Not all of it, just a part, showing the advantage of building in individual sections rather than a whole fixed structure. It was easy enough to fix and luckily it happened while I was resting at a stellplatz in Germany and not while driving on the autobahn. Because that would have been unfortunate.
It has been a stormy few weeks in Europe, in many ways. And driving across the continent felt like driving with a thunderstorm on my tracks. Creatures who live close to the elements will have noticed that there is a relentlessness to the weather now, the wind and the rain is harder and it doesn’t take breaks like before.
To drive a house on wheels in near gale and heavy rain is at every turn an adventure and truly uncharted territory. I had originally planned to go through Denmark, but because of family reasons I needed to make my way to Norway fairly quick. I ended up taking the ferry from Kiel to Göteborg, planning to place my house near the border and take the car the rest of the way to Bergen. Because while I might get my house to Bergen, I’m not all that sure of getting it out again. I have to admit, I have also been a bit nervous about getting stuck on a ferry with People if one of the passengers should have become infected with the new virus. So I took the ferry to Göteborg. Which is not a very long drive from the border. Usually.
The wind, barely noticeable at sea for some reason, swept in over the road and I had to drive at a third of my normal speed to feel safe. At one point, I was considering stopping overnight and driving on in the morning. On one hand, I was getting tired, but on the other hand, the weather report for the next few days didn’t look much better. And then I got to the Uddevalla bridge.
The Uddevalla bridge spans the Sunninge strait and is ranked on the top ten of scary bridges of the world due to the intense gusts of wind coming in from the sea. I’m honestly not sure if I would have been mad enough to cross it under those circumstances or not, but I never got to choose, because it was closed. Luckily, there was a winter open camping ground near by, where I could spend a, rather shaky, night.
The next morning, the house was still standing, and had all of the bits on, and I was able to take the old road the rest of the way. It’s longer, but it runs through a valley and is protected from the costal weather. It was a nice drive, though. Sunny and few other cars. And not a customs officer in sight as I crossed the border.
And it’s not just the weather, the roads washed out or blocked by debris, not just the growing restrictions on travel from novel corona, the demonstrations and the strikes and the emptying shelves at supermarkets, it’s an overall mood like when the last of the water drains form a sink. The spiral speeds up as things vanish.
I still don’t know how this all will effect my movements in the foreseeable future. It may be difficult to get around for a while. And then it may be necessary to move more often and further. For now, my house and I are both safe in harbor. But I need to plan my next step carefully.
For the benefit of the curious, I thought I’d share my field notes from the road. I set out northbound a week ago, after some consideration on going further south for winter or starting on the northbound journey for spring. Since winter has been cancelled due to unstable climate (or probably it’ll hit in July) I’m going north now. A storm, or several storms have been raging on the European continent lately, and here are my notes from the following, harrowing week:
Started out. Sunny, but windy. After about 60-70km it became clear that some of the reconstructive work on the wagon were not suitable for heavier weather. Bits started to come loose. Stopped at a rest stop for the night to get my bearings.
Picked kindling from the forest by the rest stop, got bitten by something. Probably bird fleas.
It’s dark and stormy and there are cops everywhere. Three patrol cars and about six motorbikes. I know they’re probably much more interested in the suspicious lorry drivers than little old me, but the presence of people who think themselves authorities makes me nervous. Much more nervous than any suspicious lorry driver ever did. After a few miles, more cops showed up along the road. Decided to stop at the next rest stop and see if they would go away. Needed lunch anyway. Managed to back my trailer into a road sign due to complete lack of sight in the heavy rain and smashed one tail light. Decided not to go out again with broken tail light on roads filled with cops.
Headed out early, on the lookout for a garage or well-stocked gas station for light bulb. French roads are generally quite good, both the highway and the country roads. The downside of the highway, apart from being highways, is that there are a lot of toll booths and huge road taxes (which of course helps with keeping the roads in shape, but with a large trailer it can be very expensive). The smaller roads are also in good shape, and go through a lot of charming villages. The problem here is that the road really goes right through the charming old villages, often from the middle ages, and with a road system meant for horse drawn wagons and meant to confusing viking invaders, such as myself.
