Tag Archives: fifth wheel

Up a Particular Creek Without a Furnace

Okay, Friends. Get this …

Furnace doesn’t work. It’s getting down into the 30s at night. Although the space heater works fine for the inside, I want the furnace going because it keeps the pump and water lines and such warm too. The blower is fine, I hear the burner ignite, but the heat doesn’t stay on.

So, we call the amazing Hans. (This is a story in itself.) Hans and his wife recently opened a small RV sales center, store, and service center, Happy Camping RV, in Vermontville, right around the corner! Is that totally awesome?! No more fear of having to drive to Central New York or even Plattsburgh if we need something. Super nice folks too.

Hans came over this afternoon to take a look. During his visit, I remembered that I needed to empty the euphemistically-named blackwater tank. (If you’re not aware of what this tank holds, suffice it to say – it’s right underneath the bathroom.)

Emptying the tank is pretty darned civilized, frankly. I pull a lever, and the offending “blackwater” goes down a sewer pipe and into our local rivers and streams. Kidding. It goes into our septic tank. I do it once every few weeks.

So, Hans finishes checking things out, is going to investigate a few possibilities, and he’s pulling out of the driveway. I pull the lever to empty the tank. I hear the furnace click on. It stays on. No kidding. The second I empty the tank, the furnace works perfectly. I thought, “No way. That’s impossible.” I turn the furnace off, and try it again in ten minutes. Same result. Clean tank = working furnace. Weird. So, the furnace works, and I won’t let the tank fill up all the way. Hans is still going to try to figure out what’s going on, mostly because it’s so bizarre. There’s a theory about the sensors in the tank and voltage or something.

And now, a Tasteless Pun Alert. If you’re easily offended, don’t read the line below, in which I explain what I have learned during this whole furnace debacle.

*  *  *

What I have learned is this – Don’t sh*t where you heat.



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RV House, the New Reality Show

Yeah, it’s a real Frontier House over here sometimes.

For the most part, we’re okay. We’re warm, we have working plumbing, I can have a hot shower when I want one, and we have a full kitchen. The RV is behaving. But, to keep it behaving, there are chores. These are the times when it starts to feel a little 1862 around here. I was explaining to a friend that we go outside and fill a cistern each day, and that I have to light a fire in the cabin each morning. She quipped, “You guys are out of your minds. Someone should film this for PBS.”

Starting a fire in the woodstove is pretty straight forward, and I really only have to do it if I want to use the cabin that day. My piano is in the cabin, and sometimes I like to sit out there with my computer. Pretty run-of-the-mill, and the draft on our stove is good, so it’s not that big a deal.

However, in the Water Department – Our water is down in a well. Quite literally, a lined three-foot-wide hole in the ground with a cap on it. (pictured) As is usually the case, the RV is completely self-sufficient, and has a 40 gallon water tank. The problem is, I have to get the water from the well to the RV tank. Can’t very well leave a line out there to freeze. So, I do it the simplest way possible.

Have you ever taken a shower while dodging a rolled-up  50 foot garden hose and a sump pump? I do it every morning. Our hose/pump contraption lives in the shower. We roll it up and keep it in the shower so it doesn’t freeze. Each morning, I drag it out in the yard, negotiate the snow, shove the heavy well cap off, and toss the business end of the thing down the well, making sure that the electric cord and plug for the pump stay on dry ground. I take the other end of the hose and walk it over to the water tank inlet, and stick it in. I go get an extension cord, go over to our electric pedestal, plug in the pump, and let the water flow. I can tell it’s almost full when it makes a gurgling sound. Then I roll up the hose and bring it back inside. That takes a while. Rolling up a fifty foot garden hose (with a pump on the end of it) in sub-zero temps … well, you can imagine.

It is at this point that you’re welcome to stop to think either, “That makes sense,” or “He’s completely out of his mind.”


Filed under adirondacks

You’re Going to Live in That Thing All Winter?!

I suppose if I were in a more officious mood, I would have gone with Overwintering in an RV for a title, but one must take humor where one can find it. And the above is a phrase we hear fairly frequently.

As most likely know, we live in a 32′ fifth-wheel RV. (That’s really our RV in the photo. You can see the roof of the little cabin behind it. ) I did a lot of research concerning how it would be possible to tough it out in the camper over the Winter. I read for months, I read everything, and I have to say, we’re doing pretty well. In fact, I honestly don’t feel like I am “toughing it out.” Yes, there are a few extra chores that a lot of people would not put up with, and sometimes they are tough.

But we’re comfortable, and we are totally fine. Everyone said it couldn’t be done. We’d freeze. We wouldn’t be able to use the plumbing. Hasn’t happened that way. And it has already been 27 below zero. We’re fine, and we are indeed over-wintering in an RV. In the spirit of passing on information, below are a few tips and fixes.

