confessions of a wasteful builder

I admit it.  My hands are raised, my white flag is up: I am a wasteful builder. Even when I recycle scavenged materials. Even when I dumpster dive. I am still a product of this culture in this time. I still drop a screw and don’t run to find it in the grass.  Every time that it happens I see myself, as if from a cloud above my head, watching and shaking my head.  Watching from some time and place when screws aren’t a dime a dozen and the power tools have long since stopped functioning.  If the world ever really does go to shit then I am going to be lamenting just how wasteful I really was.  Then again, so will we all.  It’s the very rare person who lives in a way that wouldn’t be embarrassing to someone trying to survive post-industry.

Even when I am conscience of it, I still don’t climb down the ladder to pick up a dropped screw.  I see the screw fall, I see it disappear into the grass.  I shake my head at its loss, think about the implications, and then I take another screw out of the pouch attached to my belt and get on with it.  After all, I have 200 of them, and the building supply store has thousands and thousands more for a couple of bucks.  Why bother?  Climbing up and down the ladder is annoying, as it bending down, as is the fact that my baby-free time to build is far too short for any sort of interruption.  What absurdity!  What laziness!  And when I start thinking about all that had to happen for that screw to exist—mining, transport, creation, packaging, more transport—it all becomes more embarrassing and awful.  And I still don’t bend down to pick up that screw.

When we burn scavenged wood, I don’t pull all of the nails out of the ash tray later, straighten them, and keep them in a big jar.  (Though this guy does.)  Sometimes I think I should, but I’m just not that person yet.  I may never be that person.  The world is still full of things (that would be rendered completely irrelevant should a collapse ever occur) that keep me too busy to do scavenging on that level.  I don’t remember the last time I even used a nail.  As it is I am glad to know where I could get them, should that knowledge ever come in handy, and I continue to float down the easy-as-hell river that is life in the year 2012 (in this part of the world).

Sometimes I daydream about being that self-sufficient, that capable.  Then if industrial civilization were to end tomorrow, I could just continue on as I always had.  Ho-hum.  As it is that would not be the case, though part of me thinks, fuck it, I’ll enjoy what I can while I can.  I don’t hoard food, not on a meaningful level, though I’ve always been a bit of a squirrel when it comes to having a full pantry.  What I do hoard is knowledge.  I read books about storing root vegetables and building compost toilets.  I dabble in gardening.  I dabble in foraging.  I casually wonder if i should buy some sort of water filter someday, just in case.  I daydream.

Post-civ that sort of knowledge would be gold.  Then again, surviving something that disruptive of the status quo would also have a hell of a lot to do with luck.  No amount of knowledge is going to stop an accidental death, which can come so quickly, so easily, from so many angles.  We are certainly lucky to be living in times when death isn’t such a constant, in-your-face threat.  The more you get to the bones of what a life post-civ would be, the easier it becomes to appreciate the good bits of the world we live in now.  Though it still seems like a collapse might be our only chance—as a species to keep from fucking up the Earth beyond being able to support us, for people who would really like to see this form of government dead and buried—it would also mean a lot of sweat-blood-and-tears work.  I’m up for it, but I can admit something else: the lap of luxury isn’t such a bad place to be.  For now.

Tuesday August 28th 2012, 10:36 am 7 Comments
Filed under: apocalypse now,conspiracies


preparing for winter, the diy run down

I say I’m preparing for the move, but you don’t need to paint your house before you move.  What I’m really preparing for is the coming winter.  It’s been two years since I last coated the siding on my Wagen, and seeing that most of the boards were meant for indoors (ie not particularly thick), it was high time I got on to the job of applying some paint.

the once-a-ceiling-now-an-outdoor-wall siding was well and good but…

The back narrow side of my Wagen was the last that I attached siding to, the very last step in getting it completely finished, fucking finally.  If memory serves, and it often doesn’t, I didn’t even put on the last boards.  Frau Doktor and Scissors did, a favor to me, while the Beard and I were off gallavanting in America.  The boards I used had once been the ceiling in another Wagen.  The owner was sick and tired of them, and so he replaced them, and I gobbled up the scraps.  It looked like this:

The boards worked well enough, but in my mind they were a temporary solution. Tongue-and-groove boards all, at least half were broken. And a tongue-and-groove board without a tongue isn’t so good at keep water out of your walls. I overlapped them haphazardly and called it a day. And having now opened the wall two years later, I can say that they were a perfectly satisfactory solution. Would have held for years to come. But I wanted to get something I didn’t think of as temporary on the wall, something that looked beautiful and would hold all of the rain out, always.  After a day and a half of work (not consecutive, though that is irrelevant I suppose) it looked like this:

Sweet, sweet high-quality materials. These boards are twice as thick as those meant for indoor work, and they should last a good deal longer. High five. Then, the painting, which I am still working on, began. I was going for dark purple, and what I got was a lot brighter than I intended. But it has grown on me to the point where I walk by my Wagen even when I don’t really need to, just so I can get another eyefull. This is what it looked like two coats ago, and once I get the black trim done, it is going to look AMAZING.

winter is coming

Once the paint job is done and the trim is up (the roof gets secured to the trim along the top of the outer wall to keep further water out of the walls), there won’t be much left to do to prepare my tiny house for winter. The rain gutters need to be cleaned, and, once we move, the rain collection barrels set up. I’ll clean out my wood stove pipe with a long metal pipe cleaner brush, and that will be that. Before I know it another winter will be upon me, and I will have to work to remember how I missed those cold tempuratures during the last week’s brutal heat wave.

Doing house repairs tends to make me philosophical about the way I’ve chosen to live. As I put each coat onto my little house, I think about how much more work it would be to do a coat of paint on an average-sized house. How much all those buckets of paint would cost, and how much sweat would be lost applying them. Would I even be able to handle diy-ing your average-sized house? Not with joy anyway. Tiny houses win by a landslide.

Friday August 24th 2012, 9:00 am 4 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,diy,tiny house livin',trailer rennovation project,wagenplatz


dumpster find of the week: the green lady

I kid you not.  Spotted by the lovely Frau Dietz in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Have you found anything good on the curb lately?

Thursday August 23rd 2012, 9:00 am 1 Comment
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,dumpster finds,freegan


daily life: plans, pickles, and paint

Saturday marked six months of Baby Pickles.  An exciting land mark, one that will bring bites of real food, sitting, and another sack of clothes that no longer fit.  We’ve fallen into a pleasant routine, and all is well in paradise.  Seemed like a good time for another day-in-the-life post—wherein you get a more detailed glimpse into tiny house, Wagen living, and I get to create a snapshot that I know I will enjoy looking at later.  Here goes.

We wake up between eight and nine.  (I heart Pickles sleep rhythms.  They allow me to maintain full control of my sanity.)  Pickles usually wakes up first, then me, then the Beard.  We snuggle in bed and grin at each other and Pickles gurgles and coos and says “bababababa.”  So far, she’s a morning person, and waking up to that tiny grinning face makes the mornings that come too quickly infinitely easier.

The Beard disappears to the kitchen to make coffee, and I get dressed and brush my teeth and empty the chamber pot while Pickles continues to coo on the bed.  She’s a laid back baby, but she’s a really laid back baby in the morning.  I have learned to take full advantage.  After I’m ready I change Pickles’ diaper, and then we head outside and to the kitchen Wagen where the Beard is already drinking his first cup of coffee.  I make black tea and drink it outside while Pickles chews on a piece of long grass next to me in her little blue chair.

After breakfast I set Pickles up in her chair on the terrace of my Wagen with a handful of toys within reach.  She chews on her rattle and stares at the trees while I gather my painting equipment and get started.  I’ve decided to paint my Wagen dark purple, and it is taking a lot of coats to cover the wood siding.  I try to get a coat of paint on every morning before the sun becomes brutal, but either way I’m outside doing something.  Painting is not a necessary preparation for the move, but I want it to be done before we leave for Frankfurt.  About the time I’m finished, Pickles gets fussy, and we retreat into the Red Wagen for milk.  (Haul a new load of water in from the house spickit, heat up water in the electric water cooker we have in our Wagen, prepare bottle.)

This morning we had our first adventures in solid food.  For the last month Pickles’ has gnawed on carrot and cucumber sticks, sucked on melon slices and apples, and shredded spring onions (no joke: she loves spring onions, must be genetic), but she’s never really eaten any of it.  This morning I cooked a carrot, mashed it up and put it on a plate in front of her.  She mashed at it with tiny orange hands while I fed her little bits on my finger.  She grinned.  She is enamoured with food.  Watching her discover and fall in love with new pieces of the world makes me fall in love with them and her, all over again.  A carrot!  It is so easy to forget how exciting something as banal as a carrot can be.

Afternoons vary.  Maybe the Beard takes Pickles while I write or do dishes or work on clearing out my shed.  Maybe the Beard has had Pickles all morning, and it’s my turn now.  Sometime between ten and one she takes her first nap, though only if I can nurse her down.  Some days she takes four half hour naps, some days just one two hour nap.  Sometimes she wakes immediately if I try to sneak off (so I spend nap times laying with her reading), and sometimes she snores while I putter quietly around the Wagen.  We follow her cues and act accordingly.  Some time between noon and two she gets another helping of powdered milk (remember all those problems I had with milk production?  never fixed ‘em and never found out what caused them boo hiss).  The Beard and I trade back and forth depending on who needs to accomplish what and when.  Every two or three days there’s another load of laundry to be done.