It was nearly dark as I weaved my way to the district of Chablis and found a motor home stop. There was nobody else in sight and I let myself in via the eerie automatic system thingy. No rain tonight, only wind.
Took an evening stroll to stretch my legs. There are three shops and a huge monastery, looming over the river and gleaming in white under the drifting clouds and fluttering glimpses of the full moon.
Went out for fruit and cheese and came back with a case of Chablis. Not sure how this happened.
There is an old mill by the parking lot. There are geese and cats playing among the ponds and bamboo and tea rose bushes, and a portly man selling wine from a tiny shop.
I think it’s ok to have a small drink before driving in France.
Set out northbound again.
As i said, the smaller roads in France are pretty good. But another problem with taking these roads is that a lot of other people, and especially trailers do too, probably also to avoid road taxes. And the speed limit is not much slower, and nobody heeds it anyway. And having huge trailers zooming by on a highway is bad enough, but it’s much worse on the smaller roads where there are only two lanes, and only a few inches between you and the thundering trucks coming right at you. The air impact of one of these alone is equivalent to a full storm. And you’ll have dozens in a non stop streak. Nerves in shreds. Weather today calmer, though.
Arrived Chalons en Champagne in the afternoon and parked myself at a champagne house in one of the little surrounding villages. Went straight for the tasting room. I now have a lot of champagne.
The district is paced with wine houses. In later years, a lot of the vineyards that used to deliver to the larger houses has gone indie, and now there are hundreds (it seems) smaller houses. The streets in every village here are lined with champagne houses. Not much else, though.
Spent a quiet night under the pine tree at the parking yards with an owl for a neighbour.
As I got ready to go, my car informed me that I needed to check the cooler liquid level. Towing a house with insufficient cooler liquid is never a good idea, so I decided to let the house stay put while a found a gas station. I did not find a gas station. There is petrol available at a lot of the supermarkeds, but they didn’t have any other car products. Decided not to try to use champagne instead. Finally found a supermarked that stocked carstuff, but the clerk (who had the rubberball perkyness of a race car enthusiast himself) advised me to go to a garage in the next village to make sure I got the right type. Took his advice and had both cooler liquid added, motor oil filled up, and a touch up on the hydraulic liquid, plus a check on air pressure in the tires.
As I got back, a new storm center swept by. Decided to have lunch and wait it out.
A few hours later, the weather cleared, the sun shone over the fields, and I drove the 20km or so to the next champagne house that allowed overnight parking. Only got a little bit lost in what must be the only steep hill and the smallest village in the area. Got help from a little old lady who also had a champagne house, and whose neighbours’ grandson was the guy I was heading for. After a little while, he came in his car to guide me the last bit to the vineyard.
Drank quite a bit of champagne. Bought some more. Stormy night.
One of the roof plates has been knocked out of position by either the storms or the oncoming trucks or the maneuvering around on hills or all of the above. Rain comes in through a gap. All of the rain. Fixed it as best as I could, but will need larger repair later. Unsure if I should continue, but decided to go as this is a nice spot to visit, but not to stay if you need to do anything else apart from drinking champagne. Sadly, sometimes you do.
Drove straight through Belgium. The roads were bumpy and there was mud everywhere. Strange, rusty piles of cliffs, like caked blood. There’s probably a beautiful country somewhere beyond the main roads, but I’m in no condition to explore. The radio had the insight to play ‘In the hall of the Mountain King’ as I crossed the border.
Stopped only for lunch at a gas station and crossed over to Germany in the late afternoon. Nearly dark as I ambled my way in to the nearest little village straight across the border and to the nearest stellplatz. No rain today, fortunately.
Headed to a home depot to get things to fix my roof and trailer and such. On the way back there was an horrible sploshing sound from the passenger side. It turns out the water tank, that I keep in the car while driving, has sprung a leak and several liters of water has found it’s way under the seat. Checked to see if I could remove the seat to drain out the water, but the car is to new for that. All the garages are closed over the weekend, so I have to wait until Monday morning to get someone to look at it. Hopefully the electronics won’t be completely screwed, or the rust gotten too bad.
There are about fifty thousand bath houses and spas in the area, so at least I’ll have something to do while I wait for my car to be fixed.
