Out with the old – And in with the older

Summer is running high-speed to make up for the rainy spring, useless winter skin is blushing at the very sight of UV and the sun is not setting until 21.00. I finally spend some love on the exterior, sealing cracks and touching up rust. My 150W solar panels are giving me more than I can even use, and just as the Phoenix my 85 Ah Battery it is revived each day. I am considering to buy a “Crock pot” and extending the kitchen in order to save money on gas (that obviously costs more than the sun) and a little fan for warm days. What other gadgets to hook up on a 12V system?

This far, nothing in the interior has been bought new, and my suppressed fetish for second-hand shops has finally bloomed. Some things I find in a container, others in my basement, and people I pass buy are sometimes glad to give me their dusty garage-treasures. All together the renovation has cost me around 600 EUR and I am still experimenting with my travelling budget. One step at the time, the Pearl is tuned into a wonderland. A 6 mobile home, exploring the limits of self-sufficient and mobile living.

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The edge between metal and fiberglas is one of the weak links, it became obvious as I ripped out the wallpapers. Brushing, scrubbing, sanding and re-sealing.

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My little mobile garden is slowly growing. Who sais you cant grow food in nylonstockings? The cockpit is not that different from a greenhouse, though water is a challange. Finding micro-climates in the most unexpected places: Peppermint is happily drying, dark and warm with a swift breeze from the windows.

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No true hippie-van without pennants! These ones made from old biology books.

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My grandmother was using up all her lefover wool and made this incredible pelt that will cover up the worn-out passenger seats.

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Washing up station: An old enema-container from “Kockum” with a matching cup, the ceramic “Mjöl” box is for ashes and washing up liquid. The sink underneath is emptied manually. Simple, but working just fine.

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Storage going up the walls, almost 2m high, the roof and walls are the most efficent way to stack and store. In the back is the “bathroom” shelf with a first aid box. As much as decoration needs to be highly practical in these living conditions, I cannot help to put mybutterfly-wing-plate-thing on the wall. Grotesce and fashinating.

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A happy mess, picture from the far back. Back of the seats are more storage, belonging to the kitchen, I am working on a safe way to store plates and cups here in pockets made from towels.

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Old broken mirror and some silicon maked a wonderful little bathroom. I have no plans on a toilet, Hunterwasser was right when he said we should really do our buisness in the forest. A little metall bucket will do for late night/unconvinient occations.

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Old linen towels sown into pockets for porslein.

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I am fully aware that plastic is very useful and usually used in vans. But when it comes to eating, I cannot stand it. So I choose the fragile rode of old porslein, and this far: No breakages!

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How to run a farm – And how NOT to run a blog

From the little I know about blogs: This is not how you do it. You are supposed to be consistent, grammatically correct and have a nice layout and pedagical posts. You are supposed to read other blogs, and comment them, and have advertisement and update often. Well. I will probably keep breaking the rules. Please bear with me.

The Pearl is rolling south, staying at a fraction of all the places I want to explore, but still seem to get stuck (in a muddy sea of fascination, love and dreams) with each one I visit. Ridgedale Permaculture is a little universe of itself. A bubble of proactivity, powered by the most beautiful and humble of souls, something that you don’t fully appreciate or grasp until you step out of it. I was back in the renovated kitchen for the first PDC of the second season, stepping into a pair of very familiar shoes. So excited to meet the new core team that will run the farm for another epic step against a dream, green as the greenest of grasses. Each one of them who succeded to inspire me in their own unique way. And especially Clara Cortadelles, the “graphic manager”, who lucky enough took my camera (collecting dust in the passenger-seat) into her magic hands to capture a glimpse of the different life-forms that run this wonderful farm.

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Things change here, they change fast. And take your association of fast in your head and speed it up twice and there you have it: Ridgedale. After almost to weeks of intense culinary adventure, I threw myself into the garden to explore my lack of experience and to get dirty. So many possibilities in such a small place. Even my book-project, another dream kept on ice, melted and started growing again. I ran in the forest that I know better than the back of my hand, ate blueberry-flowers as I could not wait for the berries. And all the birds of spring told me, that I will be back soon.

