A Little More Room to Breathe

Remember how excited I was a few weeks ago when it looked like something was happening?

Right, well, pretty much nothing concrete has happened since then.

Initially the hang up was because there were some county-required corrections that needed to be made to the plans, which is pretty standard. Because our former contractor was the one who engineered the blueprints (and we had already paid him in full for this aspect of the job) we had to wait for his team to complete said changes.

A process that should have taken a week or two stretched out into an entire month. The former contractor then said that the plans were ready, but he wouldn’t release them to us until we paid an additional fee of $700.

And that’s when I kind of lost it. In an over-the-phone display of impatience, frustration and post-partum-hormone-fueled rage I succeeded in embarrassing myself enough to convince the contractor to let us have the corrected plans without paying the additional fee beforehand. I don’t know if he was fully able to understand every word out of my mouth because I burst into tears halfway through, but obviously he got the gist of it.

We were finally able to resubmit to the county, but now we’ve hit a snag with the grading permit. The original owners of our property graded the pad that the house is going to be built on without a permit. This resulted in a code-enforcement violation. We paid the fee that was due ages ago, but now the county is requiring that we have the original grading engineer re-certify the grading plan that he created almost a decade ago for a completely different owner and a completely different house and it’s just taking up more and more time.

Our loan is for one year, which means that we have to have the house fully finished before mid-December otherwise we have to pay extra money for an extension, which I would very much like to avoid.

TL;DR – We are hitting time-wasting snags with the permit process and I am not wearing my impatience very gracefully.

Meanwhile, Noah has been venting his own frustration in much more productive ways than yelling at contractors. He took a couple of weekends and used the leftover laminate from the bus remodel to semi-finish the porch!


It’s been fantastic having the room to spread out. The kids have been able to play board games and we can put Sawyer down on a blanket on the floor for tummy-time. It’s nice to have a place to stretch our limbs if we want to, or rough-house and turn somersaults and cartwheels, should the impulse grab us.


In sum: Boo to construction delays! Hooray for extra space!


Interview with Off the Grid Radio

This past week has been pretty miserable for the Springfields since most of us have been battling the flu. We’ve been quarantined in our tiny abode for five days, but thankfully, Noah has improved things around here a significant way that made that slightly more bearable than it normally would have been.

I’ll be sharing more about that next post, because it’s been very exciting for us, but I thought you might enjoy a link to a short interview I gave for Off the Grid Radio.

It’s just me this time as it was scheduled during the day while Noah was at work. Please forgive me, I refer to our family at one point as “an inspiration” to our friends and family (when Noah heard that he just laughed and laughed) and then give some advice toward the end that is definitely much more practical than inspirational.

If you’re interested in the entire 24-minute interview the link is HERE.

One Year!

Jumping Jehosephat. Can you believe that it’s been almost A WHOLE YEAR since we moved into the bus?!

Sheer insanity, I tell you.

When we were first discussing this half-baked plan of ours, Noah and I decided that we would stick with it for at least a year. We told ourselves we could do anything for just a year and we would keep a minimum amount in our savings account to afford to put a down payment on an apartment or something if worse came to worst.

A year ago this week the five of us moved out of our small rental and into a bus with no running water or gas to cook food. We had to unpack in the dark with only the aid of one electric lantern (loaned to us by a neighbor) because we had no electricity yet:


A year ago this week I thought my cycle was late due to the stress of the move, but I took a pregnancy test “just in case”:


A year ago this week my guest post at Money Saving Mom was published and I didn’t know it because we didn’t have the computer up yet and I was checking in from the library and my stats had magically skyrocketed into oblivion. That’s where a lot of you heard about this blog, so it’s kind of like our one year anniversary too! Happy Anniversary, friends!

losing our home

It’s amazing what a difference a year can make. A lot of my thoughts and feelings about living in the bus have changed and morphed with time and circumstance.

When we first moved in I was excited and optimistic, although I was worried about the stigma associated with not living in a brick and mortar house and I was keenly aware of the kids not being thrilled with the experience. I was secretly terrified that it was all going to be a waste of time and effort because we weren’t saving any money and were just barely hovering above that bare minimum amount that we had agreed on. We had a sketch of a house plan, a contractor willing to take on the project of building our very simple house on a limited budget and the courage to just go for it.

