Back to Baltimore

After our time in Vermont, with a quick visit to Montreal to grab some poutine, we headed back to Baltimore to get a few odds and ends finished up on the Airstream.

On the way back, we stopped in Ithaca again because ... well ... why wouldn't you stop in Ithaca if you have the chance?  It's gorgeous.

While backing into our spot, I managed to jackknife the trailer a bit and tweak our fancy ProPride hitch.  Notice the frame bracket under the tongue is a little off-center and one of the spring bars is bent.

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I took some pictures and fired off an email to Sean Woodruff at Propride at 5:47 PM on a Sunday, not expecting to hear back until Monday.  No rush, since we booked a week at the campground.  5:57 PM, he sends me an email back, confirming my suspicions, "Yes, just center the frame bracket and you'll be all set... A bent spring bar will work fine."  Fifteen minutes with some wrenches and I had the frame bracket centered and the bolts re-torqued.

I can't say enough about how good my experience with the ProPride hitch has been.  I have never experienced such incredible customer service as I have consistently gotten from Sean.  And the hitch itself tows like a dream -- I'm not even sure I know what trailer sway even feels like.

We took a short walk around Cornell's campus, which turned out to be continuous waterfalls for a good half mile.

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I've been studying my National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (note: that's an affiliate link -- if you buy, I might make a small commission) for the last few months, and have finally gained the confidence to actually eat some wild mushrooms.

These are all edible mushrooms, though I didn't harvest and eat all of them.

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I also found some mayapples.  Too early to harvest, unfortunately.

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I did harvest and eat these chanterelles. 

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Back in Baltimore, and it's straight to work on some Airstream projects, and continuing to downsize our possessions.

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I mounted two Surecall Omnidirectional antennas on the Airstream -- one for our Pepwave Soho router that we'll be using for a wifi repeater, and one for our weBoost Drive 4GX-RV cell phone signal booster.  These should help Leanne and me work on the road with fewer interruptions.  I plan on also purchasing a Verizon jetpack at some point to complete our digital connectivity setup.

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If I had planned this better, I would have installed the antennas when I had the interior skins out, and I could have run them inside with the solar wiring.  As it stands, though, the combiner box is all sealed up, so the best spot to penetrate the roof is going to be just above my electronics cabinet in the bathroom.  I used this entry plate, stainless screws, and a ton of Sikaflex 221 to seal the roof penetration around the two wires.  It's not the seamless install that I'd like, but it's not easy to see from the ground, and I'm confident it won't leak.

I also built and installed the range hood cabinet with the Camec range hood that I picked up from eBay, shipped from Australia.

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We saw Roger Waters live...

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... And I finished up the shower tile in the bathroom.

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Gone Vermonting

Vermont is an incredibly special place.  It's hard to put your finger on what it is exactly, but everything Vermont is just -- nice.

The people are so nice.  Walking on trails, people smile and say hello as they pass.  Tour guides with crowds of kids make sure everyone is following good trail etiquette, and offer (totally unnecessary) apologies for those who didn't make way fast enough.  Everyone is polite and friendly.

There are "creemees" (soft serve ice cream) sold at regular intervals, and maple is always one of the flavor choices.

The landscape is gorgeous, and people take advantage.  As Leanne and I put all of our energy into summitting Mount Mansfield, with camelbacks full of water, we're passed by local kids strolling up the mountain wearing shorts and Vans, carrying nothing.  When we made it to the top, there's a couple having a picnic -- in the Alpine Zone, at the top of the tallest mountain in Vermont -- like it's no big deal.

We didn't quite make it to the top of Mount Mansfield on our first try.

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Here's where we stopped.  Not enough water, not enough time left in the day.

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Attempt number 2.

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Sometimes the zip line instructions just have generally good life advice.

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Walking up the ski slope, picking wild strawberries.

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Storms look a lot more menacing when the top of your head is the tallest point in Vermont.

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The weather cooperated, and we made it to the top.  We tried to continue on the Long Trail to get down the mountain, but it was more of a climb than a hike, so we hopped on the Profanity Trail and made our way down the mountain.

Launch!

We've been itching to get on the road for some time, and that day is finally here.  We're a lot further along in the renovation than we were on our honeymoon, but we're definitely not done.

We'll get the finishing touches done at some point.  I packed a few tools and supplies.  And we'll be swinging back to Maryland at some point to do some more work.  But for now, we're off.

Our first major stopover is Robert Tremon Park in Ithaca, NY.  We learned a hard lesson about staying on truck routes on the way.  In case it wasn't obvious, back roads in mountainous regions are generally a bad idea.

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To access camping in Robert Tremon, you ford the river at the entrance.

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Our campsite is in the middle of a nice sunny field.  No hookups, but a water spigot nearby, and that suits us just fine.

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Time to give the solar a workout.

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The hike up to Lucifer Falls is difficult to describe.  The gorge trail trail from the lower park takes you on a tour of progressively larger waterfalls, each more breathtaking than the last.  I'm going to post some pictures, but I almost feel like I shouldn't bother.  There's no way any of these pictures come close to showing how beautiful this park is.

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Luna enjoyed her hikes immensely.

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And if all that wasn't enough to show you how magical of a place this is, can we take a moment to appreciate this violet coral mushroom we found on the rim trail?  I promise, this photo is from New York State, not from the bottom of the ocean or the surface of Venus.

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Next up, we're headed to Vermont.

Tiny Worm Bin

We've had worm bins before, but none of the commercial or DIY solutions were a good fit for our space.  We needed something small.  Really small.  Our house is under 200 square feet.