Huge bloody storm at night, luckily I has the foresight to put up an extra tarpaulin over the part of the roof where the damage was.
From a tiny house on wheels, you notice a lot about the world. You get close to its current state. And there is little doubt that there is a crisis going on. It’s noticed in the condition of the roads, the cost of moving, the sheer amount of people you compete with for a place to park or to fill your water tank. The lack of places to go and of nature that isn’t poisoned or fenced off. And on the changes in the climate.
The choices of climate this autumn has been one of drowning or burning. Half the world is literally on fire and the other is drenched. I’m in the part with the water.
And I have also been, as some of you might remember, making quite a few shifts and changes to my house. This means new vulnerable places while it settles and of course, leaks. And of course, with every new attempt of fixing the problem, I hope that this time it will work.
There is a lot of talk of hope these days. Most of the focus of environmental groups in the media seems to be on presenting solutions to give people hope. But hope is nothing in itself and to keep holding it up like a holy grail is downright dangerous.
In my case, it took me weeks of patching a part of the roof before I took down the wall close to it and discovered that the water that I thought was coming from one place, was in fact being led in via a knot hole in one of the beams that I had not thought about at the time of construction.
I this situation, hope made matters worse by letting me cling to a structure that clearly wasn’t working instead of carefully deconstructing it and make something else. Hope is not what gets you out of a difficult situation, it’s more often what keeps you in it.
For my generation, we’ve been brought up on talk of hope as some sort of magic. In songs, films, books, media, we have been fed with hope as all you need to get you through and that you have nothing without hope. And yet, if you read accounts of people who have been in truly dire situations, clear thinking and quick reflexes has been far more helpful than hope. Also, carrying a grudge can get you really far.
Hope, of course, costs nothing and is absolutely no threat to any form of authorities. A person who is hoping, is a quiet one, and has something to lose. Only when you really have nothing, will you risk everything.
To keep ranting on about ‘not giving up hope’ and ‘not letting hopelessness win’ is really keeping people from accepting and analyzing the situation. Even then, to come back to the climate-issue, people will still not agree on the course of action. But at least we have a chance to know what we’re disagreeing on.
Hope is not without importance. It’s the icing on the cake. The light glimmer of the possibility of better times. But it’s not something to base your actions or decisions on. Accepting the situation, analyzing the facts and possibilities in that situation, and forming a plan from that analysis, are. It is important to point out though, that accept is not giving in. It merely means seeing things for what they are at the moment, the better to change what’s really there.
The way things are now, ‘hope’ in climate issues is rapidly becoming synonymous with rash, superficial or short-term solutions. Many of there presented in the ‘new green deal’ and many with far more potential for irreparable damage than the situation we’re in.
If you get bitten by a snake and ask your companion if it’s a poisonous one, ‘I hope not’ is a lot less reassuring of an answer than ‘I don’t know’ or even; ‘yes’. And you certainly wouldn’t want to hear ‘I hope so’.
Joyous Halloween, Samhain, Winternight or what name you might celebrate this turning of the year under.
I’m still working on the update of the interior, as I’ve fallen under the spell of Getting Slightly Better At Things. The very dangerous point in one’s development on a field where you’ve just gotten good enough at what you’re doing to see all of the little errors left from very early on and also get a ton of new ideas for improvements.
In addition there’s the usual amount of care a house needs after a year or so, the fresh coats of paint etc.
Also, it takes time to grow back the magic, the pieces of soul that invariably gets chipped at or damaged with any extensive rearranging of a house. Taking things slowly allows the change to come more gradually, rather than as a shock. My house needs time to heal from the repairs and various operations. The tipping point between a home and a diy- project is a fine one, particularly with a house where you can’t just close a door and call it a day. And it takes at least as much time to reconstitute my house as a home, reading books in it, lighting the fireplace, curling up in the sofa with a glass of wine, relaxing on the sun deck etc, as it takes to actually build. This might seem like relaxing, but it’s necessary and intense work. Of a more occult kind.
I expect I’ll be done in time for winter at least, and head further south with the last of the swans.
