Setting up camp

the.semitrailer.project

day 110  : :  blog post 005

Another quick post introducing my second video for this project. This will be part of the documenting of our journey that I intend to do through the various steps of our temporary accomodation, design, organising and build phases of the experience.

This video touches on the setting up of our temporary tent “village” with the trials of setting up in winter and technical challenges.

 

Unintentional community

the.semitrailer.project

day 095  : :  blog post 004

I’m looking forward to exploring the aspect of community living at our property’s collective. We are an organically created group who have initially come together with the common interest of building tiny houses.

But I feel that there is much more to our group as interest in tiny houses usually carry a value set along with it, such as subsistence living, low-impact low-consumerism repair-culture mindset, environmental awareness, small footprint, non-mainstream thinking driven less about finances and more about interconnectedness. I haven’t had the chance to suss all this out with our group yet but I sense (with hopeful anticipation!) that a lot of this is present.

What is interesting about this is that Heidi and I have been thinking for a decade about the idea of living in an intentional community, and here we are in an unintentional one and it looks exciting. The tiny house part is of course the feature presentation and we are delighted to be neighbours with a couple of people, Pete and Rob, who have built tiny houses already. On top of that, of the 8 people who comprise our community, all but one is building semi trailer tiny houses like us. So that’s currently 4 concurrent builds. Very cool and fortuitous!

Even though we are all coming from different parts of Adelaide with a mix of previous jobs and lingering attachments to the city, we are starting to mix, share in activities and have social gatherings. Most recently, Pete and Lyn, our “landlords” (I hesitate to use such a cold label, it’s just shorter than “land owners where we are spending time during our tiny house build” ☺️) took us all on a traditional paddlewheeler cruise on the Murray River as a form of welcome to our new community. What’s nice is that personalities are meshing on top of our common interests and near 50 year age span from oldest to youngest.

Lucy and Sammy have get stuck into doing some food growing in our semi-community garden patch. Once I get my head out of being mired in getting our so-called temporary accomodation sorted, I am looking forward to getting involved in community projects and working bees, etc. like this.

In the meantime, it’s just nice knowing that we have some exciting times ahead getting to know our group, beginning cooperatively building our respective homes, learning new skills together and from one another plus involving the wider tiny house community in what we’re doing. There’s lots of space for some weekender camp-outs and tiny house events! We just have to make sure Pete and Lyn are up for all the shenanigans that we are all brewing☺️

a cosmic leap

the.semitrailer.project

day 079  : :  blog post 003

OK, so there has been a month between blog posts. Good reason for it: the “cosmic leap”. That being: the epic gulf between living in a unit with running water, electricity when you flick a switch, a place for your poo to go when you flush, things like solid walls and so on. It’s a reasonably big deal to have to fabricate this stuff quickly in a manner that will last the better part of a year of building our tiny house without feeling like we are perpetually camping. Thus the span between blog posts: I’ve been busy dammit 😝

Not only busy, but fretting about my capabilities not only in terms of our little tent village, but what I’ll be like building a “proper” dwelling. I spend countless hours frustrated with stupid tasks like figuring out how my solar panels should be mounted or how plumbing works or what a good composting toilet should function like. Everything takes WAY longer than I feel like it should. WAY.

Added bonus: it’s winter and cold with random moments of inconvenient rain and intense wind. I’d have my frustrations no other way…pile it on!

It’s not only the time taken but my mental anguish of not knowing how some basic stuff works after many decades of being on this planet. The dumbfounded looks I got at the electrical shop when I was talking about how 12V set-ups work or what material my ground wire should be makes me feel like I’ve been living in a cave. Of course it seems like every Australian goes camping and so they all are experts at 12-volt everything, but I’m just a noob who knows how to use a camera and his computer and that’s about it so it seems.

I also made the decision not to post too much about this part of the process as I wanted this to be about building a tiny house on a semi trailer, even though my new friend Rob believes that I should be showcasing the whole experience. I can say that it is definitely not for the feint of heart and I give Heidi credit for stepping away from homely comforts and embracing living in a tent for a few months and then in a tiny house. She’s taking it slowly and occasionally shakily (we did a re-design of our sleeping set-up after a recent blustery wind storm that vibrated our bell tent too much for her liking) but is still on-board with the adventure…for now! I agree with Rob in the sense that while this adventure is a definite challenge, it is worth doing these things in life to shake ourselves awake from our routine. It is good for people to see that it is possible to break loose from convention and follow our dreams, even if they seem crazy to others.

