Home Building- Week 3

March 24th-31st 2016

This is the last week of major internal changes. There will continue to be smaller changes for the foreseeable future, but the bulk of things have been done.

The wheel arch area on the door side has had several potential uses throughout the planning phase. First, I was thinking of installing a unit for keys, wallet, shoes, umbrella and other little things you need just as you are leaving or want to stash as you arrive. As the project came along though, I realised I had created other areas for these almost by accident. When I discovered the original use for that space in this model of caravan was a vanity unit/dresser, I considered restoration as an option, but finally, it was Piccolo that made the decision.

The little ramps I’d made were just too daunting for him and I wanted him to be comfortable with our home too. I could have trained him to accept the ramps, but I figured there was no point when he didn’t like them and was already ok with jumping up to the bed via the wheel arch. Why re-invent the wheel(arch)? So the first task of the week was insulating and tiling the arch structure in the same way the floor was done. Seemed as good a use of the excess materials as any.

It also made sense because the dogs are often tethered in situations where free roaming could be dangerous for them (i.e. places with inadequate fencing, near kiwi colonies or busy roads). The tiling covered the particle board cladding that was then the top layer. This gave it a protective layer to prevent wet ropes damaging this particle board covering.

Actually, plumbing was the FIRST job of the week… but I had no idea what I was doing and after trying for half a day to “fake-it-til-you-make-it”, I realised I should abandon that and seek some help from someone at the hardware store. So I moved on to the wheel arch that day and made a point of getting down to Mitre 10, Stratford the next day, where I picked up all the ideas and materials I needed to get the job done. Once it had been properly thought through and all the proper parts had been procured, it actually came together pretty easily. Everything lined up well and got cemented in place with no dramas. The result was a much more simple, accessible and watertight grey water line.

The table… Oh how I wish I’d not done the table how I did. It is by far the project that took up the most time and it was entirely because I’d tried to be too clever. The worst thing is once I had it all working great, I broke it. But that’s life. It still works, but when I’d finished it all, I went to drill a hole to hang the peg from. Unfortunately the place I chose to hang it (the top of one of the stabiliser rails) didn’t deal well with the vibrations from the drill. In fat, the vibrations shatters a vital piece of plastic holding the rail together. In the end, I think it got raised in perfect working order maybe three times. Now it is a much more sensitive operation. Still, it is handy to have a table at an ergonomically correct height. Even if my bachelor habits of computing on my lap and eating while standing at the bench are well-ingrained

The best thing this week was also one of the simplest. The bench extension makes all the difference when I consider practical application. It’s not even a metre long, but it created a storage place for my suitcase and hiking pack as well as a dumping ground for everything. Oh… and I suppose I could use it as a kitchen bench some day too. I went for simple on this design. A couple of pegs fit into the wall at one end and the other end rests on the current bench support. The hardest parts were making a piece to fit the available space out of off-cuts and lining up the pegs and holes. I am amazed how much difference a bench makes.

The next part was one of the things I enjoyed most in the whole thing. I liked the problem solving. I made two key pieces of furniture: a shelving unit and a wardrobe. Without them, there really wouldn’t have been much point in the whole restructure, as they made use of the vertical space available at the front end. But they were made to be light. Unfortunately, while the light materials were strong enough to stand alone, they didn’t really stack up when they were stacked up. My solution was to use lightweight plastic twine to lash the corners together and create diagonal tension braces. Happy to report that the plan worked out swimmingly.

The bed furnishings had been underway for a few days. They were projects I’d been slowly chipping away at in the evenings. The headboards/armrests and bed width extension all came from the previous second bed. It was just a matter of slowly chipping away at first making the pieces and then sewing the covers. The mattress cover was just a matter of downsizing the previous one and the headboards were old velvet curtains, repurposed to fit the need.

Next came the bookcase. This was a job which had been put off so many times I lost count. This time though, it wasn’t through procrastination or laziness, but through unexpected or unforeseen intermediate steps. Often, the reason was that I had to complete some other stage in the bed development before I was needed. Once the table was finally done and the trellis work was finished, there was no reason not to crack on. So that’s what was done.

Lesson learned from the wardrobe and shelving too. This time it seemed wise (since it was built from the same wood) to notch the joints for extra strength. The result was a very sturdy little support structure. Not a bad thing, since it was to support the bed base. I don’t know how often it will ever actually have books in it, as it will be moved at least twice a day, every day. It will, however be handy as a charging station once the inverter and USB ports are wired in. It’s a handy little addition.

Now, the curtains had actually been complete for about a week by now. However, I’d not worked out a solution to the morning condensation issue on cold mornings. I wanted to see if I could solve this dilemma before hanging the curtains, as the previous curtains had started to develop a little mould from the dampness in Turangi. It didn’t seem to be such an issue in Taranaki though and even though I was headed back to Turangi, I made the call to hang the curtains anyway. Being less porous, they are less prone to absorbing moisture. Time will tell whether it was a good call or not.

The final big job was sewing up the wardrobe skin. Originally, there was a skin planned for the storage shelves too. But on seeing the shelving, I decided that it was more practical to allow access to the crates from the top. After all, it’s only likely to be me in here most of the time and I don’t really mind if I can see what’s in my storage containers. Plus, it confused the hell out of me when I was trying to sew up my self-designed pattern. Luckily, technicraft in intermediate school and a very crafty mother had equipped me with the sewing skills I needed to get it done. I surprised myself when it not only fitted, but actually fitted closely enough to add a little more strength to the wardrobe. WIN! I don’t mind admitting I did an actual victory lap of the caravan when I tried it in place and it worked.

With that done, it meant that all the big things that would affect pack-down were now complete. It was time to test if the whole rig would still fold down. In theory, it should work fine. A couple of brackets would have to be moved because the bed height had changed. I’d have to work out how to pack everything so it overlapped or fitted around other things, but the theory worked. I was still nervous though. How often in the past have things worked in theory then failed miserably in practice? Luckily, this was one of the occasions where it all worked out as planned. In fact, the new configuration supports the walls more completely and permits less movement, so it stands to reason that travel will actually be less traumatic to the poor old girl.

Other little things still to come are: electrical work, which was delayed by non-delivery of parts from an eBay order; water catchment system; a toilet/shower extension. These projects are all at different stages.

The next step though, is the most important. Now that the rig is more homely, the plan is to set up a home and start learning through experience of farm life. Learning how to live a life of sustainable practice through experience of sustainable practice. First stop: back to Awhi Farm where I had arranged to set up shop for an extended period.


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