As the rain was a daily visiter for most of May, I left only as the run came out and brough the storm with her: I almost blew off the highway, and one of the yurts on the farm almost turned into an airship.

DSC_1296I have happily dozed off from social media for some time, high on life but stunned by my increasing intolerance towards cities and all that they involve. A frustrating feeling as been lurking in my cluttered mind, un-motivation to work on the van. You know that feeling, when you work really hard for something, and then you have it and your passion and grit goes “… Now what?” I had many small projects, things to fix, repair, sell, buy, build, but it was not until a few days ago that I did it: All in one night. After an intense water-fast and a few dark zombie days, letting body and mind through the garbage out the window, in my head cleared up. Things fell on the right place in the matter of 24 sleepless hours, and a buzz that kept me going like a locomotive until I stepped back with a smile on my face. It is now a home, not because it has a floor, or a bed, or a kitchen. but because it has a soul. And the good thing is that it is not even finished.

The great hunt for spring – Heading south

Two weeks ago, the pearl finally left Kramfors to hit the road. After a few days of nightmares about the squeaking engine and many expensive diagnoses from car mechanics I had little hope staying on budget. As a last attempt to find the cause, I walked over to the mechanic university, neighboring the wood academy and told them about the symptoms. A stone dropped from my chest as I was met by a calm smile and a “She just needs to stretch her legs”.

After some help from the students, a look in the classroom and a few good advice, the bad omen from the car mechanics were gone with the wind. Old diesel engines have a sealing made of filt around the clutches, this seal only works when the engine runs long distance and gets warm. The oil stains under the hood were from were the oil had leaked through the felt, and the squeaking was the sound of the clutches slipping due to the oil leaking in. Therefore, no need to spend 900 EUR changing clutches. Mystery solved – time to head south.

I stayed the night in a nature reserve in Ånge, walking through one of the few birch forest as the sun was rising and then cooking my first real breakfast in the van. By far the best feature this far (close after the solar panels) is my manual coffee grinder. I still have no toilet, I still not have running water but I have a coffe grinder. Little can beat the smell of fresh coffee: DAMN good coffee.

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As the night was frosty but comfortable, I looked forward to heading south to greet the spring in Skattungbyn close to Mora. My warm expectations were frozen as I soon found myself stuck in the snow In the middle of no were. Curious and restless after a hours on the road I decided to take a shortcut and visiting the “Helvetesfallet” but I never got to see any waterfall, only to be confronted with the fine line between optimism and nativity. The sudden microclimate resulted in island of snow on the road and alone there was little I could do to get loose, finding fresh bear traces in the snow and rain pouring down It felt like one hell of a anticlimax. With horrible connection, I finally managed to reach a wonderful old friend who drove me to the village: How lucky am I?

During the coming days snow continued to fall and the spring I was hunting for seemed further away than ever. After a few days and help from locals, we managed to reach the van and dig it out. The spring continued to hide throughout the week I visited the village, but I was with dear friends and the pearl was safe. Skattungbyn, blessed with a stunning view over the valley and a year-long course in self-sufficiency and many sprouting communities and projecs. Hosting the “Inspiration festival” each summer. And many, many wagons. Closer to a little cabins then a rubberstamp home, fully equipped to handle the Swedish winter.

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The saturday was spent in the organic cooperative, milling flour and admiring the handicraft from locals. Half a barn works as an abundant free shop were you can find anything you need and leave anything you don’t need. Stashed up with some new cassettes for the trip. “Latino swing” and a Icelandic mix tape is now competing with the loud murmur of the good old diesel engine. A week of inspiring workshops, dumpster fiests and sauna nights later and I was off. Next stop on my hunt for spring: Ridgedale. DSC_0849 DSC_0868 DSC_0861 DSC_0863

First night in The Van

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Except for giving you a headache, this GIF more or less demonstrate how the bed is working in single mode. The fold-up-double-deluxe-special is soon to come. And yes: I have a bed. And yes: I slept in it last night. And yes: It was raining and I was smiling all the time.