And so I continue to shape our temporary home. It is taking longer than I hoped for but I do realise that it has to be emotionally sustainable for us to do the tiny house build, and therefore has to be comfortable enough, functional and not a hindrance on a day-to-day basis. So if getting running hot and cold water, a fuss-free toilet, warm and safe shelter and reliable power takes me a bit longer, I guess it will pay off in the coming months. And I suppose (he says, trying to convince himself) I am learning transportable skills now for the tiny house, so hopefully it’s not at all going to waste!

Collecting raw materials

the.semitrailer.project

day 045  : :  blog post 002

Just a quick post with the first video that I have created. This will be part of the documenting of our journey that I intend to do through the various steps of our temporary accomodation, design, organising and build phases of the experience.

Forewarning: some stuff I post might only be interesting to Heidi and I, some things might be technical and only interesting to other people ready to embark on a similar journey, and some things I post will be of general interest!

Anyway, here’s a video just showing my first foray into collecting some materials for our temporary house build. My next video will be more of an overview of the intended project and why we are doing it.

welcome to the semitrailer project

the.semitrailer.project

day 043  : :  blog post 001

And so it begins!

We have decided to take the plunge and start building a tiny house. Heidi and I started talking about the possibility of compact living when we first met, as we loved the idea of simple living and neat designs like straw bale and cobb, cottages, cabins and other cute, handmade dwellings. Tiny houses on wheels (THOWs) came a bit later when I started looking into the work of tiny house granddaddy Jay Shafer who began to popularise the idea of living tiny on wheels around 2008.

It didn’t take us long to start dreaming of having one too, especially in the increasingly challenging Australian housing market. However, dreaming and doing are two very different things, and it took us awhile to get a combination of finances, opportunity and courage to put it all together into action.

I have cited the day as “43” here as I have unofficially made the end of a recent event the day that shifted our ambitions into gear: the first-ever Australian Tiny House Festival, in Bendigo, Victoria on 23-24th March, 2019. Once we saw all the great ideas, likeminded folks talking about it and getting excited about it, real-life houses we could walk inside and enthusiastic speakers giving inspired presentations, we felt like we had put it off long enough.

The only sad part is that, once again, we were ahead of the curve on this one but weren’t brave enough to be a pioneer and take the plunge when we first started thinking about it. Despite it seeming like a “popular” and “trendy” thing to do now, we still feel like it is an unconventional approach to solving the housing problem. Thinking about it more though, I’m sure that I am thinking it is more common than it is simply because I personally have been thinking about it for many years!

We have arrived at today, day 43, and the first entry to a journal that I aim to keep about the trials and tribulations of building not only a THOW, but one that is built from a trailer that usually sits behind a semi-rig. I’ll go into detail about this in my next blog post, but in short we heard about this approach from friends of ours and it appealed to Heidi and I because of:

  • the larger, maximised floor space
  • the pre-made outer structure that is already built to be on the road
  • the near limitless weight possibilities
  • the universal towing ease
  • the low entry price of acquiring the base trailer

among other things. We’ll soon see if this has been the right decision for us, but looking at the first trailer creation of our friend Rob, it seems like there is every chance that it will be a great canvas for us to create our very first home build!

001-delivering palletsDay 43, in practical terms, was just a day of me picking up some wood pallets (something I’m familiar with as I’ve built many an item of furnishing with them 😄)  in order to deliver them to the property where we’re doing our build and create a platform that our temporary tent home will reside on. So nothing too momentous, but a significant first step towards the big build and only 3 weeks away from living in a canvas shelter while we build for the rest of 2019!

Let the memories begin…


I’ll be throwing some photos of our journey up at our Insta site the.semitrailer.project and I’ll be documenting progress on YouTube as well (link to come)

Vegan foods reviewed – part 6 (USA edition)

I recently came back from LA due to some family responsibilities and while I didn’t get much time to explore the full gamut of vegan offerings while there, I did make sure to try some new stuff at the grocery stores.

If you’ve tried and loved Follow Your Heart products, I was delighted to find that they started as a restaurant/store decades ago and that place happened to be near where I was staying. (This was more of an anecdote because I was excited to visit their awesome restaurant…I’m not reviewing their food this time around! 😛)

This entire aisle is vegan food; a mind-boggling vista if you’ve ever been to a normal grocery store!

Anyway, today we have some fun offerings from Daiya, Clean South, Sweet Earth and So Delicious.

These reviews are particularly geared towards former omni eaters who are keen to have that meat or dairy favourite available as a tasty cruelty-free equivalent.

