Big Life, Small Footprint

Posted September 21, 2017 – Narrated by Carmen

If you’d rather listen to the podcast, click the play button.

Be mindful of the environment.” That well-meaning sentiment sounds silly to me. It seems to imply that Earth functions well outside of my experience and she desperately needs her baseboards cleaned.

If ever I had a squamous cell of doubt that any of my parts – mind, body or soul – is separate from the environment, then it took its leave somewhere in the last 430 days of LIB. Every moment – whether wide awake or in a deep sleep while tiny footed critters traipse upon the aluminum roof above – my senses are in thrall with the oneness of it all.

Aqua Caliente Campground, Ocotillo California

We are not “in” the environment, we are the environment – so, naturally, we work with the earth to both protect and exploit her to our advantage. And it seems to be working. When Jim and I do the most efficient or desirable thing for ourselves, She rewards us.

Avery Island, Louisianna

For example, boondocking off-grid in paradise on fifty-nine gallons of fresh water for two weeks isn’t about being “green.” LIB is the goal. And “leave no trace” is a no-brainer because we certainly don’t want our favorite places closed off or ruined due to abuse. Clean-living is clean-leaving and “doing unto others” is also an indirect message to the next camper to pass it on.

Fiddler’s Cove, Coronado California

There are a few more self-serving “green” things we do because ... duh.

  • Solar regenerates our batteries. We’ve only had the solar/inverter installation for a few months and it’s the next best thing to having wings. And even though that technology isn’t supposed to be necessary when we’re in a place with safe electrical hook-ups, it still comes in handy. This summer alone, three different power grids failed on us. No big deal when that happens, now.
Vinnie’s Northbay Airstream. Wilton, California
  • We don’t burn wood or charcoal. When we have guests or feel the need for ambiance, we use our propane firepit because we enjoy fresh air and birdsong. When we feel the need for celebration, our 3 Color Laser lights – our only “house” decoration – illuminates Beauty for Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July, and …
Happy Hour at Wine Country RV Resort, Paso Robles

… our little Weber handles grilling with minimal impact and clean-up.

Myrtle Beach State Park
  • We’re paperless – E-cards from Jacquie Lawson or Rubber Chicken assist with our personal correspondence. All our photos and documents are scanned and stored digitally. We’ve managed to arrange 95% of our snail mail into email (an ongoing task). We bank online and use electronic checks. All literature is stored on our e-readers. A phone app called Scanner Pro converts paperwork to PDF.
  • We’re seriously water efficient. We never hook-up to shore water – we just refill our tank, filtering as it enters using the Camco EVO Premium RV/Marine Water Filter, Greatly Reduces Bad Taste, Odor, Sediment, Bacteria, Chlorine And Much More. Then, we filter again at the sink with our wonderful purification system, Seagull IV Water Purifier, which makes our water the same color and taste wherever we go. Leaving our water pump off when it’s not in use keeps us continually aware of our water consumption so we don’t have to relearn that discipline when we boondock.
  • We don’t use pesticides or detergents – also a no-brainer since I’m allergic to both. Apple cider vinegar sprayed around the tires handles ant infestations. Otterwax Insect Repellant and citronella candles (only outside) deter mosquitoes. Lye soap flakes handle the laundry and we do not use bleach or softening agents. For household cleaning, we have reusable microfibre cloths and our homemade disinfectant wet-wipes.
  • No Beverage Waste. Making our own beverages, even on towing days, gives us that at home feeling of self-reliance. Disposables are a hassle – the weight, bulk, and restocking are a pain. Jim has mastered low-tech bistro-style coffee, and he brews our tea – so, very low waste. Sparkly water and ice are necessary for the civilized life so, I have a SodaStream Soda Maker, two bottles, and extra gas stored in the pantry. Our portable ice maker and ice-efficient OtterBox insulated tumblers keep our drinks fresh all day.

… and, at 5 o’clock, few luxuries can compare to shaking a martini with ice manufactured from solar power while camping off-grid.

We drink only draft beer, no bottles or cans, and any decent brewery or pub will fill our OtterBox Growler which keeps brew fresh and cold for days without refrigeration.