Six months later we were in the middle of Summer with record high heat. I was enormously pregnant and miserable and our contractor was declined by the bank. I was feeling very disillusioned by tiny space living and Noah was sending me posts about places for rent nearby. I’m not gonna lie: we very nearly caved.

Now, though… now the end is in sight. Sawyer is here, Spring is coming (and with it, our Saturn peaches!), our savings account is healthy and we should be breaking ground within the month. I don’t really have “All the Thoughts” about living in the bus anymore because it’s just become normal for us. It’s where we are right now.

I can’t say that living in a bus has been an amazing experience all the time. I can’t say that I’ve loved every minute of it and that I would do it again in a heartbeat. I don’t know that I would recommend it for everyone.

I CAN say, though, that I don’t think that I’ll ever regret it and I CAN say that I think the people who immediately dismiss this living style as “impossible” or just “not for them” as a way to save money to accomplish a goal or a dream should maybe think about giving it a shot.

Even if it’s just for a year.

A Financial Question

Dear readers, we would love to have your input again.

It’s terribly useful to be able to throw quandaries out there and hear a plethora of advice and suggestions from all walks of life. You’ve helped us decide on a vehicle to purchase, given us ideas on how to solve our food storage problem and had a ton of suggestions for how to get around not having a way to cook food when we first got out here. You guys are The Best.

This time, it’s a financial question. If your eyes have already glazed over, feel free to skip down to the bottom and say hi to Sawyer.

If you’ll recall from forever ago when I wrote all about construction loans, during the building period the home-owner (that’s us) is only required to pay simple interest monthly on the amount of funds that have currently been withdrawn from the loan.

What this looks like for us right now is that we have drawn about $40k at a simple interest rate of 3.875%. That leaves us with an interest only payment due of only about $130 per month (so far). This amount will increase as more funds are drawn from the loan but is otherwise static.

A normal mortgage payment follows a trend that looks like this, where the majority of your money goes toward interest and a teeny tiny amount goes toward principal:


However, right now we’re at a place where that is temporarily flip-flopped. We have a tiny amount of interest and any additional funds we throw at it will go directly toward our principle. We could potentially start paying down our mortgage before it even begins, thus saving even more money on future, compound interest and shaving down our future monthly payments, not to mention time off the loan.

There are all very good things indeed and I was terrifically excited when I realized how that all worked out. However, there are other things we could do with those funds as well.

1. Save it as security for when our mortgage starts in earnest. We currently have about 4-5 months worth of monthly income set aside as a general emergency fund, but we could always add to that. (Things have settled down quite a bit and we have been able to sock quite a bit more away each month than we could when we were first getting set up).

2. Put it toward the house itself by upgrading finishes, etc. If we find a great deal on Craigslist for some sort of building material or appliance, etc. it would be nice to have the funds set aside to purchase it with cash.

3. Invest it. We are currently setting aside quite a bit out of Noah’s paycheck toward retirement and his employee stock purchase plan account, but we have been meaning for a long time to actually start investing on our own and now could be as good a time as any. Better, in fact, that others, some might say: if we can earn at a higher interest rate than we’d be saving by paying down the mortgage (so, a return of more than 4%) then it makes more sense to invest.

A lot of this depends on what our long-term goals are (aside from “Live in a structure without wheels), how much satisfaction we would get by paying down our mortgage early and what kind of investments we might potentially make. It’s kind of an impossible question to answer definitively, BUT we would love to hear what YOU would do in our situation.

Aren’t finances exciting?!


On the Bus-Stead

I really wish that the reason I haven’t been writing the past couple of weeks was because things have been a whirlwind of activity and that I could come back here and inundate you with pictures of all the progress that’s been made on the house. I wish I had even so much as a a shovelful of dirt to proudly post.

Unfortunately, it’s simply been due to the mundanities of daily life mixed with some foul weather. On cloudy days turning on the computer means that I am instantly greeted with a loud, whiny screech from our inverter telling me that I really need to stop sucking up the power if I want to be able to turn on the lights come nighttime.  Throw in some irregular nap schedules from the kidlets and you have a perfect recipe for not being able to blog.

Excuses aside, I do have some things to share.

