Energy from the sun!

    It has been quite a while since our last (delayed) post, but that is not for lack of activity. Erin and I have been super busy finally putting the crowning touches on our electrical system, as well as trying to sew up a storm for the upcoming Holiday Market. But we finally made a breakthrough and got everything hooked up and juiced up - as Luna waits patiently out in the driveway, every tiny sun ray is generating energy! It is quite a feeling to truly be power-independent.

    I have to say that at the beginning of this project, I was proud of learning such simple things as the differences between types of screws or lumber, but it was seriously a mental hurdle to now come away with a relatively competent understanding of electrical wiring and all the intricacies therein. Erin spearheaded the hard science learning and planning, and we are now blessed to have a working system in our bus, without any serious injuries along the way.

    Above: our bus-wide master plan.

    Below: detailed info on how the solar controller is hooked up. The solar controller switches the panels on and off depending on how charged the batteries are and does other mysterious things, too.

    Our electrical gizmo "bay" which will be built into the wall under the kitchen table with a door to access it when need be.

    On to technical details... The first thing we did was plan out our various AC and DC circuits and wired them into our respective 12 v. fuse block and 120 v. circuit breaker panel.

    An example of some of our circuits - (DC) light to light and (AC) outlet to outlet. Library books helped us figure out how to wire the AC circuits. DC information was harder to find in print. We are going to cover all the wires with those little plastic sheath things.and paint them the same color as the ceiling (which is going to be a creamy butter color).

    Our overly large but functional AC circuit breaker panel. We will try and get a picture of the wiring going on behind the scenes later. It looks pretty cool in there.

    Our DC fuse block - room for more circuits if need be.

    Next we installed our four 6v. batteries in their snug little box and wired them together - two in series and two in parallel to make a final output of 12 v.

    This is how our battery bank is wired. We took pairs 6v batteries and wired them together in series to make 12v. Then the 2-battery units were wired together in parallel for more amperage.

    One of the biggest hurdles in accomplishing this whole mess was figuring out the proper gague wires, connectors and all the other doohickeys that are used. It was hard to find concrete, applicable information for extreme novices doing such an obscure project at the library or on the internet. We also found that most of the various folks we talked to at the many electrical/RV/auto/hardware stores that we visited had divergent answers as well! We ended up contacting the specific manufacturers of our inverter, converter and solar panels to get the intended specifications. We also were able to track down a few folks at some stores who really demonstrated that they understood what we were trying to accomplish and had some awesome suggestions. (Like the people at Northwest RV Supply and Surplus and the Knecht's out on West 11th)

    Anyway, after getting the batteries wired together with 4 gwa, we hooked our 1000 watt inverter in between our battery bank and our AC circuit panel. We used a heavy duty extension cord to plug into one of the AC sockets on the inverter and power our 120 v distribution panel. We took a lead from the positive terminal of the inverter and ran a 15 amp in line fuse straight to the DC fuse block and grounded it all from the negative terminal of the inverter straight to the chassis. After this was accomplished, we could actually turn on our DC lights, and plug into our AC outlets.

    The inverter has a pleasant little hum when it is turned on.

    Next came the final step: mounting the solar panels and wiring everything through solar charge controller. Luckily, the kind people at AM Solar in Springfield made things super simple for the DIY-er by providing clear instructions on how to wire everything together. When the first sunny day rolled around, we were up on our bus roof mounting the panels and wiring it all through the roof-top combiner box and down through the ceiling and into the charge controller. We got all the other wires hooked in and without one spark we now have power!

    The two 100 watt panels basking in the Oregon shade. The combiner box with the whole down into the bus interior is underneath the right-hand panel.

    The hub of it all: the solar charge controller.

    Wires entering the battery box from the charge controller, inverter and engine batteries.

    More holes into the floor of the bus.

    We have to give serious thanks to our friends Yona and Zeke who were generous enough to come over and do a safety check and help us put the final touches on everything. It was all very exciting and quite satisfying to finally have that most crucial element complete!

    We have decided to forgo the converter/charger element in our electrical system for now. We bought a huge old used 50 amp ferroresonant converter and we'll keep it around until we decide whether or not it's going to be a necessary part of our system. We didn't like the idea of a sparking, arcing box in the all-wood interior of our bus and we've started to hear there are other ways of going about charging the batteries directly with shore power without the need for a permanent box. For now the solar is meeting all of our electrical needs so we'll see how that goes.

    On to the plumbing!
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Lord I Was Born a Ramblin ( Wo ) Man......