Here at least are some insights to what I’ve been working on, a chance to see the structure before my house again gets wrapped up in mystery.
a fresh coat of paint on the bathroom windowsill
this is how my new sleep alcove will be like, with a flat roof and more space to drink morning coffee
I made a new inner window over the stained glass one, the outer shutters are also double so I can choose how much light I want in. The new window is shoji paper on plexiglass, lined with cedar
Things have been quiet on the owlfront for the last weeks. Or, things have seemed quiet. Under the surface, there has been great shifts.
After a year of living in my tiny house, I have become more familiar with my daily needs and movements, and with the movements of the house. Things have settled. And, as soon as they settled, a revamping has begun.
At first, the idea was to alter one bit of the ceiling in my sleep alcove, but as I started dismantling the materials, I saw that I really wanted to redo the whole alcove.
Luckily, I’m absolute crap at seeing how much work something is, or I’d never get anything done at all.
My new roof is first of all partly shingles, or shakes, as wooden shingles are called. I’m new to this too, and it’s a quite sophisticated move, so I expect to have to make some repairs and alterations again soon.
I have also lowered the total height and made a flat top roof on the alcove, giving me more space to sit up in bed with my morning coffee. As I never really used the alcove window, I ditched it, but made a more elaborate window/ passage to my roof terrace (or, roof).
In addition, the living room windows have been lined better and given a double set of shutters, for better on-road protection.
What has taken so long with this has mostly been the careful dismantling, redefining, care, and brush-up of as many as possible of the former pieces. I didn’t want to simply throw bits of my beloved house away, not unless they were damaged beyond repair, and so this whole process has taken three times as long as it would have if I’d gone out and bought all new stuff (or, you know, used blueprints, or knew what I was doing, or if it hadn’t been a heatwave because somebody broke the climate).
Reusing my old materials both gives the house a sense of continuity and rebirth, and it gives me a better understanding of what I’m working with. I still don’t know if all my ideas have worked, for example if my net gasoline use will be reduced due to a more streamlined design, but we’ll find out in time.
For my next post, we’ll be taking a look at the newbies indoors. I have such sights to show you…
Yesterday marked one year since my first night in la Chouette, the first step towards making the house a home. Building a house by yourself from scratch, there are no indicators for at what point the heap of planks and nails and bits and pieces becomes a home. No one tells you this. No estate agent or landlord will stand by to convince you why this particular amount of enclosed air is a home.
Now it is a home and I have almost already forgotten how it was like to live enclosed in society. Looking back, it was hellish. That’s not to say my lifestyle is careless or easy.
Recently there was an article about tiny houses in a Norwegian paper. There was a feature of me, and an interview with an informal college where students could build a tiny house as one of the activities. The headline read ‘Tiny houses can make your life simpler’.
I have no idea what part of the interview they got that from. Certainly not from me.
While building and living in a house on wheels of a moderate size, popularly referred to as ‘tiny’ house, has turned out well for me, it’s not by any means a simple life. That was never the point.
To be clear, you don’t rid yourself of any problems this way, but you do get a whole set of interesting new ones. I think I have said that before. And often.
While building, I worried a lot about keeping the rain out, about how I would do my cooking, cleaning, where to get wood chips for my compost toilet, and about all the rules and regulations on the road. None of this has really been very important.
The house definitely has a better indoor climate than anywhere I’ve lived, and this has had a remarkably positive effect on my health.
The main part for me was to get away from noise. Not just from cars and neighbors with sick ideas of ‘fun’, such as actually listening to dubstep and tribal trance, but also from the drone of windmills, the angry hum of solar panels or electric car chargers and air conditions.
The downside to this is that you notice very clearly how few places of quiet are left. How the noise pollution is everywhere and increasing with every ‘green’ invention.
You become very aware of the difference it makes to be 8 rather than 4 billion people on the planet, as there was when I was little.
And this is the downside.
The roads are not places for travel, but for being chased from one place to another and there are few places to stop. Nearly all land is regulated, fenced off or built on. While the house has turned out like I wanted, the world has little place for freedom. The problems you face are mainly about how to maintain your balance. Not on the edge of society, because that no longer exists. There is no outside, it’s all been drained to feed the human fantasy of supremacy. The balance is on the edge of the existing and the not-yet real.
