Its been way too long since I’ve written a new blog post, and I really lapsed on updating the progress post from 2019. The Year of COVID has been interesting to say the least. This year has been challenging, yet rewarding. Deb had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in late 2019, then had a 5 week round of radiation therapy to start the year out. I spent 14 weeks on unemployment due to the COVID shutdowns before being called back to work. I can’t say I was out of work, because I spent 6 days a week getting infrastructure in place, buying and setting up an RV, and getting moved out of our rental house and out on Serenity Hill in an RV.
Getting Moved Out and Settled In
In February 2020 we finally got the water meter installed. Once we had a permanent water supply the electric co-op agreed to install a meter and temporary power for us. March 2020 was a very busy month. We built an 8×12 shed to house our refrigerator, freezer, washer, and dryer. I rented a trencher to bury the water lines and the electrical feed for the RV and laundry shed. Another necessary item was a sewer line to connect the RV and laundry shed to the septic tank.
Due to rain and soft ground the septic install couldn’t take place until toward the end of May. Shortly after that we had a 12 x 36 garage building delivered for storing the furnishings for the house. It costs about $50 more than renting a storage unit and I’ll have the building for a workshop once we get in the house.
June 2020 was a busy month. We moved the RV out and hooked up utilities, then installed a fence for the dogs. Then came the move out to the property. At the time we moved I only had 3 columns up on piers and a big pile of timber waiting to be installed. It was a crazy month, and being on temporary layoff due to the Covid shutdown of the plant ended up being helpful. Mid July they called me back to work. I finished cleaning and emptying the rental house when I got off work at 4AM.
Mid October 2020 HR handed me a severance package because corporate changed the plant mission and shut down 2nd shift. While not unexpected, the timing came about 6 months earlier than we had been lead to believe. At that time all the foundation piers were ready for timbers but only 7 of 30 timbers were in place. Progress really picked up when I was no longer having to report to a 10-12 hour a day job. I worked 12 days and was off 2. I searched for another job for almost a year. The only places interested in hiring me were for Maintenance Supervisor positions requiring 60+ hours a week. Maintenance works a lot of weekends and most holidays. We opted for me to start my Social Security early and make building the house and developing the property my full time job.
RV Living Challenges
Living in an RV has been an interesting experience. We have now gone through two summers and two winters in the RV. While it is certainly smaller than a house, we have adapted pretty well. That’s with two adults, two big dogs, and two cats sharing space. I’ve had to dumb down cooking due to the small kitchen and lack of storage space. One of the unexpected expenses is not being able to buy food in bulk sizes due to the lack of storage compared to the house, but that is only temporary. It seems there is always something to work on, which isn’t a surprise with a 99 model RV.
Fortunately we are connected to county water so we don’t have to deal with the water tank. I do so enjoy dumping the black water tank every few weeks, but fortunately it doesn’t take long. The RV is slightly downhill from the sewer line leading to the septic tank. I had to install a PVC line above ground from the RV. Since it is between the RV and the laundry shed I built a bridge to cross it.
Building the laundry shed was one of the keys to making long term RV living less difficult. Instead of having to run to a laundromat we can do laundry whenever it suits us. Much more convenient, and much more affordable. We also have 2 refrigerators and the deep freeze in the laundry shed, so we are able to buy frozen foods in bulk for convenience and savings. The RV has a large fridge, but it won’t hold enough for a week of cooking.
While we have adapted pretty well and worked out how to get by in the RV, we sure do look forward to the space and convenience of the house. RV living requires a lot of compromises and decisions about what you need on a daily basis. Having on-site storage and the laundry shed makes life a lot easier. We really enjoy living in the woods and being able to work every day on the house and the homestead.
It is much quicker to build a pole barn or a stick built house. Since we are building a timber frame house with cordwood infill the process is much slower. I can knock together an 8 foot section of stick built wall in a pretty short time. Getting the cordwood infill in an 8 foot wide section of wall takes about 7-8 days. Not to mention that during the freezing winter months cordwood installation comes to a halt.
Is RV living while building a house for you? There are many pros and cons to living in an RV. Here are some of the challenges we faced.