    We finally are headed north ! As I write this ( we have a new E.V.O.D card that allows us to access the net wherever there is cell coverage) we are driving north on the 101 to an organic permaculture farm in northern Washington, where through a mutual friend, we have found temporary work ! I will probably not t have regular net or cell phone access while there, (I will be able to go into town or use a land line to check eBay auctions though) so this will be my last post for a week or maybe more . It was quite difficult to get Moss's pre trial changed, but we did it after much back and forth phone calling to the lawyers. It is now set for December 5th instead of oct 17. That means we will have to drive back here in the next month or so, but for now we are northward bound !

    Santa Barbara is lovely and has been nice to us but it was so time to leave. I can always tell when it is time to really move on because a place starts to look and feel different, sort of empty feeling and desolate . This is however different from actually wanting to leave and feeling as though it is time to leave. We can want to leave a place badly, but if it is not really time to leave then it becomes quite difficult. I have seen this time and time again in my travels over the years. Some towns have a particularly strong hold, New Orleans is one of them. The other reason I know it is really time to leave is the steady stream of visitors throughout the day and being unable to take a walk on the beach without running into someone I know. Don't get me wrong, we love meeting people but it can get tiring when all I want is a little privacy.

    Living in such a high profile home tends to attract a lot of attention. People see our bus and make all sorts of assumptions about us. They often identify us, correctly, as free spirited, caring and open minded people. Certainly, like everyone we have our many flaws, but we do strive for this ideal. Because of this, unlike folks in a conventional RV, we regularly attract a LOT of people, of all backgrounds who come looking for healing and someone to talk to. We don't mind this at all and are happy to listen and give and receive energy to a person when we can, but it can sometimes be scary and a bit difficult to read someones real intentions and allow them into our home. We often have trouble defining our personnel boundaries and knowing where to draw the line. Now, with a baby things are even more complicated as we want her home to be a safe and healthy place. It just seems that sometimes the rules that apply to those who live in brick and mortar houses are different than those that apply to rolling homes. This is understandable, to a certain extent and is part of why I love travel, but it can be complicated at times.

    For example, this week we were sitting in the bus reading when there was a knock at the door and a voice called out

    " Spare a little time for an old Vietnam vet ? " followed by, " Permission to board ?" in a very military sounding voice.

    I went to the doorway to see a weathered looking bearded, grey haired man wearing a faded black cap with the words "Vietnam vet" on it and a huge back pack. He was a bit dirty and smelled of whisky, but my heart went out to him. These kinds of situations can be difficult as it requires one to make a character judgment of a person in the space of a few seconds. So far we have never been wrong, but there is always that possibility. When I was younger and hitchhiking around the country by myself I got a lot of practice in this art form. When someone pulls over and offers a ride, you have about twenty seconds to asses the person and make the right decision. I rely a lot on my gut instinct and intuition.

    Moss and I looked at each other and shrugged,I turned back to the fellow and told him,

    "O.k, but leave your pack outside "

    He put his pack down and hobbled into the bus, sitting down on the bench, thanking us repeatedly. We then began over an hour long conversation consisting of him crying hysterically and reliving, in vivid detail , story after story of his time in nam. He showed us bullet holes, where he was damaged by agent orange and cried bitter tears for his brother William, killed in combat. This was a broken man and my heart went out to him. The intensity of his emotion was frightening and we did not know what else to do so we just listened, which I think was all he wanted anyway. At one point I reached out and grabbed his hand and he seemed to appreciate this. When he was finished we offered him some food, which he ate then thanked us and went on his way.

    This is just one example of an often repeated scenario, with a varying cast of characters, all with stories to tell, some sad, some happy, some rich, some poor, all just wanting to share.

    Anyway, Sage is doing well and seems to enjoy traveling, though this will be her first long trip. We are trying to provide a sort of stability in our day to day rituals to counter the constant stream of new places and people that she encounters. I think she is adjusting well. I took a series of photos of her, my favorite to date, showing the first time on her belly and having "floor time".

    I have included them below.....

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Run River Run

    My advice to anyone thinking whitewater rafting in a ducky (inflatable kayak) would be fun....DON'T DO IT!

    I have done a little bit of whitewater rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon. Almost every year. Not hard core but II's and III's and depending on the flow of the river, sometimes even a IV. Never was I thrown from the raft. Never did I feel afraid.

    When in Colorado this summer in a great little historic town, Salida, which is near the Arkansas River and home to many rafting companies, the hubs and I decide to go whitewater rafting. Sounded fun. On the day of, he decides it would be fun to go in the duckies. Now, I am always up for adventure and even though I wasn't keen on the idea, being the trooper I always am, said okay.

    That was the first mistake. However, the number one thing I did that day was something I had never done in any of my rafting trips. And that was to have a guide. Don't ask me why.