I have already made real a not-before existing type of house. In the time to come, I will continue to shift reality. I have plans to delve into the very place for the collective nightmares of western Europe and see what’s really there. And if it can be brought forward from the stories.
Today I spent the whole day sanding down, washing and waxing my kitchen.
After nearly a year of living and moving, the floor boards are stained, the racks for the pots are knocked out of whack, and there’s a general air of ingrown dinners over the kitchen area.
And as I’m sanding down the pine, first with a coarse grade, then a finer, I come to thinking that while there are plenty of tools and advice around on how to seal things off and close a structure, it’s surprisingly difficult to find tools and ways to keep and maintain an open structure, or, to maintain your vulnerability while not being permanently wounded.
My house is a vulnerable structure. It’s pretty open to the elements in its construction and the materials are not impregnated or heavily treated. This is a conscious choice, to live with something living instead of building a tomb. As I said before, I’m deeply uncomfortable in most modern houses for the reason that they feel like something meant to die in rather than something built for living things.
But a living thing needs care, it needs upkeep, and to find the balance of closing and opening is the hardest thing any living organism will face. Too open, and you’ll rot or be eaten alive, to closed and you’ll suffocate or starve.
I recall how, back when I was building, I went to get a piece of marine plywood for what was going to be the first attempt on a hatch to access my roof terrace. I went to the store, found the piece I wanted, checked the specifics, and then I asked the sales attendant if the material could handle the rain, meaning that it would not rot when wet in a hurry., as some materials do. He then regarded me with an expression as if I had made a lewd suggestion involving the two of us and a diseased aardvark. When he regained his composure, he carefully explained how I needed to buy a special kind of lacquer and a thinner, sand down the wood, lacquer it with a quite thinned mixture, wait for about two days, repeat, and repeat again at least five times with thicker mixtures of lacquer and thinner. I took a look at what the lacquer and thinner contained, panicked, thanked him for his time and left.
There are oils, tar solutions, techniques and mixtures you can use to keep wood longer while not building a bio hazard. But a lot of this knowledge is lost and what is left is heavily guarded and not easily accessible to the common crowd or amateur builder, such as me. And most of the building industry is based on the idea that everything has to last forever, or you’ve failed.
Of course I spin this thought further as dinner dust is clogging up my throat and dulling down my clothes. And I think about how we’re taught to do this with our bodies and our minds, making them rain proof, death proof, indestructible and by this, becoming already dead and a walking bio hazard, as most houses are.
And we have very few tools to really maintain our minds and bodies. A lot to close them off and fixing them, few on how to care for on a daily, living basis as something living and interacting. This idea I will explore in part two, coming up.
We interrupt the usual philosophical ramblings for a cooking class. This is; Cooking with the old gods, or; tiny house cooking 101.
Today: How to cook Rosemary chicken with port-braised potatoes, red cabbage and hazelnuts. Yum.
step 1: Risk your immortal soul by heading out into morning traffic to get to the nearest shop that sells wine and whole chickens. Get stuck in all the diverted traffic to London as the road to the very nearest shop is closed for road work. Curse the self-important gits who push past you as you try to keep within the speed limit because you don’t want to attract too much attention.
step 2: Get lost in a roundabout, see Woodhenge, go back to the roundabout, head the right way to the shop, very slowly this time as there has been an accident on the road involving one of the Very Busy and Important People who pushed past you on your way to the shop.
step 3: Shop tings. Get asked for two different types of ID to buy the alcohol because while you don’t look twenty, you look less human with age and difficult to place.
step 4: Find your way back to where you have parked your house. Scream a lot while doing this.
step 5: Have a very large coffee and possibly a drink.
step 6: (some time later) Make the actual food. This is done by carefully carving the chicken in four while preforming a small rite of memento mori for its short and brutal life, as all lives in essence are, and cursing the industrialization of everything. Brown the precious thing in olive oil with a bit of salt and a large spring of what is hopefully rosemary that you pinched from a near by bush. Let it all simmer on your alcohol stove under a lid for about 20 minutes, also remembering the hell of a time you had getting the burning alcohol for the stove as no shops apparently sell it anymore because some idiot found out it was dangerous.
