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Art Journal – Houses

Art Journal – Houses

The previous page of my art journal took me back to those days when I fell in love with designing “home”. It’s the page where I decided to try my hand at drawing things from memory. It brings them to life and gives me a chance to share them with others. Much to my delight I found out that others have done the same thing…drawing houses on the ground with autumn leaves. Wow!

Leaf Houses

Houses Drawn on the Sidewalk

After the leaves were burned I had to find another way to make houses…because my heart was on fire with this new pass time.

Too Cold to Draw Outside – Draw Inside!

I could draw them on any surface, but I found a large sketchbook was best. I used a pen to draw the layout and features I wanted. Then I colored everything in with colored pencils. As I went along I added more and more detail to my drawings. I designed houses in caves, tree-houses, buses, apartments…anything I could think of.

It was fun to add wood floors, stone floors, patterns on furniture, little details of things on dressers, desks, and kitchen counters.

Lately I’ve gotten it in my head to add walls. That was good for my brain, I think. I liked figuring out how to cut holes for windows, how to color the inside and outside to make it look as real as possible. I wanted to be able to peek inside and see what it looked like; pretending that I could see the family inside, living and loving one another and making the most of their time together.

3-D Structure – An art class project with the kids

For my part in the project, I drew the RV. First I drew it in my journal and then made it with white foam core board. This was the final art project I did with the kids in Honolulu.

I wanted them to do this design project so they would, on their own, discover why perspective and scale are so important. I wanted them to learn to think in three dimensions and to see how everything relates to everything else.

However we only had a week to complete the project. It was the first one where they didn’t put it aside after class and not come back to it until the next lesson. This time they took the little houses with them to spots around the house and each one worked throughout the week. I was so proud.

My own, shown below, was done quite hastily. I didn’t measure out the furniture. It was more like the other drawings from memory…very spontaneous/ I didn’t have time to color the interior or exterior of the walls. I just went with trying to depict that the walls existed and divided up the space into little rooms.

It was a fun project. I didn’t do a very good job, but it was still satisfying and left me wanting to make more. It reminded me of the 3-D dollhouse my younger sister had all those years ago.

Visiting a Missile Silo!

Visiting a Missile Silo!

On my second day here, two friends and I went to visit the Titan II Missile Silo and museum. We were taken into a small theater where we watched a video about the missile silos. Afterwards, the people who were over six feet tall put on hard hats (to prevent injury from low conduits and doorways). We went outside and learned about all the outdoor stuff.

Down, down, down

That took us down stairs and more stairs.

It wound around a bit, taking us through very thick doors into a control room. Before all the silos were closed down, four people would work a 24 hour alert shift. There were three levels to their domain in the control room area. The bottom level was an equipment room. The middle area was the control room itself. The top area was the living quarters with a sleeping area, kitchen, and washroom.

A person was allowed to be in the living quarters alone, but everywhere else, no one was allowed to be alone.

Before the tour, we’d been instructed not to touch anything. This is the last missile silo. All others have been destroyed and/or emptied. The things in this one, although for historical purposes, are the last of their kind. There are no replacements. Oils from our hands can cause the metals to disintegrate over time.

Hi, Janet!

After our tour of the control room, we walked along a hallway to the silo itself. The original missile was no longer there, but an unarmed missile resides in the silo. The huge doors at the top of the silo are locked in semi-open position and they can never again be opened or closed. A missile can’t be fired unless the doors are completely opened. Having them partially open displays to satellites from other countries that the silo is non-functioning. Many of the de-commissioned missiles have been stripped of armaments and are used to launch satellites. Re-purposed! They were very expensive, so that’s great!

Meet my friend Debbie

The best photo I have of the missile silo is from afterwards. We went above ground. At the top of the silo, you can see through a thick glass panel down into the silo itself. You can lay your cell phone on the glass for the best photo.

It was a great tour. I had no idea how any of it worked or what had become to the silos. Now I know. I’m so glad my friends wanted to go and take the tour.

How do I spend my time?

