The C Word

I always tell friends if they’re scared about an upcoming event that something awesome is likely about to happen. The thing is, those magical life changing events usually don’t come without significant change. And with change comes fear.

When we bought the Goodship, we had no truck to tow it. When we finally found a truck to tow it, we had nowhere to park them. As my lease at my apartment was ending, and we still had no land to live on, just in the nick of time we received an email from someone with the perfect spot for us.

Everything fell into place. Frankly, it was shocking how perfect everything went. It’s in the depth of those moments of paralyzing fear and endless agonizing that you watch the pieces of the puzzle come together, and your eyes finally open. Everything fell into place because we are on the correct path. I’m not quite sure where it leads but I’m stoked about the adventure!

Shortly after moving on to the Goodship, I had a long phone conversation with my Dad who, incidentally, lived clear across the country. We started discussing the Goodship and our plans for the future. He then proceeded to tell me that unbeknownst to me, I was living his and his father’s dream. He almost gushed with pride for a brief moment and he stumbled over his words. It was the only time I’ve ever heard or seen him cry.

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Little did I know that less than a year after that conversation he would be gone suddenly. It doesn’t seem so sudden in hindsight, but we all feel like our parents are invincible no matter how old we get. Before he left he gave me a tremendous gift. He told me he was proud of me. He showed raw emotion for the first time in my life. He also made me realize I was born with gypsy blood and it alllllll makes sense now! It goes down as the best conversation I have ever had with him in my life. I can replay it perfectly in my head to this day and I’m so grateful for that.

When he passed I inherited a small piece of land in North Carolina that he bought decades ago for retirement. But he never retired. On the land sits an old rusted out trailer full of missed opportunity and broken dreams. He never stopped working long enough to travel or truly enjoy life (in my humble opinion), and that in itself reminds me that I’m on the right path. This is what he wanted for me all along.

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Dad didn’t want any sort of memorial when he died, and honestly,  I’ve had a really difficult time with closure because of it. He was afraid to fly and he never traveled. So, I’ve decided I’m going to take his ashes on an epic road trip from our base in Los Angeles to his land in North Carolina. It’s where he wanted to be and I’m going to make sure he rests where he belonged many, many years ago. Maybe it would have saved him. Maybe it will save me.

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Moral of the story? Change is scary but if you pay attention to the little clues life gives you, you’ll see that the answer is right in front of you. I assure you, selling all of my belongings and taking the leap into full-time RV life was nothing short of petrifying. It is also the single most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life next to raising my son.

 

 

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Living Large In Small Spaces

People are often shocked to hear that we live (well) in less than 200 square feet but living in a small space doesn’t mean sacrificing conveniences or simple luxuries. At the same time, we don’t want tax the environment in our quest to save time.

Some of the simplest changes can greatly reduce the amount of trash you produce. The kitchen is a great place to start if you’re looking to reduce your environmental footprint. Here are a few of our favorite things.

Tall-Food-Scrap-Bag-2-RGBWe do our dishes with dish rags instead of disposable sponges and find it to be way more sanitary, as well as greener.

We also use cloth napkins, and paper towels do not exist on the Goodship. For spills and cleaning, we use terrycloth rags. Not only does it reduce paper consumption, which is staggering in the U.S. (some numbers here) but they are sturdy and do a better job.

The small amount of trash we do produce goes into BioBags biodegradable trash bags.

small-whiskey-rocks-set-of-12For the drinkers out there, stainless steel straws and whiskey rocks are awesome! No more watered down drinks on those sunny days. If you prefer ice, silicone ice cube trays don’t crack like the plastic ones that you wind up replacing every year.

We recently realized that our recycling bin looked like a club soda graveyard so we bought a Purefizz soda maker. It’s way smaller than the Soda Stream and no more plastic bottles!

6b5d0a8f3e0caa37eff0e0ce211c8abd4d28d5eb942afc86e7ae1752f6ed8ecfMy favorite space saver in the kitchen are our stackable stainless steel pots and pans. They fit easily in the storage ottoman with our pressure canner. Yes, we have a 16-quart pressure canner in an RV.

We make use batches of veggie broth and plan to start canning all kinds of yummy food! See? It’s all about priorities in a small space and for us, quality homemade food is at the top of the list.

shoppingBy far the most-used appliance in our kitchen is the food processor, albeit, a small one. This Ninja does surprisingly good job on hummus and cashew cheese and it’s pretty much my best friend…and we’ll be giving one away!

We also love to make homemade chips in addition to the pounds of veggies we prep with our mandoline slicer. It stores flat and is a must-have for anyone who loves to cook.

Living on wheels doesn’t have to mean eating off paper plates and cooking with one pot. It’s all about making the most of the space you have.

If you want to remember any of the things I listed, download Wunderlist! It’s an awesome app that lets you share grocery and ToDo lists with others, eliminating paper lists and notes.

Have a beautiful day, friends!

