Finally the weather cleared and we were able to get some more repairs done on the tiny trailer so we could get started on our Big Off-Grid Adventure. First I sealed up the roof with elastomeric, hoping that I got all the leaks. Apparently not, because there is still a small leak somewhere. Upon inspection, I discovered the source: non-working running lights that were working their way loose from the frame. So I will be disconnecting the loose ones and sealing up the holes.
Next, I removed the cracked toilet bowl, which I could not get replacement parts for, and installed a sawdust toilet. Sawdust has a much less offensive smell than black water, and thus, conserves water usage, as well. This is a good thing, because my 10-gallon fresh water tank had a big hole in it that I could not patch. So our water system currently consists of two 2-gallon jugs with spigots, sitting (one at a time) on the kitchen sink. The water heater does not work and is a bit further down the budget ladder, so we are heating water on the stove for dishes and washing, as well as hot drinks and cooking.
Dry rot was causing the corners of the trailer siding to pull away, so I had to replace as much as I could get to without taking the whole trailer apart. The main problem was the front corners near the bottom. The siding is also so old that some of it is just deteriorating. It is looking very much like it is going to be wiser to just upgrade to a bigger trailer (we need the extra space) than to replace it. So for now, bandaid repairs until the right trailer meets up with our budget.
I was very excited about my electrical system. I got a truck battery and hooked it up to a heavy-duty inverter inside the trailer. The plan was to plug the trailer into the inverter to run the fridge and the surge-protector/charging station. We have several LED battery op lights so did not need to run the trailer lights. It worked great until the spare tire got unhooked and I had to plug in the multi-tool to cut a metal bar for the repair. That drained the battery in about 20 minutes. OK, maybe 5 minutes of actual power tool usage. We had to wait a couple nights to hook up to electric again and put the trickle charger on the battery.
I also learned to read instructions. The first time I charged the battery, we got about an hour of usage out of it. I had the charger on the wrong setting. After we got to our next hook up, I charged it on the right setting. I have not yet given it a test, as the cold weather here in Texas has necessitated using the electric heater. Now it’s a bit warmer, and I plan to leave the heater off overnight to test the battery/inverter setup.
Even though we haven’t been able to be totally off-grid, we have saved a lot by camping in Texas state parks, most of which offer water and electric hook-ups. We are currently in an RV park, which is not our preference, but since we are visiting family in the city, the options for parking and unhitching the trailer are few. The nearest state-park campgrounds are more than an hour away, not so good for driving to visit every day. The shower here is perpetually locked; the bathroom, not so clean. Ah, for the clean bathrooms and free hot showers at the SP camps. At least we can shower and do laundry while we’re visiting the folks.
We may not be totally off grid yet, but we are comfortable, relaxed and having a great time. Even with campground and RV park fees, we are staying within our budget, thanks to low gas prices. The off-grid adventure continues …
For more updates on our off-grid mobile homesteading, roadschooling adventures, come visit us at Mrs. D's Traveling Homestead, on Facebook, and check out my book: The Working Parent's Guide to Homeschooling.