My camp build
2012

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Back from Belize and ready for 2012

This year I will haul yet more gravel. Hammer nails. Build a place for waste. And change course.

First things first. Plug in the trailer and turn on the electricity. Did the solar system survive three months of inattention?

Trailer is critter free. Solar system survives its first winter alone.
Trailer is critter free. Solar system survives its first winter alone.

Yes. I plug in. Turn on the power and gas. I’m home. And no mice. I had worried that the straw under the trailer would turn into a rodent nest. Probably a short tailed weasel or Ermine (Ms. M has him run between her feet, I never saw him) has kept the mouse population at bay.

Least weasel pic from Wikipedia courtesy of Kevin Law. Thank you Kevin.
Least weasel similar to the short tail (aka the  pic from Wikipedia courtesy of Kevin Law. Thank you Kevin.
The inaugural paddle

As always I celebrate with a spring paddle.

This year Ms. M takes an alternate route and gets terribly lost in a swamp. I mean an hour of hacking through swamp/reeds lost. As always, she does it with style.

Can you see the steam?
Can you see the steam?
The epitome of style and grace. Off grid that is.
The epitome of style and grace. Off grid that is.

Gotta love the gloves.

Time to swing hammers

Now onto swinging hammers. First off, extendi the road. In 2011 I built 500 feet of road. But I still need to get around a corner to the back of the property. There is a line between trees, that when wet, is so soft I almost get the tractor stuck. So it’s a no go even for 4x4s.

More road tarp and three more loads of gravel please.

Gravel comes around the bend. Finally I'm safe to drive any vehicle, large or small, from the road to the camp.
Gravel comes around the bend. Finally I’m safe to drive any vehicle, large or small, from the road to the camp.

Plus, remember that deck I built in two pieces. A wind storm has used the awning as a lever and completely destroyed the gazebo. After only two years. sheesh. So it comes apart and …

 A summer retreat
Ah. The two part deck build pays off. I separate and wrap the trailer. Summer living in all its glory.
Ah. The two part deck build pays off. I separate and wrap the trailer. Summer living in all its glory.

First thing for summer retreat is to fix a few problems. One is water for dishwashing and showers in the trailer. The second is laundry. And the third is the problem with the solar controllers. So.

Water and laundry improvements
First a 50 gallon barrel for transporting water from the well. And a laundry washer.
First a 50 gallon barrel for transporting water from the well. And a laundry washer.

I use a Shurflo 12v Revolution water pump hooked up to a 50 gallon water barrel. I fill the barrel at the well that came with the property. The well was open for 3 to 4 years but tests okay. I use it for laundry and showers only.

You can’t see them. But I found pallet forks for the fel on the tractor. The most useful addition to any tractor.

No more laundry bills

It’s a Haier HLP21N compact washer to the rescue. Man I got tired of spending 1/2 a day driving to and from town. Not to mention 5 bucks a load for laundry (okay, really really big loads). Now that I have more power and water to play with, it’s a laundry washer for me.

And fixing the solar controller
The MPPT-60 from Morningstar. Nice.
The MPPT-60 from Morningstar. Nice.

The advantage of MPPT. The controller takes my 48 volts at 11 amps maximum output and turns it into, in this case while equalizing my battery bank, 15.8 volts at 50 amps. The PWM controller I had previously would have done 15.8 volts at 11 amps. So this is a big step forward. My batteries charge ridiculously quickly now.

Sniff. 650 watts on equalize. 15.8v. 50 amps of charging deliciousness. I get teary eyed.
Sniff. 650 watts on equalize. 15.8v. 50 amps of charging deliciousness. I get teary eyed. By the way, my record for this 1kw array is 60.5 amps at 15.4v or 932 watts of output.
Taking time to enjoy

At this point I have it all. I have power and lots of it. I have water. I have living quarters. So I take the summer to read and write and fiddle fart about. I visit. I kibbitz. I paddle. I mow lawns and poke in a lazy fashion at the garden. I have a good time.

The lengthening days of fall

But all is not perfect. For one thing, I find I don’t like living in a trailer. Don’t get me wrong. It’s got all the luxuries and necessities.

But:

  • The shower is tiny
  • Storage is limited
  • the toilet needs regular transporting/dumping
Time for an off grid washroom, what?

Time to start the “shizzer shack.” Initially I look to build a 3 season washroom with a big shower, a composting toilet and room for the clothes washer.

For the build I found a neat site. apb pole barns. He had a really good set of instructions on how to build … a pole barn. I thought, well, for my next building, why not try a mini version?

On to the easy pole barn

I put the auger on the tractor and drill 6 12″ post holes 4 feet deep. I line the holes with landscape fabric to keep the gravel in place. I put down a few inches of gravel. Put in my PT 4″ posts with rebar cleats and pour in a concrete base. Then I fill the remainder of the hole with gravel and some concrete powder.

Easy, dig some holes, plant some poles.
Easy, dig some holes, plant some poles.

Boy. If you ever do this get some help. What a PITA. Eventually I got the posts in and square and only 1″ long. So I would have to notch the posts and girts at one end to make it all fit precisely. I may have gotten a little, er, fussy here.

Girts away.
Girts away.

The other thing is. Get your girts on right away. I left my posts up while I worked on other stuff and they started to warp as they air dried. Took a little tugging and pushing to get ’em back into place.

Rough up some roofing
See. The tractor keeps showing up doesn't it. Ha. And some people scoffed at my tractor.
See. The tractor keeps showing up doesn’t it. Ha. And some people scoffed at my tractor.

 Note 2: I could have lowered the floor by 2 feet if I wasn’t putting in the composting toilet unit you see here. This would have been ideal if I had wanted to put in a loft (spare bedroom).