House-wise: it’s still at least another week before we get our plans back from the engineer who is making the corrections that the county requires so we can get our building permit. Our contractors are making preparations for getting temporary power out here so that it’s ready to go as soon as possible. So, we’re doing some more waiting. Huzzah.

I have to say that it has been difficult to be patient lately. Since we began this endeavor I have been able to tick off on my fingers multiple friends who have bought houses and are now nicely settled or are in the process of doing so within the next few weeks. It seems like it would have been so much easier to have been able to just find something already built and to have made-do.

When it’s rainy and the kids are antsy and the condensation from the cold is dripping down from the ceiling in random places I want a house so badly I am tempted to run outside and start digging the footings myself.

That’s when I have to take a deep breath and remind myself over and over again that this isn’t forever and it will eventually all be worth it. Or, if nothing else, at least over with.

In actuality it’s not so bad most of the time. Bus-living has started to seem quite normal. I was re-reading some of my earlier posts and I don’t really know what I was so worked up about just a few months ago.

Anyway, now that we are approaching real construction time we are supposed to be getting serious about choosing our finishes. Noah has started bringing home samples and pamphlets from Home Depot again (because the first batch mysteriously disappeared somehow…). I have been reacting to this by spending time on Google and Pinterest trying to find inspiration and ideas. But then I get overwhelmed thinking about all the teeny tiny details that have be chosen and decided on (hardware! backsplashes! baseboard height!) and the effort of trying to reconcile my taste with Noah’s and I have to stop for a few days. Then the cycle repeats.

However, we are making a little bit of progress. So far we have decided that we like this color flooring:


And that’s about it.

Bus-stead-wise: One of the things that we’ve been occupying ourselves with these past few weeks has been trying to tame the fruit trees that have been neglected on the property for almost a decade. We are lucky enough to live next door to a retired high school agriculture teacher  and he came over and showed us the proper way to go about it. I think the best piece of advice that he gave us was that it’s pretty much impossible to over-prune.

Noah thinks I’m exaggerating, but I honestly think I gave myself tendonitis from pruning so much.

Case in point, here’s a before and after shot of just one of our peach trees:



I think that’s enough to have given anybody tendonitis, so there.

We’re also considering hatching some chicks this spring. Or, rather, letting the hens hatch some (I’m busy enough as it is without having to sit on a nest all day long). I’m thinking we’ll do six or so to account for any roosters and to give some away to family and friends. After doing some cursory research on the internet, there are all sorts of things that you’re supposed to do in order to let your hens hatch their own eggs (rather than incubating them) including building a “broody box” for whichever hen seems the “broodiest”, meaning the one that is sitting in the corner knitting little clawed booties, I guess. Then you’re supposed to let them get into the mood by letting them sit on golf balls for practice (I kid you not) before switching them out with fertilized eggs.

At any rate, I’m sure there’s a legitimate reason behind all of that, but I’m thinking we might just let the hens do their thing and see how it goes. I figure chickens were reproducing successfully long before humans came around and started building special boxes for them and sticking golf balls in their nests, right?

Or maybe not. This is the scene out there right now and those eggs look pretty neglected. The chickens are all gathered by the door at my feet, but to abandon your nest for the hope of some kitchen scraps? I can practically see the eggs shivering out there!


We also planted a winter garden, but the only things that escaped the gophers and rabbits and squirrels were a couple stalks of broccoli, tons of cabbage and butter-yellow cauliflower. The cabbage hasn’t fully grown yet, but the cauliflower was delicious and we were able to give several heads of it away to family and friends.

Aaaand I think that just about covers our amateur farming efforts. It’s all a work in progress.

Something is HAPPENING

We have owned this property since November, 2012. We have lived out here in the bus since March, 2014. We have talked to countless contractors and lending institutions. We have looked into manufactured homes, kit homes and stick-built homes. We have researched alternative building materials including straw-bale and shipping containers. We’ve read over mounds of loan paperwork and signed documents until our hands were permanently stained with BIC ink and the pens had to be pried from our gnarled grasps. We’ve even paid REAL MONEY to the bank just on faith that things were moving along somehow, somewhere out in the ethos.

But today marks a momentous occasion.

We’ve had contractors and soil engineers come and look and measure and make chalk-lines and leave tire-tracks and footprints all over the pad but never has anybody ever left anything of substance that said “We’ll be back. This isn’t over yet. There’s more to do to get this done and it’s going to be done because we’re going to do it.”