The Goodship Garden Begins

DSC_0025We have never had a proper garden before. Just a few mediocre attempts in pots on our old balcony, some basil, tomatoes, a few successful pea-pods. In the back of my mind, I’ve always planned on becoming a farmer. Perhaps not on any large scale. But to have land someday and grow all the food we need to live. You know: the typical self-sufficiency dream that urbanites like us start contemplating with the first homegrown cherry tomato. “We could just GROW our own food!” As if it were a novel idea. But why not? Most small-scale farming is done the traditional way: growing one crop, all in rows, on a tilled field by itself. Monoculture. It’s the way humans have grown food for millennia. A farmer can cover acres in one particular crop, keep some and sell the rest in order to get other crops from other farmers – since you can’t just live on one crop, right? Which doesn’t seem very self-sufficient. What if you grow everything you might need (as a vegan, of course 😉 together in one small area? A food forest, where fruit trees shade vegetables, made with the intention of eventually becoming an entire ecosystem of various edible plants. That’s what Permaculture is all about, an attempt to emulate natural systems. Instead of battling with insects, animals and weeds in your garden – you allow nature to do its thing. When there are varieties of plants together, they develop symbiotic beneficial relationships that make each plant stronger. In typical agriculture or monoculture, plants are far more prone to attacks by “pests”.

15600_1632577153643311_4358514898396981367_nIn Permaculture, “pests” can be seen as part of a vibrant ecology, since most insects are actually beneficial, most all plants require them to pollinate. To keep the insects in control, however – it’s a good idea to invite some birds into the garden with a feeder, they will gladly munch on some caterpillars for you. And the caterpillars that survive soon become the beautiful butterflies that pollinate your food. But I’m getting way ahead of myself. The Goodship Garden is no where close to being a food forest, nor are we planning to make it one. We currently rent our space short-term. We got very lucky that our landlord is fine with us digging up a bit of his yard for this experiment.

I have been reading about Permaculture for awhile, about Permaculturalists like Sepp Holzer, Paul Wheaton, and Geoff Lawton. One permaculture technique that struck me as pure genius is called Hugelkultur (the Austrian Sepp Holzer is the originator). Garden beds are created using mounds of logs in trenches. The wood slowly rots under the soil, holding moisture like a sponge and encouraging fungal growth which feed nutrients to the roots of your plants. Geoff Lawton has created oases of green in the desert of Jordan using this technique. So the drought-stricken dirt yard we live on in the San Fernando Valley shouldn’t be that difficult in comparison. I built four small Hugelkultur mounds for the Goodship Garden. I found some logs and odd pieces of wood from a cut tree at the side of the road and bought some organic soil from the garden store.

IMG_2411First I dug trenches a foot-deep and lined them with cardboard. Cardboard initially helps the mounds to retain water. I piled up the logs with random twigs, leaves and branches – anything I could find around the property. Then I covered the piles with the poor quality dirt I had dug out of the trenches, topping them off with good store-bought organic soil. I also left a small space at the beginning of the garden for a compost pile. I probably bought 8 bags of soil, but hopefully I won’t have to buy anymore as my compost pile matures and gives us some homemade soil.

IMG_4649Everyone’s first question here in drought-stricken California, is “how much water are you using?” And this question lets me brag about the coolest part of the garden…it is being irrigated 100% by our own recycled grey-water. The convenient thing about living in the Goodship is that we already have tanks in place for retaining our grey-water (shower and sink water). So all of our water gets double use. As long as we use natural soaps and detergents (such as Dr. Bronner’s) the plants in the garden will thrive. In fact, our grime and food scraps is exactly what the plants love.

IMG_3039 So now the experiment has begun. We’ve sown corn, squash, spinach, arugula, chard, cauliflower, sunflowers, marigolds, tomatoes, a few kinds of kale, jade beans, green beans, other greens and herbs. We shall see what happens and we’ll post harvests here. There will always be more plants to plant and different things to try.

IMG_2973Early on, we planted a head of organic butter lettuce from the supermarket, the kind that come with the roots still attached. It soon began to flower and the bees went nuts. We’d never seen a lettuce bloom before. Little yellow flowers came out in tree-like formation. In no time most of the flowers were pollinated, they turned to seeds much like dandelion seeds, with wispy hairs to carry them on the wind. But we took them, dug up the old lettuce and planted it’s next generation in the same area. Now we’ve got a bunch of the next generation growing. And so it begins, custom Goodship lettuce. By Taylor Flannagan

The Big Decision: Class A or Fifth-Wheel?

We glazed over our decision to go with a fifth-wheel over a Class A, but it is worthy of its own post since there are so many factors to consider.

The main downfall of a Class A for us was briefly mentioned in the last blog. If there is a major mechanical issue, our home goes into the shop and we have to pack up & find someplace to stay in the meantime. We couldn’t really get comfortable with that possibility so it was the driving force in our decision to tow.