    The guide goes over the if you flip, fold your arms keep your feet up and ride it out drill and we were soon on our way. The first rapid was classified as a III-IV, Hubs becomes a swimmer and I however, make it over the small fall and felt pretty triumphant. We go a little further in II-III level rapids and it's a little scary but I'm doing good. The guide then has us get out and scope out the next one, Seidels Suckhole and Twin Falls. Did I say we had two guides? A guy and a girl. The girl decides she isn't going to run it and would wait and have the guy come back and help her carry her kayak around the river to where we would be waiting.Ummmm, shouldn't that have been a clue that the novices shouldn't run it either?

    Okay, so that was the plan. Follow the guide. Number one take the falls at the far left then the far right, NOT DIRECTLY OVER THE FALLS. That's really not an easy thing to do when the river is running as fast as it was. I make it through the suckhole, meanwhile, the hubs is a swimmer again and rides around the falls (excellent choice) catches up to the duckie gets back in and the guide tells him to wait around the bend for us to catch up.

    My turn on the falls. I try and follow the path the guide took and make the far left side of the first fall just as he does, but the second one I can't paddle hard enough to get to the right. I see I am going over and paddle hard to straighten up and take it head on as that was my only shot. Right over I go, perfect. Until the big back wash and splash at the bottom tosses me out like a paper doll. Unfortunately, I landed in deep water with the backwash pounding me down under the water even with my life jacket on. I am doing everything I can to try and push myself up out of the water, but when I can get my head up there is so much splash that I'm just sucking in water and then pushed down under again. This goes on for several minutes and I realized I wasn't going to make it out. I was trying everything I could to push myself out of the backwash so the current could take me downriver, but couldn't get out of the hole I was in. I was ready to give up, but told myself to just keep trying don't give up. I was thinking how upset my daughter was going to be when she found out. We were supposed to be to her house the next day.

    Meanwhile, the guide sees me fly and the raft go down river and thinks I did too. He paddles over to get my raft and oar and realizes he can't see me. He thinks I have gone around the bend where the hubs is hanging out. He said out of the corner of his eye he saw the top of the red helmet for a second shoot up and then disappear. He quickly got out with his kayak and got up above me and ran that portion of the river again and was able to get close to me. I popped up just at the right moment to see his yellow kayak and grabbed on. He is yelling at me to swim and kick my feet. But I am so fatigued it is all I can do to hang on. He then tells me I have to let go or I am going to flip him when he goes over the next small rapid. I look down river and know I don't have anything left in me to swim. I then see a big rock and know I would have to grab it on the side and hope it wasn't to slippery, or that I didn't get caught under it. I let go in time to grab the rock. I can't tell you how great it was to cough and choke and breathe in air and hold that rock. I held on for about 15 minutes trying to figure out if I could let go and make the swim downstream that I needed to make through the rest of this section of rapids.

    I decided to pull myself up over the rock and climb a series of big rocks to get to the side of the river. So, up and over I went and around to where the guide was waiting for me. I then got in the duckie knowing the only way out was down the river.

    So, there is the hubs waiting on the side of the river around the bend in a nice little shallow pool. I was a little pissed that he didn't realize that something was wrong when we weren't coming down the river. "Yea, I was a little worried, but I couldn't get back to see what was going on."

    I almost drowned. I had to be rescued!

    I'm still a little pissed about that!

    So, then when that adventure is over and we are in the van being shuttled back into town, I realize my knee, shins and arms are killing me. I look over myself and I am nothing but bruises with a knee swollen up like crazy. I guess I was being pouned into the rocks and didn't even feel it. Thank heavens I didn't feel it, or I am sure I would have quite given up.

    I have since found out that 5 people had drowned this summer, more than they ever had. I am counting myself lucky that I wasn't number 6!Source URL:
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Song to a Seagull.......

    Today was such a beautiful windy day ! The kind of wind that shakes the bus and bends the trees ! I adore windy days. There is something magical about wind that seems to transform any ordinary day into one of mystery and wonder. I went out to the beach for a walk while Moss stayed back at the bus with Sage. They are both sick..runny noses, coughing. Poor girl, this is her first cold and she is teething as well.

    I wore my mohair poncho, as I always do on windy days. It's warm and cozy and flaps around behind me like a cape or wings as I walk. I had a great time on the beach alone reflecting on all the recent and wonderful changes in my life. I also took the opportunity to study some bird species I was unfamiliar with and take some photos. I saw a few dead birds out there which was sad. I wonder if it's from all the pollution in the storm run off pond where the sea birds hang out.

