dual purpose post, to show off one of my winterizing steps and the view out of my rear window!

IMGP7628

Can you see what I’ve done to the window? No? Me neither, but it is so far making a surprising difference to my comfort level. I applied some shrink-to-fit plastic window insulation over it (this is not the kit I used, but an well-rated comparable product).

I’ve had this kit in my basement since Campbell River, so four years! I never installed it because after I got it home and read the instructions, I realised such a product was incompatible with feline roommates.

A few RVers had told me that they install the kits on the exterior of their windows, but the instructions say to install them on the exterior part of the interior frame. This means that the plastic is not flush against the window, creating an air gap. So not only do the kits cut drafts, they also add genuine R value thanks to the air gap. I don’t know how much, but I felt a veritable difference last night once the plastic was up.

Installation wasn’t as fussy as I expected it to be. You start by applying the double-sided tape all around the frame, using the wax strip over it to press the tape down well before removing the wax strip.

The instructions say to cut the plastic to size, but I didn’t have room to spread it out for measuring and cutting. So I just grabbed one corner and installed that neatly vertically and horizontally, pulling as tight as I could, until the entire window was covered, then I cut away the excess at the side and bottom (and enough to do a couple more windows).

Once the plastic was on, I was a little dismayed as I hadn’t gotten it as taut as I thought I did and there were lots of wrinkles. The idea of looking through that all winter was depressing. But I wasn’t done, there was still one more step to do: shrinking the film with a hair dryer.

I started with the dryer on low and that did nothing. I increased the heat to high and followed the instructions to start at the edges and work my way in. It took a few minutes but I started to hear the plastic stretch as it shrank! It took at least 10 minutes, but steady passes with the hair dryer over the wrinkles turned the flabby plastic into a taut clear skin. I was very impressed.

Next, I did the window behind my desk. This one didn’t do as neat of a job since it’s not a flat plane of glass, but the corner that didn’t smooth out is behind my monitor, so it’s not like I can see it. This exercise was the most valuable since I’ve had to keep the window open 1/4″ to let in the cable for my booster. I had just sealed the gap with tape, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I put double-sided tape around the area where the wire comes in and then plastic. I got an air-tight seal, but the plastic isn’t smooth.

I’ve got enough plastic to do the other window in here. I will get another kit to do my living room windows and the one in my toilet room.

Little (Pink) Riding Hood

I thought it was time for an update. I was waiting to finish winterizing before I did that, but that’s been slow progress so you can look forward to a few posts in the next couple of weeks. I’m especially eager to share a mod that I have thought about doing for years. The part is en route and once it’s successfully installed it’ll definitely be something to blog about.

I haven’t settled into a routine yet here in Laura’s yard. I’ve picked up a new client that is keeping me very busy, albeit while paying me peanuts, while my best paying client will likely be quiet until the spring, and my favourite client is in the middle of a worrisome quiet patch. Once I get into a groove with the new client, it’ll be time to start officially working on the update for Full-Time RVing in Canada.

The weather has cycled between comfortable and BRR and is currently in a BRR period. I’m trying not to heat or wear too much so as to acclimatize. I bought a second oil-filled radiator and am running both on low. It’s not quite enough when we’re below zero during the day, so I run the furnace periodically. One of my weekend projects will be to run an extension cord from another circuit into the living room so that I can run each heater on max on its own breaker.

Now that I don’t have cats 🙁 I can have carpet on the floor, so I bought some mats for the places where I’m most likely to rest my feet for any length of time, including the kitchen sink, dressing room, and under my transcription pedal in the office. They are making a big difference!

The biggest adjustment is being back to hauling water and I’m coming up with more efficient ways of managing without running water. I have a water container with a tap set up on Neelix’s old perch by the front door, leaving my kitchen counter free. That’s almost as good as having running cold water. Next step is to find a pump-style coffee carafe into which I could pour hot water in the morning to have hot water on the ready all day for dishes. I’m still hauling waste to the lagoon and am not sure how well that will work once we get to freezing cold weather. I’m hoping that skirting and a light bulb will keep the tanks liquid.