  • Accessibility
    • We won’t be on the road a majority of the year at this point, so if we had a Class A our motor would sit and waste away.
    • We have a small car for city driving already since we are still living the city life…to an extent.
    • We need a truck.
      • Trips for building & gardening supplies.
      • Once we buy land and need to make improvements, we have a beast of a truck to help us out.
      • We want a boat!
      • We might also want a rescue animal trailer…just in case!
  • Cost
    • All of the Class As we saw that were up to our quality standards and had a layout we could make work (and no leather) were $65,000 and up. Ouch!
    • Class As also come with higher maintenance costs. Having a fifth-wheel with no engine and no slides, the likelihood of there being an issue so major we can’t fix it (or have it fixed) where we’re parked is much lower.
    • Knowing that we would still need a truck in addition to the RV, a Class A wasn’t a cost-effective choice for us.

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  • Space
    • One of the primary reasons we decided we didn’t want slides was because it was an unnecessary addition to maintenance costs. Class As with no slides, furnished with standard RV furniture felt very cramped to us.
    • Since we opted for a toy-hauler the interior space was easy to customize so we have a comfortable living space with room to move around. Here is the Goodship empty (the ladder latches to the ceiling):

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While it took us some time to work through the pros and cons, it was definitely worth the time. We couldn’t be happier with our decision and the truck is a huge asset for us on this path to freedom.

We would love to hear what the deciding factors were for other RVers as everyone’s needs are so varied. Happy travels, folks!

By Jessica Caviness

Going Small ~ A Three Part Love Story ~ Part Three

Part Three ~ Movin’ Out! 

Here we are having donated enough items to partially clothe and furnish half of the San Fernando Valley (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) it’s time to get serious about this downsizing plan. Tiny living in a big city is not as easy as one might imagine. Where do we even begin? This…is the guts and glory of the story so stick with me.

Step one for us was deciding what type of RV would be best suited to our lifestyle. Class A RVs can be high-end and beautifully furnished, but they come with a huge downfall…an engine. What happens when there are major mechanical issues? Do you put your “home” in the shop for a week and live in a motel? How would that even work logistically? In addition to that, you have to tow a smaller vehicle to get around in the city to shop and take care of day-to-day activities. When we move off-grid, we will definitely need a truck to get building supplies. A truck and fifth-wheel it is.

Years ago I saw a picture of the Airstream SkyDeck and fell head over heels in love. And then I saw the price tag and came to terms with the fact that this particular rolling home was nothing but a dream. That is until we were perusing Craig’s List and came across the StarDeck! It was absolutely perfect. Not only did it have a rooftop deck but a second bed for when my son comes home. It is a toy hauler so easily customized to fit our needs as opposed to other types of RVs that have all built-in furniture. (More on the Goodship in a future post.)

Although we had already bought it in our minds, we took a drive down the next day to take a look. It was previously a demo model so we got a fabulous deal and purchased it on the spot…having no way to tow it and nowhere to store it. Luckily, the seller was willing to let us store it there until we formulated any sort of a plan. It was everything we needed and just big enough to make me feel confident we would be comfortable. It was too good to pass up. We will call it The Goodship and it will be home.

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We drove away and immediately realized what we were doing. It was happening and it was happening fast. We had to at a very minimum get a truck to tow it….NOW! We had a few things working against us in this search for a truck:

  1. We knew nothing about trucks.
  2. We knew nothing about towing.
  3. It had to be strong enough to tow a minimum of 9,800 pounds. That’s the weight of the Goodship empty.
  4. It could not have leather seats. Good luck!!
  5. It had to be newer than 2004 to be financed.
  6. It had to be under 100,000 miles to be financed.
  7. We were on a tight budget having just purchased the Goodship.

We came across an amazing service called Lemon Squad. You can order an inspection online and have an inspector go out to a dealer or private seller and do a full inspection for you. They arrange the inspection time, enter the report online, and email you detailed results. The inspector went beyond the call of duty and taught us a great deal about towing vehicles. I swear we don’t get a commission for recommending them, but they saved us from making a very big mistake.

On the second vehicle we had inspected we found a winner. A 2007 Dodge 3500 Quad Cab dually with no leather and a suitable hitch! When we ordered the inspection the sellers didn’t show the truck to any other potential buyers because they could tell we were serious. A very kind gesture, indeed. We bought it from the nicest family who like Lemon Squad, went above and beyond to teach us about the truck. It was slightly more than we wanted to pay, but this was a choice involving safety. We will call him Grux and he will carry our home for us.

We mentally offset the guilt of buying a large diesel truck with the fact that moving into the fifth-wheel reduces our consumption far beyond the impact of the truck. The Saturn is the primary vehicle, anyway.

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As soon as we purchased the Goodship we posted an ad on Craig’s List looking for a place near work to park it. It was up for about three months prior to us finding the truck and we got zero responses. Literally two days after finding the truck we got three responses to the ad! If that isn’t the Universe working for you I, don’t know what is. One of those three responses was exactly what we were looking for. It even had RV hook-ups already!

We sent our 30 day notice to our current landlord and started getting ready to move into the Goodship. Our landlord was gracious and understanding and the move went off without a hitch (pun!). We picked up the Goodship and rolled into our new space and with the help of our amazing new landlord, immediately made it home.

By Jessica Caviness

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