Search

Wee Little House

Winter Worry Land

When you live in a RV in MN the winter wonderland becomes a winter worry land. You don’t have the foundation of a house you have wheels. The walls are not built with layers of materials. The pipes that let the water in and out are exposed to the bitter air along with the tanks that hold your waste. The windows are by no means cost efficient and you also have vents and the door to think about. Not to mention the worry about having enough propane (which is the source for your heater) but also the moister build up the propane heat causes. Winter in a RV is not for the faint of heart!

Knowing that we must be prepared to avoid costly damage we began our winterizing process from the very start…

 

-RV Model

It actually almost stopped our full time RV pursuit until we realized that you can buy certain brands that offer “winterized” RV. Basically what you want to look for is a rig that has a zero degree rating. Yes, it gets colder than that in MN but if you have at least that rating you can supplement that with extra insulation and sealing up the major heat loss areas. That being said you can make it with any RV, but you will need to expect your energy costs to go up with older models. There are people living in our park with campers slightly better than a popup. Sure they have 400lbs propane tanks that probably get filled every week, but they still make it through winter.

 

-Learning from Neighbors

Then we pulled into our spot with the neighbor beside us living in a 1993 RV and have been in MN since. This gave us more confidence that if they could survive winters we could too. Cullen did a lot of research but also searched out advice from our neighbors around us. He learned many tips and tricks that we wouldn’t even thought about. One of the best tips we learned from our neighbors that I never came across in my own research was to put a low watt light bulb in the external compartment of the refrigerator motor. This compartment is exposed to the outside, which is good in the summer as it allows the motor to stay cooler. However, this motor needs heat to keep your fridge cold and when temps dip below zero this causes a lot of stress on the motor, causing it to “burn out” way ahead of the life expectancy. So the tip is to cover the vents with duct tape or aluminum tape, with the exception of a small hole to allow the drain hose to seep, then put a 20 watt light bulb inside. Most compartments have a receptacle so you can simply purchase a light socket adapter.

 

Skirting

Skirting is essential when living in an RV in freezing temperatures. Even if you have an enclosed underbelly the cold wind blowing under your rig is enough to freeze pipes and zap all the warm air out of your RV. Now there are numerous things you can use for skirting, really anything that stops the wind from blowing under it will suffice. The most common option is to skirt it with foam board insulation. This is rigid and easy to work with, but unfortunately is quite expensive. Another common option is to use a canvas which you can pay to have custom done to your RV. It attaches by snaps so you can simply snap it on and off come spring. This is the option I would recommend to anyone that is moving around a lot as its most adaptable. The option we went with was to build our own using ¼ plywood, 2x4s, and R-11 fiberglass insulation. We used foam board around the slide outs. The reason we chose this was because we knew we were going to be stationary for at least 2 years, it offered the highest R value, and it was the cheapest option; cheapest but most work intensive. I built studded walls that conformed to shape our RV (see pics below). You will need to create a door or a way to access your drain valves as you should not leave these open in the winter.

 

-Window Cover

It is time to hibernate to turn our RV into a cave…that is what I joked about with Cullen as he was putting insulated relaxation on the windows outside. RV’s are made with the thought of camping not surviving deathly cold temperatures. So they place many large windows (aka thin pieces of glass) in them, thus becoming a major source of heat loss. Cullen left 3 windows uncovered so it is not completely cave like. But we did cover all the windows on the inside with the plastic window covers (next year we will do this earlier because once it become too cold the tape does not stick to the metal surrounding the windows). There are a few sky windows in the ceiling that we stuffed with insulation and covered with plastic.

 

-Vents

Then there are the vents in the bathroom, Silas bedroom, and the living area that offer a beautiful breeze of fresh air in any season but winter. These we covered with plastic after stuffing insulation into it. But as we live and learn next winter we will try to do a special insulated pillow for the bathroom. That way we can allow airflow in/out when showering and reduce the moister.