Until now.

Are you ready for this?

Am I ready for this?

Today, for the very first time in the history of EVER, there is actual, physical, irrefutable proof that this land will someday contain more than just RVs and chickens. There is going to be an honest-to-goodness house that we will honest-to-goodness live in. It will have ceilings so high that even Noah will be able to jump up and down without smacking his head and rooms big enough for rough-housing. A second story that we won’t have to get to via a ladder and bedrooms where we can actually sit up in bed. Electricity that isn’t affected by cloudy days and maybe, JUST MAYBE, a working refrigerator. IN THE KITCHEN, even.

I’m talking luxury, folks. I can see it now.

And it all begins with this:


Beautiful, isn’t it?

That, my friends, is not actually a giant rubber pencil-gripper. It is MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than that. It is… well, it’s the BMPs. Obviously.

After consulting the internet I can tell you that BMP stands for Best Management Practices. Basically, that baby-space-worm looking thing is a bundle containing all the materials needed to prevent soil erosion and water run-off during construction.

It’s a real thing. Anybody can go up there and touch it, maybe even hug and kiss it if they wanted to. The neighbors can look out their windows and think “Hey, that’s something that wasn’t there before. I wonder what it is. Maybe it has something to do with that house they’ve been saying they’re going to build. Thank goodness, they’ve been living in that enormous bus long enough.”

The point is: This is happening, y’all. For REALZ.

Letters from the Chickens

November 1, 2014

Dear People,

Love the new digs! High nesting boxes, pine shavings, corner roost – absolutely fabulous! You really outdid yourselves.

There’s only one teeny, tiny problem: the door. We can’t seem to get it open for some reason. Could you look into that?



November 7, 2014

Good morning!

Just a friendly reminder: the door to the coop needs to stay open between the hours of 5 am to 5 pm daily. Currently, it is only opened once per day with no opportunity to go outside and while we appreciate the food and water during this time, we’re sure you can understand that our requirements for Pecking and Scratching extend beyond these four walls. Thank you in advance for your cooperation!


November 31, 2014

To Management:

We, Chickens of the Coop, are hereby filing a formal complaint with regard to the matter of the Closed Door. If our request is not acknowledged we will be forced into further action.

Chickens, esq.

December 5, 2014

Knock knock!

(Who’s there?)


(Chickens who?)

Chickens are going to pretend your toes are wriggling caterpillars the next time you try to enter this coop if you don’t KEEP. THE. DOOR. OPEN!!!

December 31, 2014

To Our Dear People,

We are so glad that you have finally come to your senses! It’s a shame that Gladys was required to rush the door and escape to freedom before you realized that perhaps letting us out wouldn’t be the end of the world. We wish it hadn’t come to that, but you gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelet, right?

Now that you’ve changed your tune with regard to keeping us in utter captivity we look forward to continuing this relationship in harmony.

Happy New Year,


January 5, 2015

Hey there,

We went ahead and  took the liberty of scratching up all of that useless “mulch” you have covering up the yards of fresh, brown dirt in the surrounding area. It’s SO MUCH easier to peck for bugs now without having to worry about splinters in one’s claws. You can thank us later!


January 15, 2015


We need to talk.

The other day we were strutting along, minding our own business, when we noticed that the door to your coop was open. We thought we’d stop by for a chat, maybe a nice cup of cracked corn, but it turned out that you weren’t home. However, seeing as you feel no compunction about entering OUR space whenever you please, we went ahead and took the opportunity to take a peek. 

Now, we’re not judging here, but you might want to reconsider some of your domestic choices. For one thing: there is no place to roost. It’s very unwelcoming for guests, not to mention that we have no idea how you rest. No wonder you’re so uptight all the time.

That could be overlooked (with a little effort) except that we saw your nests. What in the world are you THINKING? How on earth do you lay your eggs in those skinny boxes? How do you expect to hatch ANY of them with them all spread out into little compartments like that? Can you even sit on them without crushing them? The thought of it is unnerving, to say the least.

It need not be said that we’ll be staying out of there and will leave you to your… idiosyncrasies from now on.