In the late afternoon a friend comes by, and we set up one of our favorite games—usually Carcasonne or Dominion (though Zombies!!!, which I got for my birthday, is pretty awesome as well).  Pickles sits in her chair on a table next to ours, and when she gets fussy the Beard and I take turns holding her as the game continues.  We all spend at least 85 percent of the day outside, and despite shade and sunscreen, Pickles has developed a golden hue.

Around eight, the Beard makes Abendbrot (German traditional supper of bread and cheese), which we eat in bed, often while I nurse Pickles while laying on my side.  And it is there that we stay until Pickles drifts off to sleep (almost always while nursing, though she’s starting to be able to occasionally fall asleep by herself), sometime between eight and midnight.  We read and find ourselves following not long behind.  The advice to sleep when they sleep is another one of those keys to parental sanity.

Wednesday August 22nd 2012, 3:02 pm 1 Comment
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,gorilla parent (year one),wagenplatz


like i said yesterday…

Pictures! This is what our spot looks like all weed whacked. (If you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, go read this first.)

This is the left corner of our new spot (when looking at it from the path leading in). I’m thinking my Wagen, which will be our kitchen once we’re there, will live here. I’m already dreaming of the amazing terrace I’m going to have, and the purdy vines that will be growing up it.

This is a view straight in from the same path. The red Wagen, our main living Wagen, will be straight ahead, all the way back against those trees.

This is the Wagen that, right this very second, the Beard and I are in Frankfurt trying to get moved.

And last of all, this is a photo backed up down the trail leading to the spot. Our grand entrance.

And now to get on a train to Frankfurt to move that old Wagen. Please do some sort of Wägen moving like my hand through melting butter dance. It looks like it’ll be easy to get out of there, but then again, they almost always do and then all of a sudden you find yourself pouring three liters of vegetable oil onto a sheet of metal in order to slide an enormous Wagen ship out of the very tight space it has been living in (true story and more on that next week).

Friday August 17th 2012, 10:47 am 2 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,wagenplatz


moving: something like soon

There’s a new question on repeat lately: “So have you moved yet?” Nope we haven’t. Nope we don’t know exactly when we will. We’re still getting ready. Maybe next week. Maybe the week after that. When moving means hooking your entire house onto the back of a truck and driving it to a new location, you don’t need to worry about too many deadlines. No starts or ends of leases. No tennants waiting for you to get out so that they can move in. Just you and your house on wheels.  There’s still a lot to do.

Last Friday we went to Frankfurt to clear our new Stellplatz, aka the spot where our Wägen are going to live from now on.  It had only been out of commission for one season, so there weren’t any monster trees or blackberry bushes to fight off, but there was a hell of a lot of stinging nettle.  Among other things.  I wasn’t going to bother posting any before pictures because most of them just look like I’m doing nettle nature photography, but there is an old Wagen sitting there as well that might make things a bit more interesting.  So, behold!  Before the Beard came in with a hardcore weedwacker and chopped everything to bits:

Fuel was needed for the weed menace, so while the Beard and a future Platz-mate went off to buy some, Baby Pickles and I curled up in the grass. I read; she fell asleep. I count it as a good omen that she felt relaxed enough there to conk out and stay under for almost an hour. We’ll be walking across that lawn to get to our home every day so soon.

And oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh, our new neighbor has bees! I hope we get along, and I can learn all about beekeeping from her. That would make my year. I wonder if she brings the bees the news, like I’ve read so often that certain traditions insist. I really like the idea of bringing the bees news.

Once the weed monster was fueled and running, it mashed that shit down in a litle over an hour. While Pickles slept, I forked the remains of decapitated nettles into a rather badass wheelbarrow and hauled them off to a pile of withering greens just behind our future plot. And wow, really wow. Once we were finished I was totally flabergasted, once again, by how much space we are going to have there. The pictures don’t really give an accurate feel to the space, but still. DROOL. (NOTE: Pictures will have to come tomorrow. Photobucket is being a jerk.)

Tomorrow we’ll return to haul that Wagen out of there, to be parked in a free spot until its owner gets a chance to pick it up. And once that’s done, we could haul up the anchor in Mainz and push off.

Thursday August 16th 2012, 3:36 pm 5 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,wagenplatz


squat mainz !!!!

There is a new squat in Mainz.  I feel like that sentence almost needs an entire paragraph all to itself, just to let it sink in.  A new squat in Mainz!  Wow.  These times we live in aren’t so friendly to squatters.  Even Holland, promised land of squatters for years, has illegalized squatting.  And now there is a new squat in Mainz!  Hells yeah. Let’s all collectively cross our fingers and toes that it sticks.

