Repairing a Static Caravan 3

Winter came and went and most of the outside work had to be put on ice…no pun intended in reference to winter. In lieu of this and before heading home to complete another building project during the Christmas holidays, it was possible to start chipping away on necessary indoor tasks with expectations to continue outside work after the holiday season and, supposedly, with a more favourable weather.

Bedroom
Many older caravans have two bedrooms. The smaller second bedroom of this caravan was one of the first things we tore away, creating an open interior planning but leaving only one master bedroom. This larger bedroom was less than 4 sq. mt. and hardly allowed legroom, should ordinary single beds were installed. Also,common beds would take up most floor space with a larger volume of remaining space inefficiently used. It seemed smartest to plan for two wide comfortable bunk beds as we were accustomed to this way of living from experiences in the mountains of northern Sweden.

Having removed all the old, damp, mouldy and smelly interior walling of the master bedroom, there remained the original 20mm insulation which was poorly packed between the original wooden squares of the caravan’s exterior walls. Should these squares be removed?

Using 25 mm Kingspan, I replaced the old insulation to the bedroom and filled up the rectangles of the interior wall. I also reinforced these walls where the bunk beds would be installed later. This gave the bedroom walls better strength and increased the u-value of that corner. I now had walls totaling 75 mm Kingspan insulation. Evaluating this, I decided that I would follow this path; keeping the original framework, insulating to 75mm and consequently increasing the caravan’s total u-value even more than first planned.

The interior bedroom walls were replaced with fresh plywood. Part of the original roof rafters were insulated with 25 mm Kingspan and “gortex” and finished off with 10 mm pine paneling for the ceiling. Later, the floor was covered with 6 mm laminate, which I bought locally second-hand via Internet. Bunk beds were built during wet days in March. See pics in gallery below.

Outside
After returning at the end of February and when the weather Gods were kind(er), I tore away the remaining aluminum on the second gable end, reinforced this in the same manner as the other exterior walls, added the wind/waterproof “gortex” material and finished off with the exterior cladding. I now could feel the caravan gained the stability and solidness that it needed for the harsh winds of Shetland. As a result, hardly no vibrating or tremors can be felt in this caravan’s body.

Recycling
Naturally, thoughts of recycling and the environment have been a part of this project and, as a little game, I had saved all the removed aluminium siding. Recently and with the last of the siding removed, I went to the dump. Surprisingly, the aluminum weighed in at 80 kg. At today’s rate, I drove away from the dump with an extra £32 in my back pocket. I thought this was fun and gave a little back to the costs of repairs. I wonder what the aluminum roof will weigh in at when I remove it?

Soon, hopefully
I want to change the roof. I have all the necessary rafters to a saddle-shaped roof prepared and soon will have the new metal roofing delivered. As soon as weather and wind permits, myself with some friends will rip off the old roof and put on the new. This report will come later…

By the way, the extension part of the caravan has been built in a fashion that will allow it to be removed, should the caravan be moved in the future. An explanation of this engineering feat will come later.

Repairing a Static Caravan 2

If you have ever experienced Shetland weather, you can understand the unpredictability and diversified nature of it. The repairs and modernization of this static caravan has taken time and the work has often been between raindrops and winds, often at the same time.

The first five weeks have past and, reflecting upon what has been accomplished, the original strategy has been followed. The outside conversion from a tin can caravan with rot has miraculously become a “Cinderella” of changes. This is what has happened…

The technical jargon
With start on the smaller gable end, I took away the caravan-like angled floor at the old tow bar area. I built this out, extending the floor and gaining 2 m2 and having a full 90° wall inside. Quite practical for putting a sofa or bed later along that wall. The humongous sitting room single glazed window had to go and, after its removal, I peeled off the aluminum siding and screwed on my treated 12 mm plywood to the wooden framework of the caravan; sealed with “mastic”, or polysulfide sealant, between each jointed section of plywood!

TIP: The wooden framework has no set measurements and, once covered, it’s trial and error finding a hold for screws or remembering where electrical lines are. To best resolve this problem, mark along the wooden base where the center line of the original vertical/horizontal framework is or where to avoid screwing into electrical lines, then use a water level to mark out your line along/up the sides as you work. I allowed myself no more that ±3mm margins with all measurements.

With plywood screwed on, I set up my baseline board with a water level. Made my vertical studs and positioned/screwed these onto the gable wall taking into consideration where I wanted the new windows to sit. Everything had to be horizontally and vertically correct, as these measurements would be identical for the whole outside wall work around the caravan. Distances between vertical studs are flexible depending upon window size and wall strength. It’s up to you!

After studding is completed, I insulated the walls using 50mm Kingspan. This is comparable to 150mm normal rockwool insulation but doesn’t take the same volume. Windows were lead-free polyethylene double-glazed energy saving and filled with argon gas. These costs and efforts I’m putting into the caravan will pay for themselves within 7 years through the “energy pennies” I’ll save.