Until today, I was getting water from the city tap that supplied me all summer. I don’t know if the tap was frozen or shut off, but there was no water today. So I headed over to Laura’s with my container after dinner. I don’t have access to the house yet, so I’ve been going over two or three times a week for a shower, usually unannounced, and I’ve never had the feeling I was bothering her. Last Wednesday, I even came in on her and a friend playing cards and I was dealt in before I even had time to decide if I had time to play or not on a Wednesday. They are still beating me, but I’m getting better!

We gabbed this evening, I took my shower, and then it was time to haul the very huge and heavy jug of water home.

Going to Laura’s always makes me think of Little Red Riding Hood going through the woods to her grand-mother’s house. Even with my porch light on, her yard is very long, very dark, and very wooded. So as I was heading out the door, Laura handed me a lantern and instructions for where I can find her little wagon.

Off I traipsed through the yard, found the wagon, brought it back to the rear porch, trundled the water as close to the rig as possible, struggled to bring it inside (remember, the front door doesn’t fully open), and then figured out how to reverse a wagon into its parking spot. This is what passes for excitement these days.

Let’s see, is there any other big news? Those of you on Facebook know that I have officially declared the Novatel Mifi a piece of garbage as a second one crapped out on me, so I’ve gone through two in four months. Ridiculous! Bell has been really good about replacing them quickly, but I’m going to talk to them about trading in for a Turbo stick instead. I borrowed Caroline’s stick over the weekend while I was waiting on the new Mifi (ordered on Friday, arrived Monday, thank you Bell!) and it was way faster than the Mifi! Heck, I can even get a bar on my cell phone over here with the booster!

Oh, how could I forget the discovery the last day it rained that I scratched my roof coming in here, ripped off some caulking, and now have a roof leak? I discovered this when I found my bed was soaking wet. Thankfully, it was just a just a drip, not a torrent, so I was able to use towels to soak up the moisture overnight. I know where the water is coming in from, so I did the sensible thing and ordered some more 6″ Eternabond as, of course, I was out. I’ll go up there on a sunny day with a hair dryer to simulate warm conditions and just seal the entire seam so I never have to think about it again.

So that’s the scoop with me. It’s a quiet life, but I’m not complaining. 🙂

Parked For a Difficult Winter

Today, I moved to my winter parking spot.

My first choice would have been to have power put in and build a simple greenhouse-type structure around Miranda. Unfortunately, no one local was willing to return my calls and electricians in Moose Jaw were too pricey because of the mileage involved.

Then, I thought of asking the owner of the empty house next door if he could have power turned on for me to park in his yard. He said yes, but when we got to negotiating the deal, I found I didn’t trust him not to kick me out in the dead of winter with 50′ of snow on the ground.

So I ended up taking up Laura on her offer to park in her yard where I’d have access to two circuits, for 30A total. It would have been nice to have a full electrical panel to myself, but 30A will get me far.

I’m parked between two garages, so sheltered from the window on Miranda’s long sides. I will be skirting with styrofoam and eventually snow, as well as running a light bulb under the rig near the holding tanks, with more styrofoam around them to trap the heat. I’ll also have a bulb going in the fresh water tank compartment and be putting plastic on the windows. I may also use thick plastic across the front and the back between the two garages to further block out the wind, if necessary. Since I don’t have cats anymore ( 🙁 ) putting down rugs inside for further insulation will also be possible.

(I forgot to grab a picture of the VIEW outside my office! I’ll have to remember to grab one to share!)

The plan at this point is to see how long I can be comfortable and productive at home. I estimate I will have $150 worth of power, plus propane, which isn’t too bad and makes it worth being home as long as I’m not frozen. But if the costs skyrocket and I’m just not able to stay comfortable, I can take one of Laura’s spare rooms. I’ll watch the weather and gauge week to week what I need to do. This could be a very mild winter, like I had in Lethbridge, or a bad one. Either way, I’ve got options to ride it out comfortably, but it won’t be much fun (except for all the playing in the snow, whee!).

Laura isn’t home during the day, so I have the option of working out of her house, although that will make internet tricky. I have access to laundry and my own bathroom for showers during the day, too. Another perk is the garage as I will be able to stash Moya in it, making it easier to take her out the odd time I want to go to town.