Kirsten delivers our filled OtterBox growler at the Brass Tap in Myrtle Beach South Carolina.
  • We’re surprisingly fuel and energy efficient. Our clean diesel Ram 2014 truck averages around fourteen miles per gallon and leaves no noxious polluting fumes. Our exhaust is nothing more than harmless nitrogen and water. But, unless we’re towing, we rarely drive The Beast. We prefer to walk or ride bikes. We’ll cycle fifteen to twenty miles round trip (depending on the grade) to visit a good cafe or brewery.
Two Rivers, Wisconsin

If the destination is in a congested urban area and beyond our cycling range we take Lyft and Uber. Public transportation and private ferries are a rare bonus.

The rig is being backed into the Lake Michigan Ferry for a four-hour lake crossing.
  • Propane runs the refrigerator, stove, hot water heater, and furnace. There’s no need to keep water hot 24-7, so we turn on the hot water heater about fifteen minutes before use – usually twice a day – and the water remains warm for hours after it’s turned off. We’re researching hot water on demand systems to replace our old system when it breaks down – but for now, it’s no big deal to plan fifteen minutes ahead. Though we seldom use it, we have a generator that runs on propane and gas. We average one seven gallon propane tank a month.

For travel days, we make our own no-cook fast food.

When settled in, we eat a lot of raw greens, fruits and nuts and like to cook roots, veggies, eggs and grains.

Oatmeal cooked in broth with mushrooms, garlic & onion, served with basted eggs, tomatoes and grilled peppers. A favorite for breakfast or brinner.

and we make our own whole grain bread.

Pompe À l’Huile (sweet olive oil bread)

To avoid stinky waste, we prefer to eat out for meat and fish …

Pier House Restaurant, Myrtle Beach

With LED lighting and solar power, we can enjoy lighting, music, computers, television, hairdryer, and ventilation system for free.

Jim upgraded all light fixtures to LED

Low Disposables. Though we haven’t measured, it is obvious our waste and recyclables are low. Tires, fuel, rubber gloves, (for tank dump time) dog-poop and bags, paper products: towels, bowls, plates, and toilet paper are our primary disposables. We’re always on the prowl for new techniques for paper efficiency – to find the balance between water and paper use. For example, Jim can use either water or paper towels to clean his french press, and I can serve on paper plates and bowls rather than wash our dishes. Nano Towels for indoor and outdoor use help to control paper use but to clean them requires a lot of water. So, when we’re near a potable water source, we depend more on washable fabric towels and rags to make up for those times when water is limited and paper dependency rises.

Often, at the end of the day – while sipping martinis by the fire – we think about the good old days, laugh at our many mistakes and wonder how we ever managed.

Dreher Island State Park, near Prosperity, South Carolina

Then, we start solving the problems of the world … Perhaps most houses of the future will be opportunistically off-grid? Independently equipped to collect and store natural resources and have technology to monitor the quality, quantity and daily usage of air and water? Then, in response to wildfires, floods, storms, earthquakes, drought, famine, in-laws – God willing the houses can roll, fly or float – they move on.

Yeah … But will they still call this, “livin’ the dream”?

Harvest Hosts camping at Enoree River Winery in Newberry, South Carolina

18 thoughts on “Big Life, Small Footprint

  1. Here in Coronado, we have water-savings methods, too. To get water, turn tap on; to stop water, turn tap off. Works every time.

    Actually, love hearing about life off the traditional grid! Sounds fun, but with its own set of unique challenges. The “lock-out” sounded like a mini-nightmare deserving of a stiff Martini that evening! Live and learn!

    Keep these excellent and interesting LIB stories coming! Can’t wait for the next installment!

    Jim and Melinda

    1. Jim and Melinda, Wow, after living in Coronado 20 years we never realized that there was a water-savings method built into the infrastructure there. We learn something new every day! lol! We sure miss you both and hope we can hang a bit when we are back in Coronado sometime in 2018. Give ‘Lucky’ a hug for us!!