How do I spend my time?

I admit that I can have whole days where I don’t have any chores to do. However, living in a small space loses its appeal when it becomes cluttered up. I try not to buy things, but sometimes I do find things I can’t live without. When I see things I want, I have to ask myself if there’s anything in the RV I can live without so that I can replace it with this new thing. The answer is usually yes. The stuff I thought I couldn’t live without when I first started this have not all turned out to be a good fit for this life. This month is one of those times when I go through my stuff and see what can be given away or donated. There are things that I have bought and indeed used, but the need for it has passed.

My RV isn’t brimming over with stuff. I just don’t want to get carried away with buying things. I like it simple.

Because I have a dog and that dog likes routine, there is a bit of routine in my life. Einstein does let me sleep in. He tries whining a bit when he thinks I should get up, but I’m a pretty sound sleeper, so it doesn’t always work. He isn’t whimpering because he wants out desperately. He just wants me to get up. So. Eventually I acknowledge his request and we have a bonding time. He wiggles and wags and I pet and talk to him in my happiest voice. Mostly. I get dressed and he always has to come over and sniff what I pick out to wear, as if he needs to give it his approval.

I make my bed. I have to do this because the extra pillows (I need them for nap time!) are laying on the seat at the table. Once the bed is made, I put a mug full of water into my little Keurig machine and press the button so it makes a cup of coffee for me. Next I give Einstein his thyroid medicine and get out his leash for a walk. He loves this part.

Glen Ayr Resort and Campground, Washington

After a nice walk, its back inside. Einstein knows our RV and no matter where we are, when we get close to it, he goes right to the door and puts his front paws up on the bottom step. When I open the door, he has to duck his head. Every time. Back inside, he gets a drink. So I have to make sure I put fresh water in his bowl, because I KNOW he’s going to get a drink after his walk. Predictable!!!

The RV now smells like freshly brewed coffee…I love THAT part. My cup of coffee is ready for consumption. I make sure the table is cleaned up a bit. It may have the laptop on it or some art supplies. I put a scoop of food into Einstein’s dish and then I eat. He seems to be happiest if we eat at the same time. I don’t always accommodate his preferences, but life together is a give and take, right?

Since the table is also my art studio, just sitting there to eat a bowl of cereal gets my creative juices going and pretty soon I’m munching and sketching. I check my phone, because during the night I sometimes (often) wake up with ideas for drawings. I put them into the NOTES app on my phone. The drawing of the RV pulling the printer behind it was a wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night idea. However, the dog on top of the printer…that was actually a daytime idea.

I don’t do dishes after every meal. Sometimes I could. Sometimes I can’t. So I usually just go somewhere in the middle and just do them when the left side sink is full. If I’m dry-camping (no hookups, so no water, electric, or septic) I try not to make many dirty dishes. If I do have hookups and its an travel day, I wash things right away, because I leave after breakfast. If I am staying somewhere for a while, I let it go until the little basin is full.

Wow! I just noticed most of my washed dishes are COFFEE MUGS!

If I have any chores, it works best if I do them in the morning (or whenever I get up). I might have to sweep the floor. If I didn’t have Einstein, I probably would rarely have to sweep. He sheds year round. Once every other week, when I’m stationary somewhere, I have to empty my grey tank (water from the dishwater/shower/washing machine) and black tank (you know…the toilet! Yikes!). Right now I’m in Robert’s driveway and he has 50 amp electric, water, and septic for me. Its wonderful. I let my tanks get to 2/3 full and then empty them both. I empty the black tank first and then the grey. The water from the grey tank flows up into the black water tank and helps wash it out. Then I close them both up again.

From time to time I have to sharpen pencils. I use a lot of watercolor pencils, oil based colored pencils, and wax based colored pencils. I like them to be very sharp, so the point gets down into the pores of the paper. So I use my Homepod, telling it “Hey, Siri, play some pop music” so I can sharpen pencils to music. And sometimes I just like to dance around the RV. If I’m a little down, it lifts me up. If I’m happy, it makes me happier and I burn some calories.

