renovation

Living in a Tiny Trailer: By Terry Ann Bernhardt

My motto is “follow your heart but take your brain with you”.

My journey began with a dream to travel and explore leisurely, moving at approximately the same speed as an ancient turtle in my golden years. 

I began to collect a list of interesting places to visit from friends, co-workers, books, magazines, movies, and yes, Pinterest and YouTube.

I’m up to 91 places I’d like to visit ranging from Yellowstone Park to a little spot in the Appalachian Mountains where fiddles are still handmade.

I would be accompanied by my dog Emmy Lou, 56 lbs of fur-bearing love, so traveling via recreational vehicle seemed ideal.  Again I began collecting facts, people’s anecdotes, magazines, brochures and visiting RV lots to determine what suited my turtle traveling dreams.

Which is Better For You: Tiny House or Camper? 5 Questions to Help you Decide

Which is Better For You: Tiny House or Camper? 5 Questions to Help you Decide

The other day I got an email from a curious reader of this blog. Karen wanted to know:

"I was wondering your opinion on is a tiny house better or a camper? I could buy a camper now, but if I want to build a tiny house I will need to save up for a few years since I want to build it debt free. Thank you for your blog and support I always enjoy seeing something from you in my email."

Oooh, I thought, I get this question a lot. Both from clients, people I work with, and readers. So I’m addressing it head-on today. 

To start, I don’t necessarily think a tiny house or a little camper is “better” than the other - but they’re definitely different and are suited to different people with different needs and lifestyles. Today I'll give you a framework for thinking about this question yourself.

Obviously I went with a camper over a tiny house on wheels.

I chose this option for a few reasons...

Meet the Beemer (My 1957 Canned Ham)

Meet the Beemer (My 1957 Canned Ham)

You guys, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. 

I try not to talk about it, because it’s a bit embarrassing. I mean, I’m supposed to be “simple” living.

Let’s just get it out in the open:

I have another vintage trailer (a second one). Don’t tell the COMET, she might be mad I never really tied up loose ends with my first vintage love. 

It’s a 1957 Beemer, and it’s a lot like the shameful uncle no one likes to talk about. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to acknowledge it or think about it too much. 

Matt and I got the Beemer just a few months after we started casually dating. It happened in a whirlwind, it was my first “big” purchase as a real human, and I kinda didn’t tell my parents about it until I pulled into their driveway with it. 

8 Vintage Trailers That Will Make You Swoon

8 Vintage Trailers That Will Make You Swoon

Finally! An excuse to show you some of my favorite vintage campers that we saw on our #tinyhouseroadtrip.

I typically hate "list" blog posts like this, but I needed a way to show you some of the random cool trailers and campers we saw along the way, in between, and on the road.

All of these photos are mine, I took each one. Enjoy!

SEE ALL THE VINTAGE GOODNESS AFTER THE JUMP!

Graduation, Renovation, and The Next Phase

Graduation, Renovation, and The Next Phase

Hello friends!

This blog post is an update so that you know what Matt and I will be up to this month and next. I just wanted to let you know because we have a very busy 2 months lined up and we're excited to have a few new adventures lined up to share with you.

1. I'm graduating College, and my ceremony is THIS WEEK!

So, I technically finished school and graduated from college in June, but because my college only has "residency" (on campus time) twice a year, my actual ceremony isn't until this weekend. I will be graduating from Goddard College in Vermont on Sunday August 24th. It has been a wild ride. I fucking love Goddard and will miss the freedom, autonomy, faculty and friends I have made there. I never thought I would actually make it through college - I'm fundamentally opposed to the whole system - but Goddard was such a special exception. They helped me see the value of doing it your own way within a support system.