 

-Water/Pipes

First step to protecting water is covering the water hose with heat tape and insulation. You can buy a hose that comes with heat tape built in, its pricey but it less work and I have heard that it works great. We chose to buy heat tape and do it ourselves. Once I had the heat tape on I covered the hose with foam pipe insulation and then I wrapped that with fiberglass pipe insulation (found in the duct work isle). Next, where the water shut on/off valve is located on my water sources I wrapped more tape around the metal pipes and stuffed fiberglass insulation around it and then covered it with a plastic bin (tipped upside down). Lastly, I put a tarp over the entire thing for wind barrier and to keep dry as possible.

 

-Heat Source

All these steps and precautions are great unless you run out of heat. We chose to divide up our heat source. We run portable electrical heaters at night on high in Silas bedroom and our bedroom. This allows us to turn down the main RV heater a few degrees (60F) at night. In the morning to help heat up the living space we use the electrical built in fireplace. Throughout the day we keep our heat set to about (65F) when we are there and just layer up (fleece and wool socks!). Because we don’t want to be stuck without heat we ordered a large propane tank (200 lbs) that is filled every other week, but could be weekly. We also have to 30lbs tanks that we take to get filled when convenient. This is usually cheaper per gallon vs have it delivered. On average in the winter we go through about a gallon of propane per day. Make sure you call several propane distributors if available as they can greatly differ in price. Not just price per gallon but in tank leasing fees, etc.

 

-Door

The moment you are dressed in your winter gear and attempt to open the door with no luck is a moment of panic. Trapped in a tin can with a toddler! But after you take a deep breath you pull out the blow dryer that is your constant companion. The doors on most RV’s do not have impressive weather stripping and easily freeze up. You may get home from work one day to find that your door is froze shut, luckily you headed my advice and stored a hair dryer outside of your rig and are able to unthaw it. It is what lets you in and out of your home with the cold wind freezes your door shut. Another tip around this is put dry lube on the metal parts of the door where it’s freezing up (not needed on aluminum parts).

 

These are the many precautions we took to avoid freezing, frozen pipes, and keeping our water/waste flowing. Yet we still had to live and learn this first month of winter…

Owning our time with LIFE instead of items.

As the first item was sold (yarn/knitting sticks) my heart was filled with emotions. Sadness at the thought that I will never knit again…just kidding, try as I might I cannot be one of those crafty knitting people. But I was sad because of the memory that went with it. That is when I realized how I/people become attached to items. It isn’t the item necessarily, it is the memory it brings back. The thought of, I bought this when, this was my ­_____, this was a gift from _____, I used this for _____….and many other reasons keep us emotionally involved. But sometimes these emotions can create a weight. I am learning to let go of these emotions by reminding myself it is the memory I cherish not the item.

We have been emptying our house of items we don’t need. As I carried boxes out to the garage I wondered how we managed to collect so much. My husband and I are both frugal people and therefore buy very little. However in 4 years of marriage and 2.5 years of living in this home we have been blessed with many items. I have felt very thankful for being blessed with many things but more grateful for the people involved with the memory of the items.

It is people that matter! After 3 days of sitting in heat selling our possessions it felt freeing to replace my stuff with memories of people. I got to talk with mothers, widows, grandparents, dads, kids and hear a piece of their life story. Many conversations surprised me as they shared a vulnerable part of their life. One man solidified the need that I must let go of the emotions items bring and cherish the memory. I would have never guessed this was his story as he looked around at the tables. He asked about our moving sign and I could hear a bit of relief as I told him we were selling not because of finance needs. We carried on a friendly conversation and slowly as we talked I was able to piece together his story.

He is a father of 2 elementary age children and was a home owner for over 15 years, but now he is divorced and living out of his car. It began when he was laid off from a job he made 6 figures from. It has taken him a year to get help from the government. When he asked for food for the first time you could tell it was a difficult moment, especially since they turned him down. “It is all just so regulated they don’t look at people anymore.” While this man talked he never once complained about how unfair his life was. You could hear how he has learned what is valuable and encouraged us to keep going in this lifestyle pursuit.

As much as I dislike garage sales I would do it again, just to hear more people’s stories.

Peace, Reflection, Excitement, and Nervous

This process went from an idea to a goal in motion in one month. The 2nd month has been spent working on getting our house “market ready”, while the 3rd month is set aside for selling possessions. The 4th month, Lord willing, will be spent moving into the RV and closing on our home. It is crazy how quickly the processes is happening which gives us peace. Peace because we have been praying that the Lord would open the doors if this is the direction we are to go.