Every once in a while I look through my belongings to see if I can give anything away or donate it. If I haven’t used something ever or in a long time…it goes to a new home somewhere.

I have no yard work. I keep my bathrooms clean and tidy, but that doesn’t take much time at all. I love to tuck little pieces of art, postcards, artistic business cards, or photos into the edges of my mirror. Surprisingly, they stay put when I’m bumping along on the highway.

I’d say that I spend most of my time doing what I want. I take naps, bake something, cook meals, go for walks, take Einstein to a dog park, go to a store where I can buy art supplies, and I spend a LOT of time doing art. I like to draw things on paper and then take them into my iPad and do more art with them in the Procreate app, using my Apple Pencil. I’ve written about that in an earlier post.

To earn money, I draw things and sell them. In the past, I owned a film company and made documentaries, commercials and videos for corporations. I also filmed and edited a plethora of weddings. I have been an artist for most of my life. Doing the film work seemed to be a great way to combine all the other types of creative things I enjoy doing. I call myself a Digital Nomad now. I do whatever I can do from this little table in my RV.

I have never ever been so happy and so productive. I have learned, at last to live in the moment.

Wintering in an RV

Wintering in an RV

While visiting friends in central Alberta, Canada I found myself in snow and freezing temperatures as early as August.  I discovered things I could do to keep myself warm and my RV safe from damage.

The water pipes are beneath the floor, as are the heating ducts for the propane furnace.  My RV also has an electric fireplace, which keeps the interior very comfortable.  However, I found that using propane keeps the floor warmer and the pipes more protected.  I actually prefer propane heating, as it doesn’t dry the air like electric heat does.

My propane tank is built into the underside of my RV so I can’t just disconnect it and take it to be refilled.  I have to drive the entire RV to the propane refill station.  Recently I was able to purchase an “Extend-a-Stay” connector for my propane tank which allows me to connect an external propane tank AND a gas grill.  The connector was simple to install.

At first I purchased a 20 pound tank from Camping World.  I liked it because it had a gauge so I always knew how much propane was left in the tank.  My intention was to take that small tank to Lowes and simply exchange it, but I decided I didn’t want to trade away my tank with its gauge, so I bought a second tank from Lowes.  When I’m in a pinch I can easily exchange that one for a full tank.  When I have more time, I can take the nicer tank with the gauge to a propane refill station.  I like having the two extra tanks.  I’m never out of propane.  When I’m on the road, I put each tank in a plastic bin to keep it from rolling around and I store those in the back of my Jeep.

I recommend you use an allen wrench to tighten the hose to the tank. Otherwise it doesn’t seat right.

For the times when I use the electric fireplace, I have purchased a Honeywell cool mist humidifier for my main living area.  It has really helped prevent sinus infections, which are common for me in the winter.  It takes up some valuable counter space, because when I put it on the floor, the dogs knocked it over.  Water everywhere.  I have to admit that between the humidifier and the fireplace my RV is very comfortable and it’s a joy being in here.

On extra cold days or nights, there are more measures I can take to keep things free from damage.  I suppose it could be unnecessary, but the peace of mind is worth it.  I sleep better. 

