Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mundane tasks and low tech

Today was one of those days - filled with mundane tasks - that just sort of slip away from you with no effort at all, and at the end of it you wonder where it went. Yes, even if you live in an RV you still have mundane tasks to perform. In my case, the day started with window screen repair. With the cooler weather the past few days I've had the windows wide open to take advantage of the cool breezes and listen to the birds when I've been inside. Yesterday afternoon I noticed a sizeable population of flies in the TT, way more than could be explained by the occasional culprit  sneaking in the door when I go in or out. Further inspection located the problem... a large grasshopper was eating the window screen! I didn't get a mug shot of the suspect, although I do have a crime scene photo of his handiwork.

This is his accomplice who acted as the look-out and drove the get-away car... I think he's smirking at me...

While I can't stop an onslaught by the vandals if they decide en masse that my window screens are the latest delicacy on the menu, I can at least stop the infiltration of the flying hordes. After rummaging around in the house I found a roll of 2" wide clear packing tape. Two pieces, one on each side of the screen, closed up the hole, and the TT has been blissfully fly-free ever since. Note to self: the Caboose will have METAL window screens impervious to grasshopper jaws.

The second mundane task was washing out the foam filters in the ceiling a/c unit. This is a monthly chore, not a big deal since the cover pops off with only a 1/4 turn of two retaining screws, but definitely not something I can put off for too long with Mr. K living inside. The filter/screens get clogged with cat hair fairly rapidly due to cat hair's tendency to float skyward with virtually no provocation. Judicious use of the FURminator brush has massively cut down on the amount of cat hair running rampant in the TT, but what remains still seems to gravitate toward the a/c filter. There are no photos of this joy-filled and exciting activity, just use your imagination.

The final mundane task was doing laundry. Laundry has never been high on my list of favorite things, and packing up dirty clothes and heading into town to waste and hour or two of my life at a laundromat is even further down the list of things I want to spend my time doing. Since this whole living-in-a-20-foot-travel-trailer thing is basically a trial run for living full-time in the Caboose, a sustainable and not-too-terribly-unpleasant way of getting my clothing clean has been something I've been thinking about for some time. Obviously I'm not going to have the space (or weight carrying capacity) to have a washer and dryer in the Caboose, and I have a very strong aversion to laundromats. I'm not against doing laundry by hand, after all I'm an aging hippie/self-sufficient/back-to-the-land'er sort who once spent a year living with no electricity and 3 kiddos under the age of 5 (think two of them in diapers, plus the ex's three older kiddos spent summers with us), so just having running water is actually a luxury.

Enter the Breathing Mobile Washer, a descendant of the Rapid Washer which was a common household item back in the early 1900's, somewhere between the age of the washboard and the age of an actual mechanical washing machine.

I have one of the original Rapid Washers lurking somewhere around here, but the galvanized tin has broken away from the handle and rust has set in, so using the antique one was out of the question. I ordered a new Breathing Mobile Washer from Amazon, and this thing works  perfectly. I got one whose handle wants to come unscrewed from the plastic assembly, but that was fixed with a few wraps of teflon tape. A clean 5 gallon pail is the perfect size for most things, just put a gallon and a half of water or so and 1 teaspoon of laundry soap in the pail (I use homemade laundry soap, 1 finely grated bar of Fels-Naptha, 1 cup washing soda and 1 cup borax), add your clothes and plunge away like you're churning butter.

If you're doing this indoors you can use the sink, or if you use a pail and don't want to worry about splashes you can cut a small hole in the pail lid for the washer handle to go through and any splashing will be stopped in it's tracks. Somewhere around 100 strokes seems to do the job. Wring everything out, and refill the pail with clean rinse water. Plunge the clothes again, wring again, and hang to dry.

Really large items like a comforter or bulky jacket obvious won't fit in a pail, but the bathtub should work fine for those items. The washer pulls and pushes water through the clothes and cleans at least as well as any fancy expensive washing machine does, while using a fraction of the water and soap, and no electricity, plus a load of wash takes only about 5 minutes. And the whole outfit stores in a very compact space. How's that for low tech?

Speaking of low tech, the aforementioned cooler days and open windows came to an end today with the return of warmer temps, forcing me to break down and turn on the air conditioning. This camper has a basic roof a/c, while the 30' KZ I lived in last year had ducted air and heat. Both units are/were incredibly noisy, effectively drowning out any sounds from outside the TT. I realize it's the fan/blower that causes most of the racket, but have been reflecting on how intrusive that noise is when a person is otherwise surrounded by solitude. I'd much rather be listening to the wind moving through the trees, or the birds, or the crickets, or the coyotes singing. I love music of all types, and have over 1000 albums converted to mp3's and stored on an external drive, but I very, very rarely  hook it up and listen to it other than stuff I load to my Fuze player and listen to occasionally when I'm driving. Television is another thing I just don't get. I don't have one in this TT, I did have one in the bigger KZ last summer but only turned it on a couple of times to watch a bit of the Olympics. At the house in TN I maybe turn it on once month and watch recorded episodes of Nature or Nova, or occasionally Austin City Limits or Bluegrass Underground or Live From Lincoln Center.

Last summer I was surprised to get an envelope in the mail from Nielson, the ratings people. They enclose a couple crisp new dollar bills to entice you to fill out the survey and log in detail the shows you watch. I hope my response skewed the ratings at least a miniscule amount the since I'm sure it wasn't the typical litany of mindless sitcoms or soap operas or 'reality shows'. I turned on the tv exactly once during the survey period, and then only to watch the weather as there were severe storms/tornados in the area. It makes me wonder what is missing in people's lives that they need to fill every waking moment with sound or inane drivel from a radio, stereo, mp3 player or television set. Or what voices in their heads are they trying so desperately to drown out?  

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