Sunday, 5 June 2016

C-O-L-D Comfort!

Nick worked in stages to repair the back of the van.  The first step was to remove everything stored beneath our Princess bed and shift it to the back room of the tent.

There was a definite draught coming in from the back of the van.  I was very aware of it when doing my nightly back stretches.  To combat the cold I hung a blanket across the bed frame, tucked in along the mattress.  

(You can see how cold it is some nights, there is a photo at right showing my tent kitchen looking like a steam room from the cooking)!

We made several trips to Bunnings to acquire a pop rivet gun, rivets, a length of aluminium and a strong drill bit.

There was very heavy frost earlier this week.  Nick had checked the tent thermometer at around 5:00am and the reading was -6 degrees!  It was 2 degrees a couple of hours later when we roused ourselves for the day.  There was ice on the tent and frost everywhere. Bandit's water bowl had iced over - the world was definitely C-O-L-D!

When the ground thawed, Nick worked on the caravan.  He riveted the metal cladding and also replaced the edging band.  The next day he installed three aluminium brackets to further anchor the cladding in place.

Nick had taken out the back interior wall lining while working on the repair.  It seemed a good opportunity to fit some insulation, so we went back to Bunnings to see what might work. Sheets of black corflute (thinner and far more flexible than the white variety we'd used for the window insulation) were on sale for $7.00 a sheet.  We bought two.  They were cut to size and sandwiched around layers of leftover bubble wrap (which had been used to successfully cut the cold coming off the van door).  The interior wall lining was replaced over our DIY insulation sheet. The van is much cosier now the repair is done and insulation added - hooray!

During our Ballarat trip a hook for the door blind came loose. It has now been replaced but for a week or so, the door was without it's blind - and we really noticed the difference. However I was heartened by the fact that we'd all coped with the -6 overnight temp with the draught from the back end and the missing door window blind. It gives me hope for our comfort as winter advances!

Saturday, 4 June 2016


The weekend after shifting sites, we had a couple of nights away - for a change of scene!  We left the tent set-up and took the van with us.

Nick had been on night-shift, so we travelled on Saturday afternoon to a caravan park not all that far from our usual one.

We stayed two nights and then came home on Monday morning.  I drove back first, delivering Vaughan to school just before 9:00am.  When I arrived back at the tent, I was impressed to see how well it had fared during the strong winds of the weekend.  (A large tree had broken off just beside Elmer Fudd at our temporary site and the weather had been similarly wild in the larger region).

Nick and Erin returned around mid-morning.  As they drove in, it was obvious the back of the van wasn't right.  The cladding had pulled away along the bottom edge.

Once the van was parked beside the tent, Nick inspected the rear-end damage and starting thinking about it's repair.  There was a definite gap between the exterior panel and the floor.  Fortunately it didn't seem that anything had fallen out during the 30km drive.  Lucky!

Friday, 3 June 2016

A new sight/site!

We were all sick in early May. That fact and a week-long run of strong wind and heavy rain caused us to think more seriously of a better winter set-up.

Nick had to rescue the gazebo very early one morning, before it blew away completely. Of course, all the stuff that lived under the gazebo (semi-protected) also needed to be packed away - something of a challenge at 1:00am!  (You can see Nick holding a rope attached to the gazebo in one of the pics, in another the rope is tied to a cooler jug weight).

Although it looks as if our van had an annexe at some stage, it isn't set up for one now.  In any case sourcing a second-hand annexe was tricky - and buying a new one, far too expensive.

After a fair bit of discussion we decided to get a cabin-style canvas tent.  Nick found one listed on Gumtree and we brought it home the same day that we inspected it.

The "new" tent was larger than we anticipated, so we moved sites to better accommodate it.

Our new site is better protected from the elements, so there were a few benefits to moving.

We spent a weekend shifting from one site to another.  The plan had been to start early but we were still recovering from our lurgies, so slept in and were only moving slowly when we did surface.

The new tent had a pole missing, so we bought a new one from Rays Outdoors. The replacement pole worked well in terms of height but had a thicker spike on the end, so other parts required modification as a result.  (Nick used his drill to make larger holes in some of the connecting poles)  Even with those hiccups, everything was done by the end of Saturday, though we still needed to fully empty the old tent at our former site, plus pack it down.

The new tent is marvellous - a huge improvement to our living space! The kitchen is set up in the front room, which is an awning with velcro-ed on walls. There is no attached floor, so our foam mats are covering the ground. It's still vastly better than the gazebo.  In fact, the whole tent is far more stable than the gazebo and being able to stand/walk throughout is a huge bonus. (The gazebo stayed down often, cos is was more wind resistant that way.  I needed to duck under it to get to the tent and then duck down again to enter the tent).

The main tent is divided into two rooms, both with sturdy floors - and these now have carpet! We use the room adjacent the "kitchen" as a dining and sitting area.  The back room is our walk-in-wardrobe and storage area.  We have a small heater in the dining room and when the doors to the other two areas are zipped shut, we feel rather cosy - hooray!

Our carpet came from Spotlight. We bought four rugs during a recent sale.  Even better, we had a voucher that gave us an extra discount, so our rugs were cheaper than foam mats - and a lot more stylish!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Enlightenment ...

We are a family of sickies at the moment, which makes coping with our current living arrangement a bit trickier.  Although there was a rainbow and blue sky for a brief period this morning, much of the day has been cold and wet - which hasn't increased our motivation!

I spent some time outside late this afternoon, putting an easy meal into one of my thermal cookers and dealing with some washing-up.  You can see my current (hah!) plug-in hotplates in one of the pics at left.