Frustrating enough, the gas kitchen I got was not functioning as planned. The tube for that old model was hard to come by, so I decided to change it for one I found with the tube included. The composit gas I got was therefore not compatible with the new version, so I had to do the classic “one step forward two steps back” but thanks to friendly shop-keepers support and garage full of equipment I now only need to wait for the new stove to arrive.

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For the first time the engine is giving me a hard time, but also a reason to get familiar with all the bits and peices. These last weeks I have been avoiding going short distances to not put too much stain on the battery. I have also noticed un-friendly scream from the clutches and a few stains under the engine, something I want to check up before i head anywhere. During parking I lost all my gears, but after crawling around on the ground I detected that one of the metal rings had broken. Study, Oil and a little spare part fixed the problem.

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All things are bit by bit finding its place in the van. The clutter is overwhelming and the inevitable act of giving away half of my stuff is taking place. The pages of “Ronja Rövardotter” is now covering the spare parts of the wall, making it possible to pick up a quote from the story at any time. Every part needs its very special place to make sense, every object needs a function. Making storage by screwing old jars to the bottom of shelfs, hooks on the walls, pockets and hide aways. There are still much to improve, and things to repair as I move along.

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Part from working on my van I have spent the days foarging springs abundance, chewing my way through nettle crackers and the creations of Haruki Murakami and running around at the wood-academy exploring the fantastic material that is wood. One day turned out to be a day to make a ukulele, that day turned out to be a week. Another day was spent climbing trees in the woods to phograph Johanna Metsalos fashionable second-hand creations. Making a fold-up table for the van and a few wood sculptures, but after watching “Alone in the Wilderness”, documentary of Dick Proenneke who built his own cabin at the base of the Aleutian Peninsula made all my efforts seem like crumbles. One day though, I will learn. Until then the Pearl will be just fine.

In a few days I finally head south. Next stop will be Orsa, visting some nature reserves on the way. Hopefully the engine is not hiding to many surpises and I will make my route to Oslo- Västra Ämtervik – Jönköping as I plan.

Alice in wonder-van

In a neat and ordered corner of my imagination, I had a very elegant outcome of the pearl. I thought It could look real professional and minimalistic. I though about all the rules of interior design one can read about in magazines, of keeping light colors, clean surfaces, making the space feel big and “fresh”.

But frankly: To hell with that.

I always dreamt of living in vernissage. And that ugly times one hundred is beautiful, that as many times it is true that “Less is more” but more it still … More. And being in full power of how this small space will look like (and being the one who will have to endure it), I thought I might as well enjoy myself. Make it into a mad universe without rules, one that will be so loud and full of impressions that it will outspeak my mind and swallow be into its colorful and warm inside. That is a place I want to call home.

I had two folders of images that I found on a fleemarket many years ago “for a future project” wich turned out to be this. The back wall is covered with a collection of “Reputable Swedes” from 1908. Obviously the collection consist only of men with double cheeks and funny wigs and as I put them up I felt uncomfortable with their self-satisfied faces staring out in nothing. So it will make an excellent background for a collage, in honor to all the repressed woman who history never heard of. High-five spontaneous feminism!

The other folder was filled with thick cards starring colored photographs of flowers and their names in Swedish and Latin. Probably used in education during the 70´s, I learned a great amount as I soaked and dried them to make use of both sides. I belive Papaver dubium ended up being my favorite, placed just over the bed. All were into a wallpaper with a simple glue- recipie from kindergarden. Potato flour, sugar and water.