Feb 4, 2015

It is with deepest regret that we inform you of a loss of one of our own by an unknown predator.

Red was a good chicken. She will be missed.

Feb 7, 2015

Dear People,

Nobody is as sad about Red as we are. Trust us, we feel your pain, but locking the door again? That seems a bit dramatic. If we put our heads together, surely we can come to a more reasonable solution. Right?



Feb 8, 2015

Dear People,


How it actually is

It’s been  two months since we brought a newborn home to the bus and I only just now  feel like I finally have the chance to sit down and catch my breath. Four kids in small space definitely has its ups and downs.

Hats made by my very talented sister in law.

Sawyer is starting to sleep and eat at more regular intervals now, which has been helped immensely by playing static during his naps. With my older kids I had a big radio in their room that I would tune to the fuzziest station I could find, but now we use an old phone with a white noise app installed on it and turn it on close by his head. Works like a charm every time. Well, almost.

I was reading over my post about our plans for having a baby in the bus and comparing it to the reality and am pleased to see that some of the things that I was worried about turned out not to be such a big deal after all. There are a couple things that I didn’t think about beforehand, though, that we’ve had to make adjustments to accommodate.

Aside from the list of things that I named in the original post, the only other major thing that we brought into our space for Sawyer is a bouncer that my neighbor loaned us. We actually did without it for a while and just sat him in his car seat, but it was such a hassle to bring in and out of the van. It’s nice to have a little seat for him that doesn’t weigh twenty pounds without anything even inside it.

What I didn’t really think about, however, was where to put that place for him to sit. Because our space is essentially one long hallway, anything on the floor is pretty much completely in the way of wherever anybody wants to be. So, despite the fact that it’s technically a safety violation, we set his bouncer up on the couch. I figure the actual  likelihood of him getting knocked over is much higher on the floor.

I was originally worried about the ladder between the stories posing a problem, but now I am considering becoming a firefighter after all this experience carrying a baby up and down it. It was most difficult the first few weeks before Sawyer’s little head had any support at all. Noah and I carefully passed him back and forth to get him upstairs at bedtime and downstairs in the morning, but now that he’s lifting his big ol’ noggin’ like a champ, I can just hook him under my arm and make it up and down with ease.


Looking into the future, I think the only thing that concerns me is that he’s never going to learn how to walk or crawl because he doesn’t get any floor time because we have so little floor and what little we do have gets so dirty so quickly. Of course, then I realize that I am absolutely in NO hurry whatsoever for him to crawl for that exact same reason. I think everything will work out fine in the end.

Something that is kind of cramping my style right now (literally) is trying to get more movement into my day so I can get rid of the rest of the weight that is still clinging to my torso. After Finn was born I had a lot of success following the basic program outlined in the e-book 42 Days to Fit  and doing the workouts in my living room.  The only diet restriction I gave myself was to cut out desserts and I was down to my pre-pregnancy weight within just a few months.

This time around, however, I have to go outside if I want to stretch or do shoulder presses without knocking out the covers of the flourescents overhead (a very strange feeling for someone only five feet tall).

I also haven’t been getting a lot of movement in naturally via day-to-day indoor tasks because I don’t have to move as far to do those things. It is a measly 7 paces from the threshold at the front of the bus to where I hit my head on the ladder in the back. I know this because I’ve practically worn an indent down the middle walking back and forth to soothe Sawyer in the evenings.

So, basically, I need to get outside more, which you’d think I wouldn’t need to be prompted to do, but… apparently so. Yesterday I made good on this goal by weeding the garden and helping Noah rake the South corner of the property after he cleared out some dead bushes and whacked the growing weeds. And the blisters I sported later that day made me feel like a hardcore farmer’s wife.

In other news:

Things are sloooowly progressing on the house building front. The loan closed around Christmas, but then we had to send the plans back to our original contractor in order to have them re-engineered to fit in with Title 24 -  a new mandate in California that requires all new construction to adhere to stricter energy-efficiency standards (i.e. we are now required to have a tankless hot water heater instead of the usual 40-gallon tank, etc). They were submitted to the county on Monday and our next step is  to prepare the pad for the site inspection.

We’ve also just made our first interest-only payment on the loan for the funds that have been withrdawn so far, so that takes the impetus to get things moving along to another notch.