One small roof for man.
One small roof for man.
Another “creeky” innovation

I’m pretty proud of the roof design. It’s a long story, but what have we got but time?

It started out when Ms M mentioned that a guy in Africa had come up with a design to keep houses there cooler. They use corrugated metal roofing and when the sun shines, well, it turns the house into an oven. So he put two layers of metal roof on. Blocked the sides and left a gap between the two sheets of metal. This allowed for cool air to be drawn in from the bottom of the roof slope and hot air to be ejected out the top.

Ha ha ha. I laughed when Ms. M told me about this idea. That’ll never work. But you know. The idea started scratching away. And I was wrong. Okay. I admit it.

Then I read (and I have tried and tried to find this research again, a guy in Texas researching energy retrofits for houses) about a guy who did the same thing except his bottom layer was foil faced 1″ polyiso. He wanted to retrofit a roof to cool the attic. He put ventilation at the bottom of the roof slope and used the heat from the sun baked metal roof to drive the stack effect. He managed to cool his attic some 50 degrees. And he had cool graphs and actual data.

The creeky design for off grid roofs
Basic schematic for build.
Basic schematic for build.
How it works
The basic concept.
The basic concept.
And the result
Putting the tin on the roof. Way-y-y-y up in the air. Not my favorite chore.
Putting the tin on the roof. Way-y-y-y up in the air. Not my favorite chore.
How’d it go?
I don't have a picture of the polyiso underlayer, but it's there. All six 1" 4x8 sheets of it. And it worked the ticket. In 2013 we had a scorching hot summer. The shizzer shack never went more than 1 degree above the ambient outdoor temperature. When you think of what a tin roofed shed would have done. The side of the roof not exposed here faces almost due south. Success!
Keep building

One of the advantages of pole barn design is you don’t need siding for structural support. So for this first season the shack is sheathed in 1″ polyiso sheathing. It has been up for 3 years now and I am very happy with the performance. It works the ticket. Tho, I don’t imagine I’ll win many design awards on the beauty side of things.

Toilet and door get added.
Toilet and door get added.
Toilets in

I find a great deal on an “envirolet” toilet (third hand). This is hilarious. The toilet hole and the stack from the base unit (the black blob underneath) are set. So I cuts out my holes. Put in my vent stack. And go to mount the toilet. AHAHAHAHHA. The toilet doesn’t fit. The unit was clearly designed with another toilet in mind (or somebody, er, effed up). So a little figur’in. Some adjustment. And everything fits.

This is why I never glue anything until the last minute.

Other than that one problem, I will say the envirolet is going into its fourth year of operation and it’s worked pretty well. It has some issues, mostly to do with my reluctance to do, um, removal. So …

For those thinking of doing something similar. It’s a muldering toilet. You can find all kinds of designs online. This one has the advantage of coming with CSA approval as a waste management system. A build it yourself design could be bigger and easier to clean. I would like those two things.

And doors on
Doors on, walls are sheathed, the shizzer shack is complete. For now.
Doors on, walls are sheathed, the shizzer shack is complete. For now.

As I finished putting the sheathing on a huge wind storm advisory was issued. So I quickly added some cedar boards to hold the siding up. Turned out to be completely unnecessary. The shack was fine. The stair case on the other hand …

Due to a shrinking number of hours

This is as far as I get this year.

So. About that change of direction

One night I got drunk

One night, getting happy whilst drinking wine and barbequeing steaks my buddy challenged me about staying for the winter. I scoffed. And then, later, I hawed. And  finally decided. Well. I can take my holiday money and turn the Amish storage shed into a winter bedroom and living room.

So that’s what I did. What was I thinking?

 The Amish conversion

The decision I made was to insulate the Amish shed and turn it into a bedroom / living room. I had a friend in town who agreed to put me up for the winter on weekends, so I knew I’d be able to shower, eat a decent meal, etc. at least once every week or so.

The studio conversion begins in frosty temperatures. But no snow.
The studio conversion begins in frosty temperatures. But no snow.

In a sense I get lucky. We don’t get any snow until Dec 15th.

 The shed becomes the studio
Insulating the studio. Add 4" roxul, cover with 1.5" polyiso. Fill gaps with foam. Easy.
Insulating the studio. Add 4″ roxul, cover with 1.5″ polyiso. Fill gaps with foam. Easy.

First thing, I added two big french doors to one end of the studio. This would have two big advantages. In the winter, facing west, it lets in sunshine. And being a large opening, in the summer it would let in fresh air. Plus, I can move furniture in and out quite easily.

The layer of roxul you see is R14. Then, the 1.5″ layer of polyiso board is R10, the pine sheathing is R1. And the polyiso forms a very tight vapour barrier. Really, I’ve got a good R25 in the walls and R33 in the ceiling (6″ batts of Roxul).

For the first winter the wood stove is my only source of heat. Well, that and the electric blanket. But it’s just a hoot. I have to tell you cooking on a wood stove is fun. You always have a pot of hot water going. You can heat most “oven bake” packaged foods in the big cast iron pot. And, while its messy, it’s fun.

Wood stove goes in. And look. I'm sleeping in there now.
Wood stove goes in. And look. I’m sleeping in there now.

Progress goes pretty quick when you’re racing against the clock. I put a layer of polyiso on the walls. On the floor. I add a “click” floor with a stone tile look. Very chic. Here I am about 1/2 way.

I’m all but done, when …

Winter hits with a thud
Winter hits with a thud.
Winter hits with a thud.

And so I’ll leave you with a final sunset and move on to 2013.

The sun sets on 2012.
The sun sets on 2012.
Excited to see what happened in 2013?
Go to My camp build 2013

wait, missed the 2011:
go to My camp build 2011

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