  1. I take my small Broan heater and place in it my wet-bay.  My black water and fresh water tanks are visible in the top of the wet-bay.  If I put heater on the floor of the wet-bay and plug it into an extension cord that I brought up through the hole for the hose, it works great.  It like to sit it on a silicone hot pad from my galley because it keeps the heater from moving. The hole in my wet-bay has a sliding cover so that less cold air gets into the bay.  You can also buy a “blanket/pad” that attaches to the tank itself.  Since I can only see the underside of my tanks, I would have to find a way to fasten the heated pad to the bottom of each tank.  Perhaps Velcro would work.  Each pad runs up to about $130 for the largest size.  I decided to use my Broan heater this year and see how that works.
  • 2. The next step I took was to purchase a Freeze-Ban water hose.  It’s a heated water hose that has a power cord at one end and a temperature sensor at the other end.  I make sure that the temperature sensor cord is on the end attached to the spicket.  It turns on the heat if the temperature outside goes below 45 degrees I believe.  I use a long extension cord with three outlets on the end.  I have the Broan plugged into one outlet and I plug in the hose power to one of the other two outlets.  So now the opening in the basement floor has the heated hose and an extension cord.  The final thing going through that opening is my septic hose.  I keep it connected to the RV and in very cold weather, I keep the grey tank valve open so that there is no water in my grey tank and thus no danger to freezing.  I DO NOT keep my black tank valve open.  I never ever ever do that and don’t recommend anyone else do it.  You don’t want liquids draining out, but solids sitting in the tank, hardening into cement.
  • 3. The last step I take in very cold temperatures is to pour a bit of RV anti-freeze into my sink traps.  There is usually a small amount of water sitting in there.  A bit of anti-freeze ensures that it won’t freeze and damage the sink trap.  I pour perhaps a half a jug into the toilet to keep the black tank from freezing.  Again, this may be overkill, but I don’t mind taking the extra precautions to protect my “home”.

I haven’t done it yet, but someone gave me a great idea.  You are probably familiar with the “noodle” that you use in a swimming pool.  I was told to buy one of those and cut it so that it can slip just under the slide-out inside your RV.  My slide-out sits an inch or two off the floor.  When the slide-out is out, quite a bit of cold air comes into my RV from the edges.  I’m going to see if I can cut the noodle so that it fits into that space to see if it will prevent that cold air from entering the RV.

I’ve seen others use a silver insulation wrap on windows in their RV.  I’ve read that it isn’t real helpful.  I think mostly the silver-ness of it would reflect sun and maybe keep the RV cooler in summer.  I’m not against trying it though.

I was in freezing night temperatures off and on from August of 2018 to mid-January 2019 and all my precautions seem to have done the trick.  I’m now newly arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I did spend two weeks in the Arizona desert, boondocking on BLM land during the big Quartzsite RV show until this past Sunday.

I can’t say that, knowing all this, I plan to spend winters in below freezing places.  It just wasn’t possible for me to escape it until now.  I will definitely try my hardest to stay where its warm in the winter from now on.  I found out that it costs $180 to stay on BLM land for six months.  I am hoping to do just that.  I like knowing that I can winter camp if I need to.  I also know that if I were to buy another RV, I’d be looking for one that gives me the best chance of keeping my rig safe and sound in freezing temperatures.  Until that time, I think I’ll just call myself a “snow-bird”.

Happy Trails.

For more about wintering in an RV…and staying comfortable, here are a couple of videos I found helpful (both by Bob Wells):

Staying warm on the road, part 1

Staying warm on the road, part 2

my desert

my desert

Yesterday I drove away from my desert. I don’t really OWN it, but it felt like it was my very own desert. It was hard to leave. Even though I’d only been there from January 15th to the 27th (not counting the days I had to dash over to Phoenix to get my generator fixed), it seemed I’d been there always. It was my first time to actually dwell in the desert.

Eighteen months ago when I started full time RV living, I talked and thought about boondocking. I was going to do lots of it. As I traveled around, I found myself wanting amenities the way I sometimes want comfort-food. I was still trying to figure out just what I was doing living in an RV; what I wanted to get out of it. I was always looking up places to stay off-grid and it was an awesome goal, but at that early point of being on the road by myself, I found that staying in the parking lot of a Walmart or a Cracker Barrel was as much of a boondock as I cared for. Going into the desert and meeting up with women from RVing Women was a great way to introduce myself to the idea of really doing some off-grid boondocking. I watched what others did and asked questions. I’m an introvert so I didn’t ask as many questions as I wanted to. But I did better than I had expected. I came prepared, too. I had empty grey and black tanks, a full fresh water tank, bottled water, full propane tanks, food that I would cook and some that I wouldn’t need to cook.