    On a sad note..early this morning while driving from our night time sleeping spot to our daytime hang out spot, I saw a dead sea gull in the road. He was recently killed, just a few hours maybe. Such a beautiful bird he was, so clean and white and healthy looking. He lay on his back, wings spread out behind him like an angel and head turned to one side. In some morbid way he looked quite beautiful. If it wasn't for the small trickle of bright red blood coming from the side of his beak, one might wonder if he was still alive.

    It made me so sad to see him like that, cut down in his prime. He was an adult herring gull , and judging by the beautiful condition of his feathers, had probably recently finished a molt. Perhaps it was his first adult molt, as herring gulls retain their brownish feathers for several years before growing the typical white and grey ones.

    We stopped the bus and Moss went out to move him from the middle of the street to a patch of shrubs on the side of the road . We frequently do this for animals we see that have been killed in the road. We do this for a few reasons... one because neither of us can stand to see such beautiful creatures rotting on asphalt, instead of earth, and two because it keeps the crows and other scavengers from being hit while attempting to feed.

    There are a lot birds around here, especially on the beach where we park. There are a few juvie gulls and a flock of pigeons that we have become acquainted with as well as many other species of gulls and salt water birds of which I am unfamiliar. Every day the pigeons are there to greet our big green bus as we pull up. I throw them bread, bird seed and whatever we have that's healthy. A few times I had Palomino with me on my lap and it was interesting watching their reaction. I think they trust me more now because they saw another pigeon being friendly with me and now they don't venture far from the bus during the day.

    Seeing that sea gull and my walk on the beach today reminded me of one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs, Song to a Seagull.......

    Song To a Seagull

    Fly silly seabird

    No dreams can possess you

    No voices can blame you

    For sun on your wings

    My gentle relations

    Have names they must call me

    For loving the freedom

    Of all flying things

    My dreams with the seagulls fly

    Out of reach out of cry

    I came to the city

    And lived like old crusoe

    On an island of noise

    In a cobblestone sea

    And the beaches were concrete

    And the stars paid a light bill

    And the blossoms hung false

    On their store window trees

    My dreams with the seagulls fly

    Out of reach out of cry

    Out of the city

    And down to the seaside

    To sun on my shoulders

    And wind in my hair

    But sandcastles crumble

    And hunger is human

    And humans are hungry

    For worlds they cant share

    My dreams with the seagulls fly

    Out of reach out of cry

    I call to a seagull

    Who dives to the waters

    And catches his silver-fineDinner alone

    Crying where are the footprints

    That danced on these beaches

    And the hands that cast wishes

    That sunk like a stone

    My dreams with the seagulls fly

    Out of reach out of cry.................

    Some of the regulars gathered in front of the bus. The view from the pop out window.Source URL:
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Battery Box!

    The battery box construction, though it would seem to be a simple and unremarkable thing, was actually a super exciting and challenging endeavor. Erin designed an immensely solid box that involved salvaged angle iron, plywood, extra long and sturdy bolts and lock-nuts. We finally got a chance to test our true construction skills by sawing up metal and drilling fatty holes in the bus frame :)

    We started by measuring out how much room the four batteries took up and the space we had to work with between the two L-shaped beams underneath the bus. We put it on the right side (facing the bus) directly in front of the wheel-well. We arranged it so it would be in a direct line from the solar panels and charge controller to minimize wire runs. Next we cut two strips of angle iron to be the two side supports that would hold the bottom of the long threaded rod that we would suspend the whole box from.

    Meanwhile, I drilled a bunch of holes in the angle iron using our nice cobalt bit and my dad's old drill press. We cut up the 1/2" plywood sides to the box - two thicknesses for the bottom plus two strips of steel for extra security. Erin drilled a bunch of holes in the back piece for a vent. Then we mounted four pieces of angle iron to the inside bottom of the box that would hold the batteries exactly in place so they wouldn't slide around, and planned two pieces that would also run along the top sides of the batteries and be bolted down as well

    Once we got the whole box screwed together, we cinched up three of the lock nuts - one underneath the box, one on top, and one that would go under the L-shaped bus beam. Then Erin sawed a square out of the side of the bus and we put a couple of hinges on it to make an outside door! We had also put a couple of hinges on the front of the box itself and a locking piece so that we can throw a pad-lock on there just in case.

    Next came the tricky part - trying to hoist the massively heavy box underneath the bus and shove the long bolts perfectly into the pre-drilled holes we had made, with just two people. To say the least it was a challenge, but we got it in there and cinched down the last of the lock-nuts, the ones that will actually keep the whole box from falling out beneath us. We were quite proud once we have finally got it up there!

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