I will graduate with a degree in Sustainability, concentration on Ecological Design and Sustainable Business. And because I've been designing my own curriculum the entire time and have been studying tiny houses for the past 4 years, I believe I'm probably the first person to get a degree in tiny houses :)

Explaining Tiny Houses to High School Students

Yesterday Matt and I made our long awaited return to the amazing Anne Richards School in Austin, Texas. You might remember our visit last year, where we were brought in to teach the all-girls engineering class for 2 weeks, as they were doing the first COMET Camper-inspired curriculum, Project  Ventura. The girls had to design an eco-friendly trailer to be used by the school community.

This year, the girls of the Anne Richards School have a bigger budget and a bigger project: to turn a huge Airstream trailer into a teacher's lounge powered by solar panels. We are so excited to be in Austin again hanging out with these amazing high school girls. Their passion and innovation is incredible. I keep telling them how lucky they are to be restoring vintage trailers as a school project! I think they realize the importance of the project and the opportunity it creates.

So yesterday Matt and I gave the class our introduction to Tiny Houses. I'm used to giving this presentation to groups of older people - people living on their own already, and people with jobs and kids. But giving the presentation to high school students was totally different! They could see the COMET lifestyle (either in a trailer or tiny house) as a way out of their parent's house, or as an alternative to expensive college dorm housing. We heard many of the girls exclaiming "I have to rethink my whole life now!!", which was awesome!

Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout in a Vintage Trailer Camper

Installing the Fresh Water Tank Fill Spout in a Vintage Trailer Camper

The fresh water tank (the only tank in the COMET - no grey or black water tanks) lives underneath the rear couch/bed. Originally it was under the dinette bench on the port side, but that meant that there was about 15 feet of tubing wrapping around the entire trailer to get from the tank to the faucet on the other side. We moved it to underneath the rear bench to be closer to the faucet. The fresh water tank is 15 gallons and I refill it about every 3-4 days. You don't really use a lot of water when you have to pump it by hand. And the hot water is just one of those black bag camp showers that I hang up outside. Here's how we installed the new fresh water tank.

Now, we actually installed the kitchen before attaching the water tank and hooking everything up, so that's where I'll stop for now. Basically, the tank got put into it's spot under the bench, it fit very snugly. We hooked up the fill line to the appropriate fitting that we had installed in the side of the tank, and the air vent line to the appropriate fitting. We put the fitting (barbed) into the bottom for the faucet line as well, but didn't hook it up until the kitchen was finished. So we'll look at the kitchen then get back to finishing up the water tank. Photos to come!

Interior Floor Demolition!

This is what I was doing the last few days. Later on I'll post pictures of what it looks like now, with the new framing, insulation, and flooring. Basically the entire rear floor, under the bed/couch under the window, had been destroyed by a combination of water damage and termites or carpenter ants. There was no framing left in the rear 4 feet of flooring, it was just dust at this point. We ended up pulling out an entire wall's structural members and floor studs: there was a lot of day light coming through. This is the most structurally-intense renovation/repair I have ever had to do in a trailer, but it was similar in nature to the repairs I had done to fix water damage in other trailers, so progress has been going very quickly!

I'll walk you through peeling back the layers of rot. Don't let this discourage you  if you're considering repairing your own vintage trailer. If I can do it, anyone can. Oh, and a big thank you to my friend Matt for helping me out in these hectic weeks before Tiny House Summer Camp, and all the other weeks he's helped as well.

Part 2: Advice For Buying Your First Vintage Camper - "She has good bones!"

Part 2: Advice For Buying Your First Vintage Camper - "She has good bones!"

"She has good bones!"

That's what I said when I bought my first vintage camper. She did have good bones, but I think if I had known the tidbits of information I'm about to divulge to you, I would have had a better idea of what I was really in for! So, let's get to it!

This is Part 2 of a post about what to look for and what to avoid when checking out potential camper projects. See Part 1 for advice on how to find your own vintage camper project!

*Disclaimer! I am most familiar with 1950's and 1960's camper construction. This guide will be particularly helpful to people looking at camper trailers from that era. I'm sure these tips can be applied to most campers, but my experience is largely with 1950's + 1960's ones (which means you'll see wooden frames, gas lights, and non-standard wiring...yay!)