Three thick and rustic bed covers measuring 245*145 cm will work as two draperies (for insulation and draft) , blackout curtains and main sofa/bed. I discovered the good side of living in an appartment: Neighbors are full of surprises. Johanna lended me her sewing-machine and great skills. Check out her new web shop here: Johanna Metsalo

Several items were purchased on the secondhand (Pots, storage, pans, cutlery) the basics to live in the van. The abundance of roadsales and fleemarkets along the road will do doubt provide me with anything I could possibly miss. So the second chapter begins: Making pearl into a real wonder-van.

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DIY Wallpaper glue:

  • 8 dl water
  • 1 dl sugar
  • 3 tblsp potato flour

In a pot, dissolve the sugar in half of the water, in another jar dissolve the potato flour in the rest of the water until there is no lumps. Keep the pot simmering on low heat and slowly stir the potato water. Mix well and keep on the stove until transparent, if it turns out to thick: Add  a bit of water. Costs are so minimal it is not even worth mentioning it.

This recipe, made with berries during summer and served with milk is actually a common meal growing up in Sweden. Starch and sugar… Yum?

Please take your shoes off

It is fascinating, how the simple action of taking your shoes off transformes a place from a construction site to a home. Roof is finally done, ledges are covering the worst errors and gaps and there is a striking difference from the initial, dark grey fake-leather, the wood it makes the van feel roomy and bright. Still not sure to paint it white or to make a mixture of linseed-oil and pigment to prevent the pine from going yellow.

The largest window was removed, the bottom part of the frame was rotten and covered with mold, so it was replaced and so was parts of the plywood. I discoverd that neither of the windows was actually sealed (No wonder there was moisture coming in) so I all windows are now blessed fresh wood to make a tighter grip and silicon all around the edges to prevent leaking.

For the floor flat pine boards was purchased, I have bought 8 m²  pine boards costing me about 600 KR. The part close to the door was broken and removed, will later have straw carpet for shoes and easy cleaning. The frame of the bed was made with solid, new wood and covered with plywood. The design of the bed had several dilemmas and designs. As the main “furniture” it will work as a single bed, double bed, office chair and storage. With the support of several genious students from the Wood-academy we finally settled in a solution that was seemed superior in material cost and flexibility.

Kitchen sink is cut out from an old oak table, Installing the gas is still to come and a delicate mission. (I would prefer not blowing up my new home.).DSC_0604 DSC_0605 DSC_0625 DSC_0631 DSC_0632 DSC_0607

Bad news and good news

Just as the warm spring sun was licking the snow off the ground, waking the buds on the trees from their long sleep, the usual (but mean) winter peek-a-boo kicks in.

With a snowstorm making out-door work dull, days have been spent with illustrations and writing. A saturday of sunshine turned into work exchange with new friends building verandas, tearing out the roof of the cooking up a tapas fiest and waching my first ever northen light.

Bad news are that after ripping out the wall-paper, I found some mold. And as I ripped out more, I found more. Pearls live on the bottom of the sea, right?

I was prepared to do some restoration of the parts around the window, but I will probably have to replace a large part of the plywood in the back wall as well and do a good seal from the inside. The weak point is in the edge were the roof has been built on, strenghting and sealing will hopafully fix the problem.

The good news is that the LED-lights are now installed, making it possible for the sun to shine even during night. Incredible technology. The uselss TV-antenna is out together with some of the 10W lamps that  was there from the start. 0,8W spots have been wired in together with a 1W Bed-light and cigarette chargers. The roof has been frustrating, realizing that there is not a straight angle in there, but turnes out real fancy. I will see if I can get rid of the “sauna-feeling” as I move along.

Over all, this is probably the part of anyone renvating an old van to discover a never ending chain of projects and repairs. But this far, the van has offerd me new skills, knowlage and meetings. Curious visitors getting dreamy eyes as I speak of my project to live on the road. But it takes hard work. Sticking with budget, and finding materal is a challange, but I belive the outcome will be an real adventure.

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