Best case scenario, we will actually break ground within the month and the end goal is to be able to host Christmas in the new house!

I’ll leave you with this, because… well, do I really need a reason?


Avoiding Arsenic Hour

Over the past ten months that we’ve lived in this bus more than a couple people have commented that we must be pretty brave and adventurous to undertake such an endeavor.

However, I’ve come to the realization that I am neither brave nor adventuresome so much as  incredibly short-sighted and amnesiac. When every challenge that we encounter takes me completely by surprise and is forgotten with the swiftness of a goldfish, I can take no credit for facing the future with unadulterated optimism and enthusiasm.

Case in point: I am well aware that the onset of fall and winter means that the days are short and the sun sets early. But I have been completely at a loss each day when I find that I  have to call all the kids inside from their play just as I am thinking about getting dinner started. I shoot myself in the foot every single evening by creating the perfect storm known as “Arsenic Hour.”

Also called by such dour names as “The Witching Hour” or “Suicide Hour,” Arsenic Hour refers to that time of day when a parent’s attention and nerves tend to be stretched thinnest. I find that this usually begins right before dinner time and is amplified tenfold when there is a baby in the house.

In the Summer I managed to evade the worst of it by keeping the children outside upon pain of death if they tried to come in before it was time to sit down and eat. With shorter days this is slightly less feasible since as soon as it starts to get dark they become coyote bait.

So, around 4:30 they descend and start asking what I’m making for dinner, complaining about whatever I tell them, tattling on each other, picking off and tasting pieces of the food being prepared, taking out whatever toy has the most pieces within reach and scattering them on the nearest surface and wrestling with each other until somebody gets hurt. The chaos is amplified when the baby starts crying because I’ve had to put him down for any reason at all.

This used to be bad enough in a regular sized house, but now it’s condensed into 400 square feet of space.

It has been said that taking care of children is easy, unless you’re trying to do anything else at the same time. Most of the overwhelm I feel around sunset has to do with the fact that I’m distracted by trying to get dinner ready and Noah isn’t home from work yet to help wrangle everybody. What I need to do is take steps to make sure I have as little else competing for my attention as possible, because my kids need every ounce of it that they can get.

Basic, right?

Some ideas:

1. Meal plan (having an idea of what I’m actually going to cook helps a ton).

2. Crock pot meals (this is not as effective in the winter since we don’t have as much electricity and the crock pot uses quite a bit).

3. Prepping as much as possible ahead of time as I can (i.e. cutting veggies, cooking meat to be assembled later).

4. Making a double batch and freezing half to use as a meal another time.

5. Having the kids help make dinner (I don’t know that I have the patience for this one on a regular basis.)

6. Sending the kids to the neighbors house while THEY make dinner (tempting… maybe a trade off could be arranged?)

7. Eat out more often (even more tempting, but expensive).

8. Have Noah make dinner when he gets home (because it’s not like he’s been doing anything all day)(just kidding).

And… I’m tapped.

How do YOU avoid Arsenic Hour?

Snow My Goodness!

Last year, before we moved into the bus, San Diego had one of the mildest Winters I have ever experienced. With warm, dry days that allowed for shorts and flip flops, it was like an early Spring.

Had you told me then that this Winter we would wake up on New Year’s Eve in a BUS to SNOW FALLING ON THE GROUND, I don’t think I would have believed you. Yet, honest to goodness, the children were on the porch that morning running around catching snowflakes on their tongues. They were positively thrilled.

None of it actually stuck to the ground, not surprising since it hasn’t since 1967, so we decided that a trek to where the snow had REALLY fallen was in order:


They lasted about an hour making snowmen,snowman snowballs


and snow angels.snowangel

We were terribly under-dressed, as proved by the fact that Finn is wearing the gardening gloves he got for Christmas… still, they had a blast. Until their hands went numb, of course.

Afterward, we promptly ordered a propane heater from Amazon and spent the next few nights of freezing temperatures at Noah’s sister’s house (while their family was out of town) until it arrived yesterday. Hooray!

I do have to say though, the fact that we had record temps this Summer and it has already SNOWED  this winter…  it’s kind of starting to make me think this whole adventure of ours was rather ill timed, to say the least.

At any rate, I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Sawyer would like to wish you the same, but he’s a little busy right now.