After the insulation, wind and water resistant foil (I call it gortex) is stapled onto the studding and covers the whole wall. Treated wood paneling is tacked onto the studs with stainless steel wood screws following a bead from the level. Altogether, from the original caravan siding, I added on 97mm.

The floor was insulated with 100mm, 100% earthwool insulation. This made a big difference compared to the earlier 20mm carton material used for fish boxes.

Several weeks later
With all this work, the inside environment is comfy, warm and much more quiet from outside noise. It will probably be cooler on “warmer” days; if Shetland has these? The porch area is under construction just now, but it’s getting to be too late in winter to continue with it.

The major thing is, this caravan will be beautiful when it’s finished and comfortable to live in! A new roof will come later when weather permits. Let the pictures show the work and results up to now… (to be continued)

Repairing a Static Caravan…

…can be a no-brainer-don’t-do-it-you’re crazy kind of project to undertake, unless you are an experienced and stubborn skilled trades teacher with a will to solve problems that arise.
Having had the opportunity to acquire a small beast of a caravan on Shetland, this project will involve a complicated technical construction to convert it to a very inhabitable place to live on a wonderful patch of islands in the world. But, what is this project all about?

Photo: Initial inspection- looking for rot

Background: There are two types of caravans in the U.K. The increasingly popular touring caravan, hooked onto the back of a car and driven from site to site, and the larger static caravan that needs a more complicated means of moving and, by its name, is considered staying on its site for longer periods or permanently. In Sweden today, these are called a “Villavagn”, or “house wagon” and have become a new solution for owning or renting a summer cottage.

Static caravans in the U.K. have a long history of use as temporary summer or holiday dwellings as regulations in vacation laws for workers developed through the last century allowing time for workers and families to get out of large towns and relax. From what can be understood from Internet, static caravans are traditionally found near climatically stable and warmer areas of the U.K. i.e. like Cornwall, Devon, Wales etc., where the commute from larger cities (London) allows for a reasonable drive. They are now quite commonplace and have become more popular for permanent habitation all over the U.K. as economies are uncertain.

There are many large caravan parks for single unit rentals or one can purchase a static caravan on site and pay annual site fees to park owners. Static caravans are also popular to buy and live in due to on-site construction of private homes and sold off after the house is finished to live in.

The Project Caravan: The make and model is, as yet, unknown but probably originating from the early 1990’s. It has been first sold, then apparently traded in, cosmetically refurbished and re-sold again a number of times. When it was bought, it had been vacated for almost a year in a very tight and closed condition. On first inspection, there was a leafy fungus growing on the carpet and floor. The wet and smell of this environment is impossible to describe but the whole construction cried out for air.

First things first, out with everything that wasn’t rotted, mildewy or dirty beyond patience to cope with. It originally had two bedrooms but the smaller one gave way to the crowbar and a whole truckload of this scrap went to recycling. Once the windows had been opened and the drying sun came into it, the caravan could be heard sighing and thanking us.

After using one and a half weeks with discovering how this caravan was made and making attack plans for its repairs, I discovered that it basically is built with small sticks and thin plywood. The outside walls are 45mm thick and holding rusty and leaky single-glazed windows. The floor larger has no insulation and the roof is basically a skin of aluminum over a few bowed wooden supports.

When built, workers started with the iron chassis and added a plywood floor. On this floor came the outside walls followed by electrical work and furnishings screwed onto the 3mm masonite inside ceiling, some flimsy 20mm rafter things and finally the roof skin to hold everything together.

During my inspection, I found the indoor floor pretty stable but some parts along the bottom of the outside walls had acquired rot and need replaced. Any electrical wires needing replaced or taken away must be done when everything is opened up.

Preliminary Plans: Crawl underneath and insulate the floor. Since the walls are attached to the floor, I’m choosing to take off the aluminum siding (recycle for 40p per kilo) simultaneously screwing water repellant “marine” plywood to strengthen the structure. On the plywood goes vertical water repellant woods studs and, finally, peel back the roof skin as I place a new saddle roof on the new outside wall frame replacing the roof with marine plywood and a layer of…uh…metal roof sheeting. This all will be tricky with consideration for Shetland’s winds and rain. At the end, insulate with Kingspan, add a wooden cladding and install the new double-glazed windows.

I’ll end here for now…

Hemåt.

Vår långa resa börjar närma sig sitt slut. På torsdagkväll kör vi ombord på Northlinks färja för den första etappen på vår långa resa hem.

Det är inte utan att jag tycker det ska bli trevligt med skog igen även om jag önskar att att litet hav med tillhörande strand kunde finnas i den.  Jag har blivit  “havstagen” med andra ord.  Att bo vid havet och uppleva havets egna liv har varit en upplevelse och jag kommer att sakna det.