- Instead of travelling out to the work site every other weekend when off work I was able to do some work each morning when I got home from work. Now my wife makes the daily commute to her job and I walk 25 feet to the house build site.
- Being out on the property full time lets you get a much better idea of sunlight, wind, and rain effects on the property. As a result I picked a different site for our future garden and did some drainage work.
- You get to enjoy living on your property, which is why you bought it in the first place.
- I am able to secure tools on location without worrying about thieves between trips out to the property. They are much less likely to strike when there is someone there most of the time. Our 2 big dogs have access to the area where equipment is stored, so that helps!
- A coach type RV is built more rugged and better insulated than a trailer.
- Instead of travelling every other weekend to the property, the daily commute to work increased from 15 minutes to an hour. That’s a lot of miles on a vehicle, and a lot of hours on the road. It is worth it when I weigh out the increase in available time to work on the house.
- Storage – RV’s, especially coach RV’s have a lot of storage, but you will have to pare down your dishes, utensils, pots and pans, clothing, and shoes. There is also the issue of what to do with all your household goods. We opted to purchase a 12×36 garage building rather than pay for a couple storage units off site. We keep off season clothing, small appliances, and books handy there so we have access to them as needed. Beats driving out to an off site storage when you want something! The garage building will become my workshop when we move household goods into the house.
- Laundry – unless you have a newer RV with a washer and dryer you will face the unenviable and expensive task of trekking to a laundromat. Even if your RV has a washer and dryer it is going to be a compact unit that will have difficulty with jackets, sweaters, and linens. For that reason we built an 8×12 laundry shed. I insulated the shed and installed dry wall and a vinyl tile floor. We fit a chest freezer, 2 refrigerators, washer, dryer, and laundry sink in it. Above the washer and dryer I installed a wire shelf that also doubles as a clothes hanging area, so it is also our closet annex. Having that makes life much easier.
- Food storage – while our RV has a relatively large refrigerator, it is less than half the size of a conventional refrigerator. This really cuts down on the amount of fresh produce and milk products you can have on hand. We are able to supplement that with our laundry shed refrigerators. The pull out pantry in the RV is roomy but there isn’t space to store bulk items. This drives up the cost of staples considerably. If you are a bottled water drinker, you are going to find it interesting to figure out where to keep your cases of water.
- Food prep and cooking – there is minimal counter space available for food prep. As a result I don’t use as much fresh produce in my cooking as I would like simply because of the lack of space to clean and prep it. I’ve had to change how and what I cook because the propane stove doesn’t have the space or the BTU’s of a home cook stove. Baking is also a challenge with the smaller oven because it won’t accept a standard size cookie sheet or 2 round cake pans in at the same time. We limit baking to pizza, brownies, blondies, and roasting potatoes and vegetables.
- TV and internet – the largest TV that fits in our RV is 24″. Satellite internet is currently our only option. We opted not to have satellite TV because we didn’t want to spend all that money. We use Netflix and Hulu when we can get fast enough internet to actually make it watchable. If you blog or do social media it can be challenging to get a fast enough reliable connection to do much. Sometimes I can’t get Facebook to load on my computer for days at a time.
- Space to stretch out is at a premium. Our RV has a super slide that expands the living and kitchen areas. The living area has a love seat with 2 recliners and a center storage console. The dining table, which also can double as a bed, can only seat 4. Space considerations really limit entertainment options. We do have a picnic table and outdoor seating area, but depending on weather and time of day that may not be an option.
- RV’s are meant for taking trips, not long term living. Using an RV for full time living takes a toll on it and as a result there is always something to fix.
All in all RV living while constructing our home has worked out pretty well. We have made a lot of adaptations due to the limitations of the RV, but we are making the best of it. Paring down to the essentials has actually been liberating, although we do cheat by having the garage building and laundry shed for storage and convenience. We will certainly be glad to move into the house. We haven’t decided yet if we are going to keep the RV and fix it up some to be able to take it on trips or if we will sell it for what we can when we get moved. By the time we get moved into the house we will have had all the RV living we want!