We bought a fifth-wheel type RV, because 5ths (larger RVs that hang over a pickup truck) and Motorhomes (the kind you drive) are more substantial than Travel Trailers (the kind you two behind a car). Okey-doke. On to the issues …

Problem – Water Line to the RV is Frozen

Solution – Don’t use the hose to a pressurized faucet. It will freeze. We fill our tank each day, or ever other. This way, water doesn’t stay in the hose. In our specific situation, I take the hose out, connect it to the well pump, and fill the tank. When I’m done, I bring the hose in, so it’s warm. If you have a galley drain from a hose, or any need of hoses outside – no uphill stretches, only downhill.

Problem – Front Door is Frozen Shut

Solution – Hairdryer, on the latch, from inside. It’s not that the door is frozen shut, so much as the warmth from inside collides with the cold from outside, and the little pokey latch thing freezes. Sixty seconds and a hairdryer will fix it. If it continues to stick, use your deadbolt and key to open and close the door, rather than the latch. I have to tell you, this happens a lot. Warm inside vs. cold outside. Ice builds up at the bottom of the door – I’m always either hairdrying or ice-whacking.

Problem – Ice on the Inside of the Windows

Solution – Chances are, that shrink-wrap window stuff would take care of this, although we have not gotten to that. Propane gas (for your furnace and stove) releases a bit of water vapor, as does cooking. A little bit of ventilation goes a long way. During the day – Hatches open a little bit, heat cranking. At night, close the hatches. Haven’t had ice since we instituted this system.We keep a fan running in the bathroom.

Problem – Tanks Underneath the Coach, Open to Freezing

Solution – Buy yourself some of that one-inch foam insulation board, and start cutting. Skirted in tightly with that stuff, and with the seams sealed with metal tape and/or spray foam, you’re good. I also banked plenty of snow up against the insulation. We haven’t had a problem. We don’t even have a heater or a lightbulb under there.

Problem – Potential Freezing of Interior Plumbing

Solution – I had originally planned to put a small ceramic heater in the hatch near the pump and interior water lines. But I forgot. Ah, well. Down to -27F, we’ve just kept the furnace running at our normal 65/70F. It has heated the hatch and the interior plumbing enough that we’ve been fine. In fact, just the furnace seems to heat the hatches and skirted underneath enough that most mornings, the snow bank has pulled away from the skirting a hair. Now, to be clear, you must keep your heat on. And, we were very careful to buy an RV that has the plumbing and pump essentially on the inside. The hot air lines from the furnace are in the same compartment as our pump. If your pump is through a single hatch on the exterior, you’re going to have to take more precautions.

Problem – Filling Onboard Propane Tanks is a Pain

Solution – Call a bulk supplier. Same places that supply homes. Call around – prices vary wildly. I found that every place I called could come out and hook up a 100 gallon tank for us, hooked directly to the RV propane line. We’re using about 70 gallons per month. Not bad.

Problem – What to Do with Black Water

Solution – Hook a four-inch septic pipe to your dump valve, and run it right to the septic tank. Ours worked out nicely – It runs under the extended slide, inside the insulated underneath of the RV. I simply dug to find where to hook in, and went directly to the septic tank. Because the whole works is enclosed under the skirted RV, we have no problems. Do not leave the valve open. You still have to pull the valve and dump the tank. If you leave it open, you’re going to have a total PVC Poopsicle.

And on that savory note, I’m outa here. You have a great day too!


Filed under adirondacks

The List

Well, folks – my camera is still out of whack. I’ll deal with that at some point soon.

The chicky-babes are good! The come out in the morning just like little school girls, and they go in at five each evening without me even herding them – I just go out and close the door. They seem to appreciate the cukes and apples, but the real hits are  broccoli and green grass. They seem to be warming up to my presence too. (Or at least, they seem to have started seeing me as a somewhat harmless food dispenser.)

This week, everything around here is about tucking in for the Winter. I have a cold, which is not optimal for outside work, and it’s been raining for three days besides. However, I still managed to get some things done today. And I managed to get things organized in my head, which is half the battle. 


  • The RV waste tank pipe is now connected directly to the septic tank. No more lugging the transfer tank around … over a pile of bricks and rubble. All I have to do is pull the lever to send the euphemistically-named black water to its septic destination.
  • The yard is cleaned up, annuals have been tossed, flower pots are put away, and chairs are sitting in a pile ready to go to the storage unit in Plattsburgh. 
  • One side of the house is almost clear of junk wood and house rubble. It’ll be done tomorrow.
  • Refilled the propane. We have about 80 gallons, which will hold us a while until we have the time and money to get a big house-sized tank. 

