Hillbilly Home-Making 101

June 1th-13th 2016

These last couple of weeks, there have been many additions to the basic living setup. These include renovation of a few of the key infrastructure points as well as rethinking ‘where to next?’, which was mentioned in passing in a recent post.

First priority was to set up a dry space/caravan weather protection/my own water collection. This is currently a large tarpaulin, strung up with washing line wire. It’s pretty sturdy, although deliberately also very temporary, as it’s important to me to be able to pack up and leave if need be. Right now, that doesn’t seem like it will be soon, but you never know.

Stage one: get under cover

Next was to have something to funnel into. Planning backwards from the materials available, a design came together for a water catchment tank that feeds a solar camping shower. Happened upon a full shower cubicle shell at the local recycling centre, so that made the shower construction a lot simpler and provides a solid toilet cubicle space too. Framing for the shower to stand freely came from a building site skip (with the permission of the building crew). The loo is nothing fancy, consisting of a bucket topped with a plastic seat. Its partner being a bin of wood chips which I decided to make a cover for, to keep the chips (as well as the bin and toilet paper sitting on top) dry. Again, not a permanent setup. But it’s a practical option for the medium term. The shower curtain, is just a cheap, sheet of black plastic.

With the essentials arranged, plans turned to upgrading the electrics in the caravan. The last few days have been trial and error to put in everything on my wish list. The USB port I was kindly donated by fellow travellers (during my East Cape travels) went in a while back. That’s most of my charging needs covered. However, the fun started when I decided to hook in an old inverter. Lesson #1- check all components thoroughly before inserting them into existing electrics. I didn’t do this and basically blew the whole system. Still not entirely sure how, but I know I had to test each component and rebuild the whole wiring system. The silver lining is that it is much tidier now and everything but the inverter (which was stuffed from the outset apparently) works swimmingly.

Next was to work on the electricity generation. Managed to hunt out a decent solar panel controller at the recycling centre too. Wiring that in with a couple of permanent solar panels was meant to make things easier. Thus far, it has not been so. The panels are generating a voltage, but the controller doesn’t seem to be feeding it to the battery. The controller itself also draws enough current that it may be necessary to add that second cell I’ve been planning for ages.

The solar controller all hooked in

The other half is installing a permanent rig for the panels, which is still under construction (should be done tomorrow) and a little wind turbine to work in tandem with solar generation. This should offset the lack of sun on ‘bad’ weather days… at least some of the time. That’s based on a design I made quick mention of in An Ode to Rural NZ and is halfway there too. If anyone has any tips on any of this, I’d be keen to hear them.

There have been a few other side tasks, like installing the caravan’s spare wheel instead of having it sitting in the car boot. Also got a replacement jockey wheel tyre. But it’s pretty much set up how I’d like now. So thoughts are moving to the bush craft/wild living side of things. Really, all this is about becoming more attuned to nature. To be honest, if it was just me, I would probably have just gone bush from the beginning. But it’s not just me and the dogs (and dog laws) make things a little more tricky. The recycling centre came through again. This time, with a kayak. I’m hoping to train the dogs to work with me on this and go bush with some marine infiltration, but it may fail. Regardless, I’ve been wanting to get a kayak for a while to explore out on the water.

This seems a good time to put in a little shout out to the second-hand stores and recycling centres around the place. It’s a shame there still seems to be a bit of a stigma about these places and strange, since sites like TradeMe, Gumtree, eBay and local Buy, Sell, Swap pages on Facebook are so popular. It’s as if using others’ discarded items is dirty somehow, but it’s ok as long as it has had an electronic middle man (?). Granted, not everyone sees it that way. But there really are so many good things there to be sought out.

Often, the tools and other items are better than what you could buy from most mainstream retailers. I say this because many of them are from a time when things were built to last instead of built to be disposable/replaceable. Much of it is also NOT from times gone by, but instead just surplus to someone’s need and on sale for a bargain price. The recycling centre in Motueka is MASSIVE. Seriously, it’s huge. Several acres, including a building that houses indoor items as well as a large outdoor stockpile of everything from building materials to machinery and from toys to antiques. There is sporting equipment, electrical components, fully working appliances, mechanical parts, clothes, furniture… It’s out by the transfer station on Robinson Road. Check it out if you are in the area. Others, like the one in Turangi (to be fair, quite a small town) are much smaller scale. But they are worth a look if you have something in mind.

One thing people don’t seem to realise though, is the cost of dumping. When rubbish items are left with them, the landfill fees rack up quickly. Even if they can salvage a few parts from a thing, the dump fees often outweigh the (financial) benefit. They also have a big problem with theft. It’s still shoplifting even if the goods were originally donated. If it’s council-run… alright, I can see the appeal of letting the moral compass wander. After all, who really gets hurt in the process? But some (like the Motueka one) are privately run and op shops are usually run by charities (some of whom are more ‘charitable’ than others). The acquisition cost of the item is obviously low, but the running costs need to be covered by something. So, let’s support these places. That’s to say nothing of the obvious benefit of reducing landfill by reusing and recycling goods. Buy stuff there. Volunteer. Do what you can to help one person’s trash become another’s treasure.

Moving forward in time, but backwards in the blog: Remember the mention of the tarp roof? … well, if you ever plan on doing it, best to really rig it well. Last night, on a night when the battery was buggered (thus no lights) and I was already in for a late dinner (cooked in the dark), the flippin’ wind picked up to a howling gale right at dusk. So much so, it managed to rip an eyelet in the tarp right out and set the whole roof rig flapping about in a storm.

It was clear that this had to take priority, as the thing was whipping around all over the show, tearing further and a real danger of damaging something else. So, it was up the ladder with the freezing cold wind and rain buffeting both ladder and climber, holding a massive sheet of plastic akin to a sail. Needless to say, a little extra care was needed and it was no easy task pulling the rig taught against high wind gusts. Still, it needed to be done and I plan to strengthen the anchors and borders tomorrow with some more washing line. Fun night, last night.

Lessons learned: (in fairness, I knew these things prior, but thought I’d get away with what I’d rigged. >> WRONG)

1) the eyelets hold much better if the line is threaded through several points of contact as opposed to a one-point connection
2) if you find you do need to make a one-point contact, you’re best off not using the eyelet at all and instead looping your anchor line over a small rock twisted into the tarp
3) there needs to be extra strength (in some form) along the edges
4) if you want it to funnel water effectively, add some well thought-out rib lines to tighten and direct flex of the tarp more accurately, or it will just pool. Either way, it’s also going to have to be tight. Tighter than it will easily go. Work at it.
5) might like to consider a couple of ribs above the tarp to prevent it billowing upward too far in high winds. That sudden flex generates a lot of momentum that your anchors may not handle, so it is probably a good idea to limit the range.

This has been Hillbilly Home-Making 101 from the past couple of weeks. Really looking forward to the next chapter of dropping out of civilisation periodically. I miss that a lot.


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