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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First night in The Van

Sushi bed

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.

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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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Designing a tiny Home

Roughly 6m2 wood (pine) for the roof and floor is purchased together with linseed-oil and glue for the wallpapers. This weekend will be intense carpentry, and I discoverd the local second hand with a universe of recourses. Stainless-steel sink for 35 KR and a gas-stove that I did a final bid at for 335 KR on the online auction-site “Tradera”. Designprocess is getting started and using the principles of permaculture when trying to fullfill my needs on a 3m2 space that is “The pearl”. LED-spotligts are going up in the roof and the hysterical wallpapers with flowers are ready to decorate the walls as a substitute for that fact that I will be missing a real-life garden.

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Demolition

232 screws later and the large bed, the little bed/storage, shelfs and kitchenbench is out. My goal was to get all the synthetic materials out, I even started cutting up the fake leather above the drivers seat and discoverd some boards. Good idea? Dont know. Vision is starting to clear up as I move along: A little cabin on weels. Lets see how it goes. Simple “low tech” solutions, flexible design, rustic, natural materials.

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