The downside is that Laura and I underestimated how much overhang the garage has. Miranda JUST fits in the space, with my house door only opening partway (enough to be safe in case of a fire!). This is motivation to get the passenger seat out of the cab. Once that’s done, I can enter easily through the cab (that door opens fully), shut the door, and then open the door into the living room, keeping all the cold wind from blowing in.

This morning, I headed over here to test the power outlets to make sure I could plug in. Well, they were getting 120V, but the hot and neutral were reversed! Reversed polarity doesn’t damage electrical components, but can electrifya rig, with deadly consequences when the RV gets wet. Moreover, my new converter would not run in a reverse polarity situation.

Luckily, Laura was home today, so I had her give me access to the breaker box so I could shut power to the circuits and fix the problem. It was simply a matter of switching the location of the black and white wires. The outlets then tested perfectly and my converter is very happy with the setup.

I hadn’t woken up planning to move today, but the cold north wind made me want to get hooked up and running an electric heater! So one would think getting going would have taken ages. Well, it took exactly five minutes to get the inside packed. Outside was a bit more work, but only because I decided to dump and also fill up my fresh water tank before unhooking. I was parked at Laura’s within a half hour.

I thought it would be an easy in, but the alley wasn’t straight and there was a sapling blocking me. I got too close to the overhang and wasn’t straight, so I decided to get Laura to spot me so I could straighten out. Even with her, I managed to catch the overhang and scrape a little, but it was nothing too serious that a little buffing won’t erase. Laura cut the sapling down, which made my job easier. Unfortunately, there were a lot of low-hanging branches, so one of my vent cap pipes got yanked off and will need to be found and replaced.

Thankfully, the spot is perfect level, so that was one less job to do! Once I was parked, I hooked up power and propane, then did a couple of loads with the truck of stuff sitting in my yard to be stored in the garage for the winter. I still have things there to deal with, including my hose. Water will be tricky this winter and I’ll likely just haul what I need to wash dishes.

The overhead branches were scratching the roof, so I went up there with pruners and cut them all back. That done, I had to get my internet set up again and I managed to get a decent signal by installing my antenna to the very top of my ladder. It may end up on the garage roof, but so far so good on the internet front.

It is SO GOOD to be back on shore power. I am sooooo sick of boondocking with solar. It is already getting cold, but I think I have lost my tolerance and will need to build it back up a little. I don’t keep it as warm in here as I’d like, instead adding extra layers, to toughen me up a little. I also have a lot less natural insulation than I have ever had ahead of a brutal winter. What a time to have lost 41lbs! 😀 I suspect that the electric blanket will get a lot of use. It draws so little when I’m on shore power that it is the cheapest way to stay warm while working at the computer or curled up with a book or movie.

It’s going to be an interesting winter, that’s for sure. It really helps to know that I have somewhere else to go if we end up in an ice age. For some reason, this winter is less intimidating than the one I faced in Lethbridge in that I won’t have to drive when the weather is bad and my truck is winter-ready, with good snow tires and a block heater. Also, I have winter gear in the basement, but am fairly certain I’ll need to go buy some boots. I have plenty of heavy corduroy skirts, leggings, and wool blend knee-high socks, fleece tops and a couple of good coats. So the wardrobe situation isn’t dire. I’m just hoping I still have a snowsuit as I know the best way to get through a cold snowy winter is to get outside and play in it!

Of course, having friends who will keep me busy is also going to make a big difference. Laura said something about doing the finishing touch on her basement renovations…

The most important thing is that I’m not angry or upset about being here this winter. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. Sure, it’d be nice to be warm in Mexico, but I’m in nesting mode right now and quite relieved to know that I am parked till May. I can focus on other things, take on as much work as I can find, and make plans for my next trip. I will be fine and I do promise to check in once in a while to let you know how I’m doing.

I’ll close off with a little southern Saskatchewan travel tip: don’t miss the grill-your-own steaks at the Fife Lake Hotel! We’re going there tomorrow for Caroline’s birthday. Me eating steak? Well, since coming here I’ve learned to love bison and venison! And so, I continue to grow and learn and expand my horizons, even if I’m not on the move right now. I am still very much living my dream life.