Today I have some maintenance chores to attend to, to keep the trailer off grid ready. Some of these basic maintenance items would apply to a stick built house as well.
Batteries – I currently don’t have solar panels or a generator for the trailer. That means that my batteries need to be plugged in to charge. They are supposed to charge off the truck alternator while we’re driving, but they are not. There is a wire missing in the relay, which I plan to install. The batteries really need a good top off once a week, so that means plugging in somewhere overnight. When we are hooked up for a few weeks, at one of the grandpas homes, or at the Homestead, the batteries need to be checked once a month. Just like your car battery, look for corrosion at the connections, make sure the connections are secure, check the battery boxes for water, dirt and other foreign matter. Check the fluid levels in the batteries and add distilled water if needed. I make sure the “house” battery has a full charge, then check my secondary battery. If necessary, I plug it into the trickle charger to keep it charged and ready to go.
Holding tanks – When we’re stationary, we hook up to city water. But I also want to have a full fresh water tank in case of emergency and also to keep us ready to roll any time. If the power goes out and the water doesn’t flow, at least we have enough on board to last us a week or so, along with the on board water pump. I also fill up a few drinking water jugs. When we are off grid, this water will last us about 1 week for 2 of us, if we each take a quick “navy” shower twice a week. This includes toilet flushing and dishwashing. When we are off grid we use a dish pan and a pitcher in the bathroom sink to catch gray water which we can also flush the toilet with. When I get my portable washer, it may not go quite as far.
The gray and black water tanks are likewise usually hooked to sewer when we are stationary. Sometimes I will only dump them once a week, others I just keep them hooked up and dumping. It depends on the situation. When we are off grid, the sewer tanks last about as long as the fresh water tank and get dumped when we go to refill our fresh water. There are many places to do this, some for free, some for $10-$15.
Propane tanks – If we are using the heater daily, I check them daily. I keep 3 20# tanks on the trailer. We go through about 2 a week when it’s cold. One will last a month or two in the summer. Depending on whether we’re running the fridge on propane or electric. The third tank rides in the back of the truck, so I have to make sure it is standing up and hasn’t leaked. We can usually get propane when we fill up with gas or when we dump and refill the water.
There it is. Basic off grid maintenance for full time rvers. Once I get my solar panels and generator I will not need to find a plug in once a week. If the solar panels don’t keep us charged I will be able to plug in to the generator for a few hours.
Another project down the line will be to install a water catchment system to divert rainwater into the freshwater tank. This will have to involve a filter somewhere along the line, but I haven’t started on that one, yet. I also plan to mount my secondary battery and wire it in parallel with my house battery so we can go longer before needing to plug in. This will also entail connecting to the inverter inside the trailer. All down the line, as money and time permit.
One of the biggest drawbacks to baking in the rv is lack of counter space. There are several workarounds for this. Most rvs have flat covers for the range and the sink. If you’re using the oven, you’re not going to want to cover the range. I also tend to need the sink when I’m cooking, so the sink covers don’t help. I have, however, learned to maneuver in a small space. My family likes to tease me about using every dish in the house when I cook and that is true when I have the space. It’s easier. When I am in the rv, I have to plan out my procedure and use as few items as possible. I also tend to get all my ingredients together before I start, while at home I tend to get them as I need them.
In the rv, I line up my ingredients and utensils on the counter, if a few, on the table, if many. I preheat my oven and start mixing. For sake of example, today I made chocolate chip cookies. Usually with cookies you mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another bowl, then combine. In the rv, I mix the butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs first, then combine part of the flour with the baking soda and salt and add to the wet ingredients, gradually adding the rest of the flour, then the chocolate chips. I preheated the oven and it was ready when I was. At home I usually use 3 or 4 cookie sheets and wire racks for cooling. In the rv I only have one cookie sheet but I think I will get another one, just because it takes about twice the amount of time to bake a batch of cookies without having that second sheet ready to go in the oven when you take the first one out.
Probably the biggest frustration with rv baking, other than counter space, is temperature regulation. That tiny rv oven is going to be a different experience from your spacious home oven. You can get an oven thermometer to double check the temperature if you want to. On the road, I have used many different ovens, both gas and electric, so I have learned to just keep checking. If something doesn’t seem to be cooking as quickly as it should I turn the temperature up. If it’s cooking too quickly, I turn it down. The important part is to keep checking your food.
That’s all there is to baking in the rv oven. Just scaled down from what you do at home. Cook fresh, eat healthy, enjoy the road.
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