There are days that we have to remind each other about end goals of RV life. It is hard to think about leaving our neighbors we have been intentional with about creating relationships. For me personally I have enjoyed running my own household and will especially miss having a washer and drier. Cullen has the hardest time leaving his garage that has become his workshop. He has made and sold beautiful pieces of furniture for extra income. But we look back at our last 3 years of owning our first home and we can see how God has used these years for His glory. It welcomed our first child, created a comfortable space for family to stay an extended amount of time, my sister lived with us over a year, hosted a church life group, and created lasting memories. When the days come of sadness we reflect on what we have been given and encourage each other to look forward to the hope of what is to come.

Remember planning for your wedding day with your spouse or your first child or another event that brought something you both have been hoping and excited for? It gives you something to talk about as a couple besides the daily grind of life and a goal for you to work towards. The event draws you together. Yes there are things you disagree about but you work through them. The excitement of what is to come creates life in you, your spouse, and your marriage.

But then there are the “what ifs” and the rationality that questions if we should make this life change? We are right were America says we should be. A house, cars, career job, a child…but then we stop and remind ourselves that even though society says we are where we should be Jesus is the one who we want to please. Each day that we ask is this our next step, each day we feel Him calming our fears of “what if” and His gentle voice of reassuring. That is what calms our nervous and gives us confidence.

Why?

We get lots of different responses when we share our plans. Many people have a hard time understanding but some encourage and are excited for us! It does seem like a crazy plan to leave our “well on track American Dream life”. That was until we started to dig into the reasons and future hopes. Then RV life became a life that feels free…

  1. Free our student loans in less than half our current payment plan
  2. Free ourselves from our mortgage while the market is high enabling a profit
  3. Free to live off grid- learning new skills we are interested in and want to teach our son
  4. Free ourselves of work less hours for Cullen, full time stay at home mom for me
  5. Free to Travel at low cost with Cullen working from our RV
  6. Free to go when ever and where ever God calls

This list is what we look back on when we are questioned and question our decision on RV life. It reminds us during the “bitter” moments of this change that the “sweet” moments are coming.

Forming the Idea into a Plan

Our family loves the outdoors. My 16 month son will go around to all the doors asking “ow-si peas, peas ow-si” (interpretation= outside please) no matter what the weather is like. We take hikes, go to parks, do yard work, and play outside whenever our MN weather allows it! One thing we love to do is explore MN beautiful state parks (highly recommend Gooseberry Falls). While looking into a state park to camp at I came across a job posting for a camp ground host. I emailed this to Cullen (as a pre parent wouldn’t this be fun idea) and he replied with what a great idea let’s move our family into an RV. I laughed at his response and over Easter joked about it with family. But as I started reading blogs, receiving multiple emails about RV life from my husband, and researching, I realized that this was a lifestyle we could enjoy and at the same time pay down student loans at a high rate. RV life was now something I was very interested in. After a date early in April we came up with a list of first steps that would need to happen for an RV lifestyle to work.

  1. Find an RV- that could handle MN winters and fit the needs of our family
  2. Talk with our realtor- make sure there were no big budget things to do prior to selling
  3. Find a Winterized location to park our RV- close to work for both of us

Once we had accomplished these three items the idea turned into a goal.

The Itch of Discontent

There has to be something more than just working a 40hr work week and putting the money into bills. This is how we were feeling. Neither of us very content in our work lives. Cherishing our very little family time feeling like it was just a drop when we wanted an ocean. Desiring to grow our own food yet being thankful we had plenty of food. While our dreams of missions, owning a farm to open to foster kids, and being free from our student loan debt seem to just be dreams.

My father-in-law showed us a farm that I fell in love with. It was already established as a farm Cullen and I desire (organic chickens, organic vegetables, and an added bonus, sheep!). The property was beautiful. But the house is something I loved even more. It had a very unique build which would be perfect for filling with children/teens in need of a home.

This itch started me thinking about how in our current status I would need to continue to work part time and Cullen would still need his business job until our son was 12 years old (he is currently 1)! After that thought, Cullen informed me if it wasn’t for our student loans we could afford that farm. That comment turned my itch into an ache of wanting something to change.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