Overnight, Mainz has become at least three thousand times more interesting.  People are excited about the new project, and some of that energy is reflecting back into our own once-squatted, now-tolerated house.   This evening, should you fancy, you can come by and see the Beard and I playing a two-headed Battenkill Ramblers set (Mr. Bass didn’t have time, but we wanted to put something together to show our support all the same), as well as Mainz singer/songwriter Plus.

For more information on their doings (events calendar, photos, updates), check out the project’s website or facebook.  The above photo is via the group’s facebook page.

Thursday August 09th 2012, 2:39 pm Leave a Comment
Filed under: conspiracies,germany


writer’s block really isn’t such a bad thing

Pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you as a writer is to finish up a draft and then lose it completely.  Sure, you could go back and rewrite, but you know that the magical sparks that rang through those pages will never return as they were.  Magic is hard enough to get right the first time, and you can’t expect it to dance around in duplicate like it was born in a photocopier.

Once upon a time I had written 90 pages of a novel.  It was going to be about my year as an au pair, but also about the way we weave fairy tales into the fabric of our lives and the way those projections then collide with reality.  Maybe I’ll still write it someday.  But since my hard drive and my back-up hard drive died within weeks of each other, erasing both the original and the back-up, I just haven’t been able to put my hand to it again.  You understand.  It’s been almost six years since, but I have only just started being able to think about rewriting without wanting to cry/throw up/throw my computer right out the window.

Losing your writing is worse than writer’s block by far.  Writer’s block is like staring at an empty room.  It’s not interesting, it’s not, well, anything really.  Boring, frustrating maybe, but just empty.  Losing your work is like staring at an empty room and knowing that everything you’ve ever loved was once in it and has been ravaged by bandits or fire or both.  It’s not just an empty room, it’s a room that has been emptied, that once held treasures you will never be able to replace.

In light of losing a 90-page work in progress, it really wasn’t all that bad when the internet ate the blog post I wrote about our trip to Dresden to play the Drüben auf den Hugel festival.  I didn’t cry or tear at my hair or wring my hands.  But I won’t be writing it again any time soon.  I can take a hint.

Tuesday August 07th 2012, 9:56 am 3 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies


rolling, rolling, rolling

The move approaches.  Slowly but, apparently, surely.  It has been so long since we visited our future home that I’d managed to lose all momentum and excited energy.  Moving seemed like a fictional event that wasn’t going to happen in this dimension.  But when two mornings ago the Beard sprung out of bed and started clearing out the dark recesses beneath our sleeping Wagen, the energy caught.  There are things to do!  There is junk to sell!  There are moments staring out of the window to be savored!

The thought of moving feels so much less daunting given our houses.  Houses on wheels!  I love it.  No boxes to pack, no moving trucks to be rented, no boxes to be lugged up unfamiliar stairs and left un-opened for weeks.  I am already savoring the fact that when we arrive at our new place of residence our home will be exactly as it always was, everything in its place.  Within minutes of arriving I will be able to walk into my kitchen, take down a pan, and start cooking dinner like I have hundreds of other times.  The only difference will be the view out the window, the sounds floating in through the door.  Sweet, sweet luxury.

But before then I have a small to-do list to accomplish.  (Empty and take down part of Frankenshed, sell shit at the  flea market, remove the cellar box, re-side the bit of my Wagen I used someone’s crappy old ceiling boards on, paint exterior, remove garden fence, move refridgerator inside, get gas stove.)  Tomorrow morning you can find me behind a table at the flea market, selling all of the clothes I am convinced I will never fit into again.  Right or wrong, when you buy all of your clothes at the flea market anyway, putting them back into the stream now and again never hurts.

And what will our new community bring?  Of all the 20-some people living there, I know one well, one from an afternoon, and several from simply seeing them around all of those years that I spent living in Frankfurt.  I am excited about the amount of space we’ll have for our three Wägen spread out under tall shade trees, about my work commute shrinking from over an hour to five minutes, about the fact that someone there has bees.  There is so much potential bundled up in a move.  Will I be able to get chickens?  Will I someday be able to get a dog?  (They seem to be more of a cat community, so maybe not.)  Will we all get along?  Will my new shed be frickin awesome?  (Yes.)  Should we be ordering our firewood here, now?  Will Pickles get along with the other kids (when she’s old enough to notice them)?  So much to contemplate.  So many changes and surprises.  It’s what I love most about moving.  Talley-ho!

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Friday August 03rd 2012, 1:42 pm 3 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,daily life,wagenplatz