Welcome Party

Thu Oct 07 2021

Having great neighbors is really important to us, and our new neighbors threw us an amazing welcome party as we spent our first weekend in the RV on our own land.

Welcome Party
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The last two weeks has been non-stop, but in such a good way - a relaxing weekend vacation, some progress at the property, the warmest of welcomes to our new neighborhood, and seeing some old friends! Let's catch you up.

Weekend vacation in Portland, Maine

Two weeks ago we booked an impromptu last-minute weekend getaway to Portland, Maine. We had an appointment that meant we needed to be in Boston at 8am the following Monday morning, and we had some free hotel nights that needed using up before the end of the year, so we figured we might as well might a weekend out of it.

A Weekend in Portland, Maine

We took an impromptu weekend vacation to Portland, ME in late September 2021 and fell in love with its stunning coastline and delicious food.

A Weekend in Portland, Maine

Despite the weather forecast promising almost non-stop rain all weekend, it was completely dry and we had plenty of blue skies.

We had a wonderful vacation - check out our blog post about our weekend in Portland, Maine to read more about the home show we went to, the sights we saw, and how I almost lost Diana in a book store!

Shipping container

You may remember a little while ago we posted a video in which we talked about why we decided not to get a shipping container.

YouTube Video Player
Spreading ALL the woodchips + update on shipping container

Well, things change - last week we had a shipping container delivered to the property!

Renting a Shipping Container

We rented a 40ft high cube shipping container for temporary secure, dry storage for our tools and materials while we build our house, finally freeing up our truck bed!

Renting a Shipping Container

However, the difference is that we decided to rent, not buy - rental prices are much more reasonable than the astronomical prices to buy right now. We also chose a 40ft container rather than the smaller 20ft container we had previously been considering.

Find out more about how to choose a shipping container, why we opted for a 40ft container, and why we had to make some last minute changes to the delivery in our blog post all about renting a shipping container.

Shipping Container Delivery
Delivery of the 40ft shipping container turned out to be a little trickier than expected!

Welcome to the neighborhood

But the big news this week is that we have officially become Vermonters!

Last Friday, October 1st 2021, we began the process of switching over our address to Vermont from Texas where we have been domiciled for the past 3 years as full-time RVers.

Establishing Texas Residency with Escapees RV Club

Despite the nomadic lifestyle of many full-time RVers, everyone in the US must have a home state. Our main reason for driving all the way from California down to Texas was to become Texas residents - to establish Texas as our domicile state.

Establishing Texas Residency with Escapees RV Club

It wasn't just a formality though - last Friday we moved our RV for the first time in 6 months and drove it to our property. We still don't have utilities on our property (no electric, fiber internet, water or sewer) but we're no strangers to dry camping.

100 Days of Boondocking

Yesterday marked 100 days in our RV since we last had hookups - we'll share how we did it and our top tips for boondocking off-grid.

100 Days of Boondocking
RV Parking Spot
We had cleared this space at the bottom of our driveway and spread out woodchips ready to park our RV there. Over time these woodchips will decompose into mulch and we can plant this area.

The reason for taking the RV to our property this weekend is that some of our neighbors (you know who you are!) had very kindly offered to throw us a welcome party. They had invited all our neighbors within about a half mile, including some who were themselves new to the area and hadn't met many people yet.

In the end we had about 20 people turn up. Our neighbors hosted all the food at their house, including hot dogs, coleslaw, beans and a Latvian potato salad that Diana made.

Afterwards people walked across to our property where we had set up chairs, tables and a large gazebo in case of rain. We did a round of introductions, learned a little about everyone, and shared a little about ourselves and our plans for the house build.

RV Gazebo Shelter
With the ever-present threat of rain, our neighbors lent us this gazebo to give us some shelter.

In my opinion, a good community is just as important (if not moreso) as having a nice house - and our neighbors are wonderful! Everyone is so friendly and has made us feel so welcome.

I particularly enjoy being part of a rural community where there is clearly a strong sense of sharing and bartering - we were given several beautiful bouquets of flowers people had picked from their own gardens, and had offers of fresh eggs, apples and other produce, as well as tools and equipment we might need during the build. I really look forward to finding ways in which we're able to contribute back as well.

After lunch we gave some tours of RV, sharing some of the things we've learned from living in such a small space for over 3 years and how that might help us in the house build - everything from our off-grid solar system to our remodel and custom desk.

RV Remodel with Ergonomic Workspace: Before & After

After living full-time in our RV for 2 years, it was time to remodel. We embarked on a big project to remodel our RV and build the ultimate ergonomic workspace.

RV Remodel with Ergonomic Workspace: Before & After

From there, a group of about 10 of us took a walk up our new driveway and along our trails, and we were able to show them how we are planning to lay out the buildings to optimize for views and solar potential. What I enjoyed the most is that a couple of the people had lived in the area for more than 50 years and knew our property well - they seemed happy about the way we are viewing the land and our plans.