  2. Excellent post! We employ a lot of these same practices and I take joy in knowing that we’re using far less resources than we ever did in a traditional house. I love the tip about spraying ACV to keep ants away. I have a bottle that I already use for other things, but had no idea it could be a bug repellant.

    1. Thanks Amanda!

      You can dilute the ACV 50/50 and white vinegar will the job, too.

      Thank you so much for being with us! Woo-hoo!

      And, safe travels.

      LIB

    1. Hi Jan! Wow. Sounds like you have a great project. Increasingly, we’re finding that solar with an inverter is the way to go. It would probably be to your advantage to install the solar before you do too much interior work. We’ve provided the links to the solar products in the article and perhaps the manufacturer can recommend technicians in your area. We would recommend our technician, Vinnie Lamica to anyone within driving distance, but he does not service trailers of your vintage. Best to you and your exciting project! Please keep us posted on your progress.

      Happy Travels,

      LIB

    1. Thank you for your comment, Alison and for being with us.

      I believe that most people need and want to use less and live cleaner and would make great strides if they had proof of their efforts making a difference in the moment – if they could monitor their use and savings instantly. When we lived in a traditional house we made several attempts toward cleaner living, but would fall off the wagon … it was so difficult to get control of the details and incredibly unrewarding. Knowing how to conserve and accomplishment of goals is much more challenging in a traditional house – especially one without the infrastructure already built-in. Retrofitting an existing house or condo is too expensive for most tenants, and many homeowners fear that the most efficient and rewarding conservation technologies would lower their property values.

      But … there I go again trying to solve the problems of the world 😉 and before martini time at that!

      Safe Travels, Alison!

      LIB

    1. Thank you, Geoffrey! The recipe is kind of free form. We’re trying to eat more oatmeal but we like a savory breakfast. This morning I made chipotle oatmeal – our best so far!

      Basically, it’s a cup of quick cook, organic steel cut oats into 3 cups of simmering broth of herbs and veggies (mushrooms or beans or sautéed veggies and herbs). When done, we stir in a bit of cheese and/or grilled peppers and garlic) and serve with fresh spinach, tomatoes, herbs and basted eggs. It’s our Big Meal these days … sort of a dirty rice recipe, except its oatmeal.

      The planning stage was a wonderful period for us. Such great memories. SO much fun and excitement … and it only gets better!

      Best to you!

      LIB

  3. We just sold our house and are living in our 2008 Classic 25fb in a trailer park while I wind down my job in another week. We dump our tanks about once a week. I shower every day and we figure between the black and gray with are using about 75 gal a week. We have a Truma Comfort Aquago water heater. Turn it on, take a shower, instant hot water then turn it off. Water temperature is stable throughout the shower or other uses. We don’t use wood or charcoal either. Campfires are stinky and seems the smoke always finds us. We have a propane fire pit too. We don’t have a portable ice make due to lack of space but just use the Domestic freezer to freeze some ice trays. We do have a Domestic portable fridge freezer that runs on AC/DC to keep beverages, 28 cu/ft model CFX28. We are getting a Vitrifrigo DP2600 AC/DC fridge installed in October and 200 more watts of roof solar. Most of our propane use currently is from using the oven and stove top. In cold weather we will use a Little Buddy heater and 5lb propane bottle in conjunction with the trailer’s furnace. For sink water we place a plastic bowl in one of the sinks and we cover the other sink for more counter space. We have a flat screen on the drain and another screen to pour the water from the plastic bowl to keep debris from going into the gray tank. If the bowl is 3/4 full that is about a gallon. We an make that last for most of the day. We use a bottle of white vinegar to spray plates to save water when not hooked up. We find using paper plates generates too much trash at times and fills our small trash can. Our 2015 Ram doesn’t seem to get the same MPG as yours but it only has 18k miles. Our mileage is 11 to 13 mpg depending on terrain. Really like your blog.

    1. So great to hear from you, Kelvin! Your water economy methods are similar to ours. Valuable information here. The mundane minutia is where you find the gold. Thank you. Happy final work week, Kelvin. Safe Travels and see you on the road! Blessings and xoxo! LIB

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