Yep, I paid full-price for a brand-new Kmart set and they are working well.

There has been a lot of wind today, so the gazebo has stayed in it's low setting.  I can stand beneath it but don't always remember to duck under the roof struts when moving about!

I spoke of some of the difficulties of cheffing al fresco here.  These pics might give you a bit more idea of the open-air nature of my "kitchen" and "dining room".

During the past month, we've bought some neat 12-volt lights.  Nick has rigged them so we have three set-up under the gazebo - two over the table and one where I generally cook.  (The kitchen sink table is under the van's outside light).  There is another light strip inside the tent.  We even have light switches - how cool is that?!

When we initially moved into the van a bit over seven months ago, we used a couple of cheap 24-volt plug-in lights (from a car accessories retailer), to light the tent and gazebo.  Those lights have gone by the wayside so for a while we were using a torch in the tent and nothing under the gazebo.  In discussing a much better system, we decided we'd rather invest in something that would be useful for "proper camping".

We were very pleased when 4WD Supa Centre had an extra-good sale on their Camp Light Kit.  The lights run from our wonderful Thumper and everyone really appreciates being able to see properly.  (Once a week we take the Thumper for a run in Elmer to re-charge).

Friday, 6 May 2016

Edge of success?!

Nick bought a few simple supplies to hopefully lessen the van's various roof leaks.  We still use a tarp as part of our bed linen, so it is easy to pull over the bedding when we hear heavy rain during the night.

The leaks over our bed seem only to occur when rain is particularly heavy and consistent.

Although Nick re-sealed one roof edge at the beginning of last year, the other edge remained untreated - and the leaks occur on that side, as well as from the roof hatch and kitchen vent pipe.

We currently live in our van, on a site in a caravan park.  We aren't really able to undertake a full-scale roof repair.

Nick borrowed a ladder, so he and Vaughan could apply sealant to the roof edge, the kitchen vent and roof hatch. It seems the vent may have had a leaking issue for a long time as there was quite a lot of old sealant around it.  I asked if there was any obvious sign of water entry above our bed but seemingly there wasn't.  We'll just have to wait for heavy rain and hope the latest sealing efforts are successful.  (I'm not giving up my drip-dry doona cover/tarp just yet though)!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Blinded by my brilliance?!

At the time of fitting a lace panel to the door window, I spoke of an almost-finished blind I'd made soon after making the curtains.

Given our current insulation project, we bought some plastic hooks while at Bunnings yesterday.  Nick mounted them above the door last night, to give them the recommended 12 hours before use.

I worked on the blind today.  It had started life as a never-used tea-towel bought at an op-shop for $2.00.  (I'm sure you can see the appeal given our Lightning Ridge and many great Yowah adventures).

The background was very close in colour to the gold curtains, so I used that and some of Erin's curtain fabric to frame around the tea-towel.  It was backed with some pre-quilted fabric (left-over from our drum bags).

I'd first thought to sew some ribbon into the header of the blind, so that it could be rolled up when not in use.  As I rummaged in my box of sewing supplies today, I had another idea.

Rather than have to tie several pairs of ribbon each morning, I decided to use elastic loops instead.  I had a small selection of buttons and thought to sew them in stacks of three - to create a better hold for the elastic (when in use).  It's been cold and wet today, not conducive to sewing under the gazebo.  I've pinned the blind, ready for it's final row of stitching.  Fingers crossed I'll be able to achieve that very soon!

In the meantime, the blind is hanging in place.  While I was doing that, I realised how cold the door was.  I was already aware of how much draught was enabled by the bottom door vent - cos I lay on the floor each night to do my back stretches.

Prior to our Bunnings expedition, I bought two rolls of bubble-wrap as I thought they might be useful for insulating the windows.  The rolls were still intact and I opened one today.  I used two layers of bubble-wrap on the door today, each taped individually.  The metal of the door is far less cold and I've covered the bottom vent also.  (There is still plenty of bubble-wrap left and if necessary I could add another layer, just from the remainder of the first roll).  I'm so impressed with how much difference this simple measure has made!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Corflute cosiness!

We were hoping not to weather another Victorian winter - particularly when living in a caravan - but good things come to those who wait, so we remain hopeful and are doing our best to wait patiently. 

While we're waiting we are keeping busy, better preparing our van for much colder temperatures.  It was 5 degrees the other day when Nick was heading to work early in the morning - and at that stage, it was only April!

Nick and I have discussed several ideas for window insulation.  After talking with another caravanner, I had suggested exterior canvas covers but sourcing cheap canvas proved difficult (and Nick wasn't sure our efforts would yield positive results).

We headed to Bunnings this morning, researching materials.  Corflute seemed the best option, given we wanted something waterproof and able to withstand strong winds.  At that stage, the idea was to screw the panels directly to the outside window frames - however once home again, it was obvious that plan wouldn't work and would need a fair bit of modification (ie. extra effort and expense).  After further pondering we decided to buy the panels and fix them to the inside of the windows.

Double-sided tape was our first choice as an adhesive but it was considerably cheaper to use gaffer tape, so we bought that instead.  The van is old, so we aren't concerned about keeping the walls in pristine condition. Once the curtains are back in place, the panels are not visible and only a little of the tape shows.  (From the outside, the panels look very similar to the white thermal backing of the curtains).

The materials cost a little under $75.00 and will cover all the windows.  Nick has installed five panels so far, four around our princess bed and one on the side window adjacent the door.  (I like to look out my window before getting up in the morning, so have requested a peep-hole slide when the major work is done)!  There already seems to be an improvement and we are looking forward to a cosier caravan when the other windows are finished.