Monday, September 19, 2005


In light of recent events where many people found themselves homeless, I thought this might come in handy or, at least, helpful. As we've seen, mobile homes (homes you can actualy move distances) seem to be more practical than stationary homes

Housing: Many people think they need a beautiful house, new clothes every season, the best new cars, gourmet food, restaurant meals every few days, nice furniture, and redecorating every year. Many people just need the necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter.

I used to think I needed all the things of the first group, too. Then I lost everything. Not just once, but four times, through divorce (twice), and theft (twice). The last couple of times was during the period of my disability, so I did not have money to replace them. Fortunately, I am now with a man who has also lost everything several times, through divorce, theft, and fire. He understands what material possessions mean, or rather don't mean.

After his stroke, we again lost much of what we had together. What with me not being able to work and he not being able to work, we had no income. But, the Goddess smiled on us and he was granted SSI plus back pay. While it wasn't a lot, we were able to buy the school bus for $1200 and an older camper for $1800. We had no money left after buying these, but we had a plan. Every month we took so much of his checks and bought the materials we needed or scrounged the recycling place and talked to people to see if they had any materials we might need that they didn't have a use for anymore. Much of our material was not new. We tore everything out of the camper and built it into the bus, including two 50 gallon plastic barrels we got for free which we use for holding water; wood from a cabinet factory (scraps actually) for shelving and the floor (pieced together, different woods, less than a foot long--it's very pretty); sale material for curtains and couch covers and so on.

The bus engine is in very good shape, so we don't have problems there, for now. Fuel is a killer right now, but we do okay. When we are traveling, we stay in truck stops, casino parking lots, and wherever we don't get kicked out of. We only stay a few days at a time, so as not to cause trouble. We are very fortuate in the fact that we have friends who have let us stay on their property for $100 a month, cheap but nice campgrounds, and free parking in the desert.

Clothing: Most of our clothes are sale items from discount stores, St. Vincent de Paul stores, give aways, and we seem to have enough. We don't have a huge closet for our clothes, so we do with very few and reuse what we can for sleepwear, rags, patches. I sew by hand everything I can.

Food: Get a food dryer and several cartons of quart jars!!! This has been a savior. You can usually find a food dryer for around $30 at a Farm and Home outlet. Our wonderful friends have, this year, allowed us to have tomatoes, onions, yams, corn, and green beans from their garden. I have dried much of this food to save for future use. Many foods can be dried raw, but corn, green beans, and potatoes should be parboiled first, then cut to sizes needed or off the cob. Other foods that can be dried are: beets, carrots, squash, spinach, beans, berries, mushrooms, and just about anything that can be rehydrated.

Canning is also a good way to save foods. When I make soup or chili, I usually make way too much, then can it and pressure cook it for the reccommended amount of time. We thought we would have a problem with these jars blowing their tops or just unsealing going over the mountains, but we've only had one do this. (Be cautious! If you think a jar has unsealed, throw the contents out. If there has been any leakage of liquid, don't use it. And boil the contents for at least five minutes before eating any home canned items, except jelly.) If you pressure cook the foods right, you shouldn't have problems.

We have canned or dried foods stored in jars and coffee cans (many the new plastic) under the kitchen benches, in many cupboards and on shelves. We keep the two 50 gallon barrels full of water to rehydrate and boil foods in. We also have bought things we can't preserve in "extra's" when we have the money. This saves in the long run, as when we don't have enough money or are caught in a "can't get to a store" situation, we have what we need.

Meat can be canned or dried. We have also found many canned meats at our local dollar store and discount food places.We have hams, salmon, tuna, beef, chicken, mackerel, Spam type meat, and Vienna Sausage type meat made from chicken or turkey. We also have a small freezer in the top of our one refrigerator so we can have fresh meat at times. This refigerator is old (1973), but still works on propane, regular electricity, or 12-volt, and does a good job. We also buy fresh fruits and vegetable when we can.Two good investments are a charcoal grill and a dutch oven to make bread and other bakes items in (this usually comes with an instruction booklet). My nephew can make anything in a dutch oven. Charcoal is a pain, but you can also use wood when you can get it. One thing we bought new was a small propane stove/oven/broiler. It was under $300 on sale. This is used often for cooking and baking. We also have a large crock pot and a large roasting pan (both electric, but can be used with inverters).

Electricty: As stated in my article on living in the bus, we use the bus engine for electricity. That way we aren't "deprived" of T.V. or watching older movies when we can't get in a station. We are planning to buy a couple more deep cycle batteries and larger voltage inverters so we can run more things: microwave, another small refrigerator, roaster, food dryer, plus T.V's and DVD player or VCR, and lights. But there are many times we do not use electricity at all. During many of the days we read, go for walks, or just watch wildlife at play. I also study things I enjoy. After our evening of T.V., using electical items, and lights, we turn off the engine and use kerosene lanterns for light. I usually read or write with the lantern light until I get tired.

We have known several people who also live in a camper and stay in "free" spots, but work normal jobs. They usually have to find a few different places to stay in one area, as many free sites have time limits; such as 90 days, 45 days, etc. So it takes some planning.

(A word about the water situation: There are many places that will allow you to get free water. Campgrounds, even if you aren't a paying guest, some truck stops, friends and family, or artesian wells are good sources of free water.)

We still have little money, and have been living on around $600 a month, but with planning, giving up on the "luxeries" most of the time, and good use of the money you do have, you too can live "off the grid" much of the time. Living in a bus or mobile home has many advantages: you own it, you can take it wherever you need to go along with your pets and have what you need with you, and in case of dangerous weather in one spot you can move to another place easily and not lose everything you need. You have to take care of your home, just as you would any place you lived. Get the oil changed every 10,000 miles, make sure the tires are good, have the engine and brakes checked out at least once a year, touch up the outer paint when needed so it looks alright on the outside, and keep up the registration and licensing. There are places on the internet you can get inexpensive insurance, also.

No we don't have alot of room for our things or for too many people, but we own our home and everything in it. We have our pets with us always. We have all the food we need for a few months (not gourmet meals, but nutritional and filling). We don't have the latest styles in clothing or furniture, but it is functional. We treat ourselves every month or so to a Chinese meal or another reasonalbly priced restaurant meal. We do not have a telephone or computer (libraries or friends and relatives have them, also many truck stops). Our money goes directly into the bank and our mail goes to a Post Office box. If we still had young children they would be home schooled (yes, a mother or father can stay home and teach while the other partner works, because you are living much more cheaply in a camper).

Helping others: Even though we have little room and little money is no reason to not help others. We met people last year who were trying to live in a tent during the raining times in the desert--not a good idea. They had no jobs, no income, and little food. We invited them in and they were able to stay for three or four weeks while they got what they needed. Yes, there is always the danger of being robbed, raped, killed, but you cannot live in a bubble of fear your entire life. Helping others is a necessity in these times. Karma is always watching. Don't help to gain anything but a wonderful knowledge you have done something good for another, just do it. We have had people help us when we needed it (and still do at times) and feel we are repaying a Karmic debt by helping others.

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