Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Getting Ready For Winter

There are many parts of life that one needs to experience in order to know what sorts of things one might need in that situation. I think this is very true about winter and where I am living. I knew that it would get cold and that I would want a way to heat the trailer. I went through a lot of ideas and took in a lot of advice from Shannon. (I am beginning to think of Shannon as my personal Jiminy Cricket.) I also knew it would rain a lot and snow a bit. I knew it would get ice-freezing cold.

There are some preparations that were self-evident. The kids and I all need good coats and socks and warm pajamas. The van needs chains and emergency supplies inside it. And we need to make sure that everything stays water tight. So I have been picking up supplies for the van here and there as I find them and even have started stocking it with snacks and water. Both kids have warm coats and socks and pajamas. I have found all of the winter camping gear I'd been gathering for years, which gave us the wondrous Expedition-weight Smartwool socks that Maia and I have been wearing like slippers every night. The old decrepit trailer has been surprisingly water tight other than the obvious unrepaired holes that I have covered with a tarp. I am feeling amazingly prepared. I only wish I had a wood stove, as I do have wood.

So what have I learned since the freezing temperatures and rain have encroached upon our little gypsy homestead? First of all, the wind out here blows extremely hard! My porch swing went flying one day and landed a few feet away from where I had it and fell over. It has no effective way of staking it down so I am thinking that sandbags will be the solution. Also, the mud is totally unavoidable. I have a long history of driving 2wd vehicles through less than ideal conditions and not getting stuck, but the minivan isn't exactly an adventure vehicle and I do need to treat her carefully. I'm slightly less reckless than I used to be and would prefer to not have to try to dig her out of the mud by myself. I'm still working on that issue, but I have done some work to the yard to cut down on the mud tracking into the 'house'. I spread straw all over the commonly used pathways. I also used straw to cover the chicken yard and my vegetable garden. (Imagine crisp lettuce plants safely hidden under a straw blanket while the rest of the world freezes. Yay!) When I ran out of straw, I started using cardboard. But I think I could use another straw bale. One more thing I have learned is that water freezes. (Yeah, you are thinking "Duh!") But when I went outside this morning and the kitties' outside bowl of water was frozen over and there was a frozen bit of water out the end of the garden hose, I had the reality moment of water freezing. Some people just need to see or experience things in order to really get it and I tend to be that kind of person. So I am hoping that today's sun will melt the water in the garden hose and then I can empty it and take it off the spigot for the winter.

My animals are another winter prep consideration. The chickens are pretty resilient and will really just stop laying eggs through the winter and spend more energy keeping warm. Only one of them has been laying since I moved them here, so it really isn't a big deal if she stops laying too. I can suck it up and buy eggs in town for a while. They have a coop that is designed for weather changes and so I need to put the foam insulation into it's place in the roof and make sure I change their bedding regularly to keep it clean and warm in there. The rabbit seems pretty content now that we filled part of his hutch with straw and covered the whole thing with a tarp. His water bottle hasn't been freezing and he's just eating more than usual. The cats, for the most part, have been fine. The kittens seem oblivious to the cold and just run around and play as usual. The older cats are more affected and one of them, Inari, seems very uncomfortable in the cold. (I think he may be developing arthritis.) I make sure they stay warm and I let Inari sleep under my covers at night. He seems very grateful.

A few days ago, Maia took the first hot shower we've had without going to the guest house or someone else's house since we moved up here. And I am now washing the dishes with warm water without having to boil it on the stove first. This has been a major morale boost and will make winter far easier than it was looking without a water heater. It also does make it feel a little less like camping.

What I can't figure out, though, is condensation. Every night the windows get covered and even the walls in a few places. I started looking this up this morning and learned that propane gives off water when used for cooking or heating. So a propane heater isn't exactly going to help. A dehumidifier needs electricity and we have a limited supply of that through the overcast days of winter. I need ideas. I've found some websites about winter RV living and I am getting ideas, so there is hope. I hope I can find a solution soon before anything gets ruined by the moisture.

Stocked up on food, water and propane we should be fine even if roads get to be untravelable for a few days. I still see a few preps here and there that I need to attend to, but I am learning a whole lot by experiencing this directly and working on each problem as it arises. I am incredibly thankful for the Jiminy Cricket voice of experience that hounded me about what I would need for the last few months. :)


  1. Hey there;
    Might want to park by the purple gate when the driveway gets bad. Water bowls. Place a clean stone in the water sticking above the surface, the rock collects heat and will melt the ice around it allowing access to drinking water. A stick works too.
    Hose; leave this empty at night and drained.
    Condensation. I would wager that this is far more due to human respiration than propane offgassing. The solution is to stop breathing at night. Or only through one nostril.

    Really the problem there is that your rv is so new, there is no room for the water vapor to escape. The solution to this is to leave something open. Just like in the car when its cold outside, and the defroster fogs the windows. We don't have this problem in our house. But then, that might have to do with how holey it is. We've got work to do. The stand pipes need to be insulated or we will be doing lots of cold weather plumbing.

  2. Aren't you glad it was the swing instead of that glass patio table?