About the ratings system: Ratings are for what I consider the important elements of an appealing food product, with “Texture” being one that you might not normally see for other food reviews, but to me it is quite indicative of the success of a meat or dairy substitute. I choose “Value” over “Price” as vegan foods are generally more expensive than their meat or dairy counterparts (or rather, the latter are unreasonably and irrationally cheap given what they are) so I choose to focus on how good they are for the amount you pay.

On to today’s reviews:


PRODUCT: CLEAN SOUTH – VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS
Type: Prepared meal
Country of origin: USA
Clean South




clean south wings

Whenever I see things with “buffalo” flavouring, my mouth instantly starts to water. Back when I had an omnivore diet, hot chicken wings were my guilty pleasure. While I now think about how abhorrent it is to consume the little wings of young chickens, the desire for that flavour doesn’t leave you and I am forever on a search for the perfect buffalo wing replacement. Enter: Clean South’s Vegan Buffalo Wings.

I am not prone to using OMG to describe foods, but O.M.G. these were good. I honestly couldn’t even be bothered heating them for the first half of the box, but then when I did and paired them with Daiya’s dairy-free blue cheese dressing, flipping’ ‘eck bro, things got crazy-good. Now, in restaurants I have tasted some darned good vegan ‘wings’ but this was the first packaged ones I’ve had that just nailed it. Texture, chewiness, beautiful tangy and hot sauce (and plenty of sauce), tasty and addictive. I’m a big fan of Franks’ Red Hot sauce inspired hot wings sauce, so this was just right for me.

Being that I was in the US and this was a local LA product, I kind of expect things to be a wee bit cheaper, but no, these were quite expensive at US$9. I’m happy to support a local, small producer that is banging out awesome food though. I desperately wish I could get these in Australia, but I’ also glad as I’d be broke.


 

More to come….


Plant-based paradises: Chiang Mai

It’s getting easier to find vegan products in shops and cafes in the western world, but despite this it is still not as ubiquitous as I’d like. As far as I feel like we’ve come in Australia, I still have to hunt around for restaurants which are often a decent drive away from my suburb, or I get stuck with the usual terrible quality in convenience stores, petrol stations and corner chip shops.

There are places in the world, however, where there are plant-based options around every corner, especially when global tourism collides bringing together an amassing of worldly-wise visitors demanding ethical food options.

I am in one of those places now: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Going back a few years, CM was already rising to meet the needs of vegans even though the momentum had not yet really hit its stride in the West. Coming back now, I’m am in plant-based paradise looking at the abundance of not only 100% vegan establishments, but a general awareness in many cafes that acknowledge and allow customisation to accommodate non-meat and dairy customers. My favourite phone app (also a website), Happy Cow, shows off the glorious results of Chiang Mai’s options with so many green pins (100% vegan) but encouragingly so many others with genuine accommodating options.

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Chiang Mai’s central tourist area around the Old City. Scale of this image is approx. 4km across

By contrast, my hometown of Adelaide, Australia – while improving every year – will have restaurants/cafes that offer “veg options” (red pins) but quite often that will just mean that one main meal on the menu is veg-friendly and even that might still have cheese on it. On top of that, the majority of the listings above in Chiang Mai are restaurants open all day; in Adelaide, over 75% of all vegan or vegetarian establishments are only open at lunch.

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Mouthwatering massaman curry with brown rice and salad at Bohdi Tree 2, Chiang Mai

The quality of the food in Chiang Mai varies like anywhere, but often it is at a very high standard. I have tried a variety of cuisines (lots of Thai options of course, but often Italian, American, Middle Eastern and Indian are the one that are covered well) plus exotic salad shops, street stalls and specialty places like dessert cafes. There are many places doing their own mock meats or non-dairy cheeses, etc to varying success as I suspect that finding international commercial products is not as easy or viable to keep costs down, but this also provides some great opportunities for chefs to try something different.

As competition increases, it’s easy to start pitting one vegan place against another. However, I am still gleefully just trying places, thankful for so many ethically-minded people and in a state of awe at the variety of options at my disposal. I try not to be too critical as I want this industry to succeed, and luckily much of the food equates to hardy home-cooking which will always satisfy on some level. To be fair, I am also not seeking out high-end eateries as there are so many low-to-midrange ones, so if you’re after fine dining, there might be fewer places available for you.

I have also visited Pai – about 4 hours’ drive from CM – and it too is well-endowed with vegan options given it’s tiny size. Check out this delicious mushroom-based bbq “pulled pork” roll I had plus gorgeous choco smoothie at Blossom Cafe.

The future is bright and the menus are exploding with choices!

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