It was so nice to sit around a campfire that evening - our first campfire on our own land! The quiet crackling of the fire was disturbed only by two barn owls who swooped in and landed on the tall pine just near us before heading out to hunt. Very cool.

Seeing friends

Purely by coincidence, we happened to have some friends visiting the area from out of state that weekend. On Friday, a couple of Diana's former colleagues stopped by during a brief weekend vacation from San Francisco.

We had planned to visit San Francisco last spring, but then the pandemic came along and put a stop to those plans, so it's been a long time since we last saw friends from back in California!

Then on Saturday, I happened to see that some of our RVer friends, Will & Sushila were barely an hour down the road from us, visiting from their home in Colorado to attend a friend's wedding. They were able to meet up with us on Sunday - first for a quick tour of our property and then lunch nearby.

RVer Friends
It's been more than a year since we last caught up with full-time RVer friends, and longer since we last saw Will & Sushila!

Again, we realized that they're the first RVer friends we've seen since we left the west coast more than a year ago, so it was awesome to hang out with them, even if just for a few hours.

Coast to Coast in 8 Days

In just one week we've traveled almost 2,500 miles across 12 states on our way from Washington to New York - and we've hit a lot of firsts!

Coast to Coast in 8 Days

Ground deploy solar panels

If there was one negative about last weekend, it was the weather. Bookended by sunny weather before and after, the weekend itself was dominated by thick cloud and the perpetual threat of rain - rarely materializing in anything but the lightest drizzle.

Since we had our roof replaced earlier this year, we no longer have any rooftop solar on our RV. With no power on-site and no generator, that means we're not really well set up for dry camping at the moment!

Replacing our RV Roof

After discovering mold in our RV roof, we had the entire roof replaced. We learned what caused the mold and made some modifications to help stop it happening again.

Replacing our RV Roof

Although the panels are no longer on the roof, we do still have them in storage. A couple of years ago, we built a portable ground deploy array using the exact same panels as we had used on the roof.

DIY Portable Solar Panel

A portable folding suitcase solar panel is one of the easiest ways to get started with solar, but they can be very expensive - so we built our own for half the price!

DIY Portable Solar Panel

The rationale for using the same panels is that we could always put them up on the roof if we wanted, but the inverse is also true - we can use the panels from the roof to make more ground deploys!

I've been really happy with the design of my DIY portable panel, so I set about making another one. Unfortunately I didn't quite have time to get it done before last weekend, so instead we went for a simpler approach - we just bolted four panels to a couple of pressure 2x4s and leaned them up against a stump.

Bolting four panels to a couple of 2x4s was a simple but effective way of creating a ground deploy array - but it still wasn't enough.

To do this, I picked up an MC4 crimper, a load of MC4 connectors, some Y-connectors, and a 30ft MC4 extension cable. Rather than hardwiring the panels together, I joined them with MC4 connectors.

This is important as it means I can connect them in series for about 80V which our Victron 100/50 solar charge controller can handle no problem. Alternatively, I can connect them in parallel for the MPPT input on our REDARC BCDC1240D which can only accept up to 32V.

REDARC BCDC1240D DC to DC Charger Review

Installing a DC to DC charger in our RV is probably the most unusual but best upgrade we've ever done!

REDARC BCDC1240D DC to DC Charger Review

And if you're wondering how we plug them into the Victron, we went for the simple option - I put a couple of MC4 connectors on the combiner box up on the roof which is still connected to our Victron 100/50.

RV Solar: Part 3 - Installing Rooftop Solar Panels

Rooftop solar panels means effortless, free electricity whenever the sun is shining - and that lets us stay off grid for longer!

RV Solar: Part 3 - Installing Rooftop Solar Panels

Unfortunately, there was so little sun that even with 600W of tilted ground deployed solar panels, it wasn't enough - on Saturday we generated just 70Wh (about 1.5% of our battery capacity) and Sunday wasn't much better at 190Wh (about 4% of our battery capacity).

By Monday morning, we had run out of power. Without a generator, we resorted to our last-resort - idling the truck for an hour or so while plugged into our REDARC DC-to-DC charger to give us some juice back in the batteries. Not ideal, but it works in a squeeze!

With empty batteries, we decided to head back to our RV park later on Monday morning after finishing a few errands on the property. Even without solar, we had spent 3 nights on our land and it felt amazing - it was so quiet and peaceful!

First Night
Our first weekend on our own land, and it felt amazing!

Although we're planning to head south for the winter, when we return to Vermont next spring we're thinking about heading straight to our property. For this, we'll need a generator for power, as well as solutions for our other utilities, but we have a few ideas.

For now, we're just thankful to have had such a lovely weekend on our property, meeting our wonderful new neighbors as well as some old friends!

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