When the chicken is done, let it rest on a plate under the lid while you fry the peeled and cut potatoes and the shredded red cabbage in the chicken fat along with some extra butter from the local farm. Add a handful of hazelnuts. When the potatoes are almost done, slosh over what’s let of the port you had. Or about half a cup.
If you’re not a carnivore, you can just drop the chicken from the recipe. Double or triple then the amount of hazelnuts and simmer the meal in the fat of your enemies choice.
Eat outside because the rain stopped for ten minutes. Hurry back inside when the thunder clouds gather.
step 8: Find a way to keep the rest of the chicken cool. And rest.
I’m following a few groups online dedicated to various ways of forming a life beyond the ready-made one. It’s hardly a single thread that doesn’t in some way post the question ‘yes, but is it authentic?’
For everyone taking a step to the side of society, you’ll come across the question of authenticity. An expectation that your goal is and should be to be completely self-reliant and exist in a sort of feral snow globe.
For me, reducing the presence of modern housing facilities, like washing machines, coffee machines and basically most types of machines, is a choice of comfort and beauty, not driven primarily by a desire for a life seen as authentic or free.
The western idea of ‘free’ has come to mean detached and closed off, yet few people really feel at great liberty when they’re all alone and isolated. Quite the contrary.
It’s easy when lifting your gaze from the treadmill to get the idea that you should go off into the wild, that is, go outside our house, and aim to become one with whatever ecosystem you find yourself in. But the wild can be further away than you’d think. Not everything green is living, functioning nature.
As I drive and live and form different patterns of everyday life, sometimes completely outside modern facilities, sometimes on the outskirts of them, the borders of human habitation come into view. And the idea of the authentic emerges as something a part of, not apart from, modern society.
In groups of people longing away from cities, away from an oppressive society, there is a story, one of many, but a prominent one, about the free individual as someone who sleeps under the stars and own nothing, no possessions, no obligations, no attachments. But this form of living requires a large habitat where you have the means to find what you need, and this kind of nature is inaccessible to most as it’s regulated or built on, overpopulated, poisoned or eradicated by industry. Most people who are homeless are far from free, and have no access to alternative ecosystems beyond the urban one, that relies greatly on houses to shelter humans from the ugliness, dangers and diseases caused by urbanization.
While I do wish for a greater insight into what I actually need and how to find it, it’s interaction I seek, not the idea of independence. Dependence is to me a reduced means of interaction, and freedom an expanded interaction with your surroundings. But to urbanized humans, they link interaction to communication with what they see as sentient, not co-existing with physical, living creatures.
I think for a lot of people it’s this interaction with a world beyond the one defined and fenced off that is meant by ‘real’. There is very little language to explain why, very few stories. But it’s the amount of possibilities, the greater network of creatures interacting, that increases freedom and approximates the idea of ‘real’.
Also, most animals will have some form of nest, den, sett, or form of living quarters. They don’t just sleep where they stand. If healthy, they will spend great parts of the day keeping themselves and their dwelling clean, beautiful and comfortable. If ill, they will ignore their grooming or in some cases, overdo it, washing away all their fur if stressed.
A house need not be any more unnatural than an ant hill, but the lengths humans have gone to in order to simultaneously expand and remove themselves from their habitat is absurd. And disruptive to anything living, including humans themselves.
In western society the house has become something like a religious matter. It is seen as a micro cosmos in itself. In many cases, as a reflection or expression of the dweller, their innermost self, their soul.
I like having beautiful and meaningful things to look at. I want my house to be a wunderkammer, a place for magic and dreams. It’s also a physical place to sleep warm and soft, to read without having the wind carry my books away, to cook without being invaded by over eager insects. I don’t however, want to be trapped, or have other things trapped in it.
The house, the dwelling, is only one small part of the whole habitat. The whole habitat of any creature will include the space to find food, find company, having an array of plants, predators, bacteria, the ecosystem, if you will. All the things the body interacts with.
I will explore the vast, strange world of the habitat in my next post.
ps. I made it beyond the London vortex, with help from my counter part, which is the only way to cross a maelstrom.