In addition to being tiny, our bin has to:

  1. Hold enough scraps and worms to keep up with our usage
  2. Provide lots of air circulation and good drainage to keep the worms happy
  3. Keep the worms in the bin, keep fruit flies out of the bin (or if they get in, keep them in)

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I built a trash/recycling drawer under the pantry, and I had just enough depth for an extra trash can to use as a worm bin.  We found the perfect sized bins in a SimpleHuman trash/recycling system.  I didn't actually buy the system from SimpleHuman, which retails for $80 on Amazon.  I bought replacement bins for 20 bucks a piece, free shipping.

I drilled a hole in the bottom side of the worm bin and installed a bulkhead fitting with a swivel elbow to help drain the water.  A piece of 1/2" OD vinyl tubing inserted into the elbow and secured to the side of the bin gives me a sight glass, so I can see if water is accumulating in the bin.  I built a false bottom above the drain with some 1-1/2" aluminum angle and some aluminum screen, which filters the worm castings from the water to keep the drain from clogging.

At the top of the bin, I built an aluminum frame to suspend a nylon minnow net, which holds the food scraps and bedding.  The scraps are bigger than the holes in the net, but the worms and their castings are smaller, so as the worms eat the scraps, their castings fall through the net.  The net doesn't touch the sides or the bottom of the bin, so there's plenty of air circulation throughout the scraps.  The worms are happy throughout the depth of the bin, not just on the top.

The lid needs to seal tightly, but provide good airflow through a screen.  This bin doesn't come with a lid, so I built a tight-fitting frame out of oak (varnished a bunch of times to keep it from rotting) and used no-see-um netting to keep the worms contained.  Regular window screen does not work -- the worms will crawl right through it.  I also added a rubber gasket around the rim of the trash can to keep the worms from escaping.  I had some leftover window gasket that I attached to the rim of the bin using super weatherstrip adhesive.  I sandwiched the rim of the bin between the two "fingers" of the gasket so that the flat side was up, which made a nice tight seal with the lid.

It's worth noting that another method to keep the worms from escaping would be to put a light over top of the bin that's always on.  Worms don't like light, so they'll stay in the bin.  We don't have a lot of electricity to spare, so a physical barrier seemed best.

To start composting, I put a couple handfuls of bedding (shredded black and white newspaper, cardboard, paper bags, egg cartons, etc) in the bottom of the net and put some fruit and vegetable scraps on top.  I added some crushed eggshells -- worms have gizzards, so they need some roughage to digest their food, and eggshells help maintain the pH balance of the bin.  Then, I filled the bin to the top with bedding. 

Once our 1,000 red wigglers from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm arrived, I plopped the worms in and let them settle in.

We keep a Ziplock bag in the freezer where we put all of our suitable scraps.  Freezing helps soften up the scraps so that the worms can eat it faster.  Every few days, I'll open up the bin, lift out any bedding that's still dry, drop in the scraps, replace the bedding on top, and top off with enough bedding to fill the bin.

About once a month, I need to empty the bin.  The worms will crowd at the top of the bin when it's time.  First, I'll take the bin outside and drain the water, using it to water some plants.  Then, I'll remove the net with the scraps and put it in a bucket for safekeeping.  As long as you do this in direct sunlight, the worms won't go anywhere -- they'll just burrow deeper in to the scraps.  I'll dig the castings out of the bin and put them in a shallow tray.  

The castings still contain quite a few worms, which I want to keep, so I need to separate them.  The easiest way to separate worms from soil is to make a pile at one end of a shallow bin and set it in direct sunlight.  The worms don't like the sun, so as you skim the top layer off, they'll dig deeper.  Keep pulling bits off the top and returning the worms to the pile, and pretty soon you'll end up with a wriggling mass of worms.  No big deal if a few worms end up in the finished compost, there are plenty and they'll be happy in the garden, too.

We're getting about a half gallon of vermicompost per month.  It's not a lot, but we're not really after the compost.  The real benefit here is that our kitchen trash is far less smelly, and we're putting a ton of stuff in the bin instead of the trash, so we make less garbage.  Apple core? Give it to the worms.  Lettuce going south?  Worm food.  Paper or plastic?  I can feed a paper bag to the worms.  Cardboard egg carton?  Comfy worm bedding.

Want to try vermicomposting but don't think you have room?  It doesn't take much space to keep compost worms happy.  If you want to do a tiny worm bin experiment of your own, use #tinywormbin on Instagram to share your results.

The Grand Unified Couch Theory, Part 2

Next step on the Grand Unified Couch Theory is the cushions.  Fortunately, my mother is a professional interior designer with her own workroom, so I can cheat. Thanks, Mom!

And just like that, we have cushions overnight.  We made two identical cushions for the seat and one slimmer cushion for the back.  But because of how shallow the seat is already, and the fact that the back is constructed of 8-way hand-tied springs anyway, I think it's more comfortable without the back cushion.

Slumber party mode uses the duplicate seat cushion to make a flat mattress.  It's a twin mattress, plus about an inch of width.

I Scotch-Guarded all the fabric to make for easier cleaning.  Since this is our only living room seating as well as Luna's favorite sleeping and squirrel-viewing area, Scotch-Guard was a no brainer.  It took four cans to do two coats.

The shelf behind the couch is made out of a scrap of oak butcher block I had left over from the countertop.  It's both a console table and support for the back of the couch in "lounge mode," and a nightstand in "slumber party mode."

I built the drawers the same way as all the other drawers in the Airstream using this method and these soft-close drawer slides.  The drawer fronts are made of a single piece of oak 1x10 so that the grain matches across all three drawers.  The hardware are salvaged letterpress drawer handles from A Vintage Parcel on Etsy.

I'm pretty happy that my Gransfors Bruks small splitting axe fits perfectly inside the drawer next to the wood stove.