To Do

  • Finish up skirting in the RV with 1″ foam insulation, and spray-foam the seams. (Three sides done, one side left.)
  • Put a little ceramic heater in the hatch with the RV plumbing.
  • Put that window seal tighten-with-a-hair-dryer stuff on the RV windows. 
  • Finish up the insulation and planks in the cabin. 
  • Haul off the junk wood and rubble from the other side of the (used to be) house.
  • Move the logs over to line the driveway so people stop driving on my grass. 
  • Get the Halloween stuff and Winter clothes out of storage in Plattsburgh. 
  • Fix the windshield seal leak in the Jeep. (!)

So, ya know. It’s real life around here this week. It ain’t a barrel of laughs, but we’re fed, dry, and warm.


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Your Private Tour of The Pines

Well, I finally got to it!

Carole and other folks had mentioned it would be nice to see the whole place, specific things, and what’s where. I got pretty close – this isn’t the whole place – our property goes back aways – but you can get an idea. So, welcome to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, farm-country-valley-style over here in Southern Franklin County.

Yeah, I know. It’s not quite beautiful around here yet. But we’re getting there. Enjoy the tour!


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RV Moving Day

We decided on a solution for the cracked chimney problem. Get away from it.

There was much calling to local hauling places (who insisted they didn’t have the hitch to move a fifth-wheel, even though I know it can be moved with a plain old tractor-trailer hitch). The RV place would be happy to move it … for $600. No thanks. In the end, the local tow guy ended up having a hitch that will fit. $85 a hour regular rate, and it likely won’t take an hour. Bonus that I like to spend my money hyper-locally. Awesome.

000_1671Well, let me tell you. It was a psycho-drama. First of all, the tow guy got stuck at a job and didn’t end up here until 8pm – almost dark. You can imagine. Three of the tow guy’s huge machines, a fence casualty, deep ruts in the side yard, and four hours later … it’s moved. And my awesome tow guy only charged me for two hours. I was sweating bullets the whole time. However, in the light of day, I have to say … I love it! The new location is like being in our own little gorgeous RV park! Know what else more than makes up for it? I can finally put the awning out!


So much has happened in 12 hours, I feel like yesterday morning was a week ago. We pulled the chimney down this morning, and you should have seen it! In fact, you can see it – Video on Monday!


Filed under adirondacks

Odds and Ends

Mostly a maintenance odds and ends day this beautiful Wednesday in the Adirondacks.

I put a pot of homemade chili on at seven this morning. Neighbors coming over tonight for a campfire and dinner. They’ve invited us so many places, it was becoming about time I have them over here, humble as it is. Pretty neat component of our little Adirondack village – most of us are usually one or the other house three or four nights a week for dinner, or at least a few beers and a fire.

100_0847As I mentioned before – I think – I got the RV hookup and a PVC joint attached to the top of the line to the septic tank. Super sweet! Why? Because now, we empty the euphemistically named “blackwater” from the RV to a transfer tank, then we roll the transfer tank over to the connection at the septic to dump it. And because the hoses now have twist-lock attachements on their ends, it’s really rather civilized.

There was a bit of an incident when we tried to do all this without the connectors. I suggested we just hold the hose to the transfer tank. (What can I say? I’m an optimist.) Long story short, I totally held my partner hostage, using poop-water as my weapon. You see, partner’s hands were the hands holding the non-attachable hose to the transfer tank. I opened the floodgates, and naturally, by being the one holding the hose, partner is trapped and can’t let go – hands unfortunately moisturized by the foul green sweetwater, and standing there yelling, “It’s on me! It’s on me!” Let’s just say that we now know that composted RV poop-water smells like a wheat-and-antifreeze cocktail. Drinks anyone?

Anyhow. Now we’re totally in the modern age over here. Let’s hear it for PVC and PVC cement! I swear, I could build a house with the stuff.

100_0838I buried a Coleman cooler in the dirt behind the shed. It’s a good thing though. Don’t worry – it’s not to store body parts or munitions. A neighbor had an idea, and I had heard the same before, so I thought I’d give it a shot. You see, it would be handy to have a root cellar. But our water table is very high. Neighbor came up with the idea of burying a cooler in the ground, with just the lid sticking up. I’d been reading this terrific root cellar site, and with what I had read there … well, it at least seems vaguely plausible. At least worth a half-hour of my time to dig a hole.

100_0848Third little project was putting some air in the RV tires. It’s amazing how sensitive you are to being just a little bit off level when you live in an RV. They looked a hair low, so I checked the air in ’em. Not a big deal – down to 40 psi when they should be 50. Thought I would just put some canned air or fix a flat in, but then I remembered Mayor Neighbor has a compressor. Awesome. Except when I fired it up, I discovered that the generator won’t run it.

Ah, well. Back to the Fix-a-Flat idea.

Old Cranky Guy Next Door Report for Today – In residence.
Crank Level – Low. No one hanging around to complain to. Ha!


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