I just wasn’t sure how to handle being out there and taking care not to drain my batteries, get so cold at night that I couldn’t sleep, how to keep myself entertained, or making myself get out there and socialize. I’m an on-line gamer. I play Guildwars 2, Final Fantasy XIV, World of Warcraft, and Heroes of the Storm. I have friends that I play with and we switch from game to game. I don’t play all the time. I have days when there’s not much else to do and I might play for several hours, but that’s rare. Many of my gaming friends are kind of like me…they’re artists or writers. I haven’t met any that are Nomads yet.

While in the desert I found out that you can stay on BLM land in that area from October till April 1st. I seriously considered paying the money and staying until April 1st. I wondered what I would do with my time out there in the profoundly silent desert. I had good cell signal, much to my surprise. I’m a Digital Nomad, meaning that I spend a lot of time doing things on my computer to earn money or just for the fun of it. Would I be able to still do that out there? With my generator I could probably do some of that, but I would not want to run my generator all the time. It uses gas and, even though its inside the basement of my RV, its still quite noisy. I turned on my generator when the sun went down and it gave me a couple hours to spend using my computer and running my electric fireplace. Without the generator I could use lights and I was able to charge my phone. I didn’t use my heated blanket or run the electric fireplace without the generator. The in-house batteries kept my refrigerator going. I learned a lot about conserving energy. I learned that at first its hard to be still and not be using my phone or computer. I felt edgy and restless. As the days passed, I developed a routine appropriate for that life and I got used to doing different things – reading, sitting outside, going for walks, taking a trip into the small town of Quartzsite, cooking, and sometimes just plain taking a nap.

There were Saguaro cacti all over the place. I enjoyed walking around and looking at them up close

The United States has lots of deserts. Some are sand…and evidently some are just not. I never knew there would be so many stones. There was no sand anywhere…only stones, rocks, and fine dust. As I drove to and from my RV, my Jeep bathed everyone I passed with a cloud of dust. “Sorry! Sorry! Oops! Sorry about that!”

During the day, it was in the 60’s (in January!!!) so I got to open all the windows. How wonderful! However, I was never able to wear shorts or flip flops. The sky was almost always the deepest blue I’ve ever seen. I’d call it “Shelley Blue” – LOL. At night, it dropped down to the 40’s. I didn’t turn on my furnace, but I had lots of blankets on my bed. In the morning the temperature in the RV was usually hovering around fifty degrees. If it was colder than that, I turned on the propane furnace to warm things up enough so that I could do my morning chores. I had a full tank of propane and I have two small 20 lb tanks that I can hook up and they were both full. I could have been toasty warm all night long. I didn’t do that. I’m still learning and wasn’t sure how much of a drain it would be on my batteries to be running the propane furnace, as it uses electricity to blow out the heat.

There were days when the view out my window was just desert. Other days it was a plethora of RVs and women strolling along with their little dogs, stopping to talk with other women with little dogs. Occasionally there were big dogs, but mostly it seemed like little white dogs. Its an easy way to meet people…take your dog for a walk.

First Night

From the first evening to the last, the sunsets were spectacular. I think I took more photos of sunsets than anything else. They made me think of paintings. High five, God!!! Each one was as amazing as a painting in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. I couldn’t stop looking at them as they deepened and then faded.

I think the things I’ll take with me about my experience in the desert were the quiet and the beautiful night skies. So many stars!!! One evening my friends and I were sitting around a campfire and someone nearby was sending up something into the air that defies explanation. Each one looked like a floating paper bag with a candle suspended beneath. There were quite a few, one at a time. It was so cool!

We sat there around the fire, talking about RV life, about things we like, things we have to figure out and overcome, and about the sense of accomplishment it gives us to fix things ourselves. We talked about nothing of consequence, too, and it was a fine thing…sitting there with the crackling fire and absolutely no other sound. Debbie wielded the little shovel, pushing embers around, positioning a log from time to time. We roasted hotdogs and it was fun. Really fun. The companionship for us, who are usually each alone most of the time, content with our solitude, was indeed sweet.