Vi har träffat  fantastiska människor som också lämnar sina spår. Här kan två åldre damer nämnas som båda föddes i Kina, levde där under delar av sin barndom. Hamnade därefter i Nya Zealand och Australien, kom så småningom till England och till sist Shetland.  Tänk vilka liv!

Naturligtvis kommer vi också att sakna våra nya vänner men två av dom har faktiskt redan beställt biljetter för att besöka oss under marknaden. Det ser vi fram emot.

Ha det bra tills vi kommit hem och kan rapportera lite från vår något kringelikrokiga hemresa.

Blommor igen…och tärnor

Att engelsmän gillar trädgårdar är ju ingen hemlighet och shetlänningarna är inget undantag. De kämpar i motvind kan man säga för här är vinden det största problemet. Men bakom murar och staket hittar man fantastisk blomsterprakt.

Inspirerad av tidigare generationer shetlänningars små trädgårdar byggdes en liten Croft House Garden upp i Chelsea trädgårdstävling förra året.

Den vann guld!

En Croft House Garden hör ju hemma här så nu håller man på att bygga upp en kopia av guldvinnaren i North Roe. I ofärdigt skick ser den ut så här. Man började i höstas så det är en liten bit kvar.

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I North Roe tänkte jag ta en promenad på en strand men jag insåg ganska snabbt att tärnorna inte tänkte låta mig passera deras territorium.

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Man kan inte låta bli att tro att Astrid Lindgren hade tärnorna som modeller när hon skrev om de flygande marorna vildvittrorna i Ronja Rövardotter.

Shetland’s Mining History

Skimming through pages of the Caledonian Mercury, Sept. 1790, the newspaper highlights Shetland’s early commercial mining attempts. “…the value of the Shetland Islands is only beginning to be known. There is now a number of miners sent … to work a copper and iron mine lately discovered…in the estates of Sumburgh and the iron in the estates of Quendale, both the most productive of this kind of any discovered in Britain.”

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    Photo: From 1790, the Quendale Copper Mine as it looks today

Naturally, this single report can raise eyebrows and give questions about Shetland’s mining history. The unlikelihood of a small North Atlantic group of islands being given such recognition is surprising, but the story behind this fact contains elements of rivalry, power, ignorance and years of blind investments leaving scars of disappointment in its wake.

Roots
It is difficult to point out exactly when Shetland’s mining history began. As early inhabitants crossed the hills and walked the shores of Shetland, they learned about rocks and stones, where these could be found and how these could be useful. Continue reading

Båtar, blommor och Croft House.

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Detta lilla hus är ett croft house, på vårt språk ungefär en torpar stuga. Detta  croft house är en del av Shetlands museum och jag har fått jobba där ett par dagar. Det ska visa livet i mitten av 1800-talet och när man kommer dit upphör verkligen tiden att existera.

crofthouse01

Stenväggarna är nästan halvmeter tjocka, stenplattor på golvet i ena rummet, jordgolv i det andra. Torvbrasa i öppen spis. Tre generationer trängdes i dessa två små rum och livet var  mycket hårt.  Men att sitta där som turistvärd är ett sant nöje och jag hoppas jag får rycka in fler gånger.

Torparna betalade sin hyra till godsägaren, the Laird, i bla fisk. Varje torparställe hade tillgång till en båt och på Unst, den nordligaste av öarna, finns ett fantastiskt båt museum, The Boat Haven.

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Här finns båtar av allehanda olika slag, inte bara shetländska utan även färöiska och tror jag norska.

Sommaren är på god väg och det blommar överallt. Trädgårdarna fylls nu av både färg och form och ute på ängarna och hedarna lyser det gult, vitt och lite blått. Denna lilla viol är bara några cm hög och man får genast en känsla av fjäll när man ser den. Hedarna är ju mycket utsatta för väder och vind så växtligheten hukar på samma sätt som i Padjelanta.

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P.S. Det finns många Croft house på Shetland, små vitmålade stenhus. Många är naturligtvis på väg tillbaka till naturen men många är bebodda.  Moderniserade och tillbyggda naturligtvis för att passa ett modernare liv.

Shetland Mines 01…

…Sometimes, the best place to be is in one ’s own thoughts, as long as you don’t get lost in them. Recently, I’ve contributed a small article on the mines of Shetland, and forgot that this website is a link for all who may want to know more. Thanks to a sharp Shetland Museum employee, I got the word that readers are waiting. A humble apology and many thanks for the wake-up signal!

Since this is only a blog, I don’t intend to follow research procedures in defense of content. This will come later in a peer-reviewed work. With small bits and pieces, my intentions are to excite readers about early Shetland mines, to learn a little about mining history and perhaps about their background; their own identity…their own heritage.

People ask me, “Why older mines?” I’m not really sure. I just want answers to my questions. For each question I answer, I get even more questions. And, so it keeps rolling on and on.

Shetland’s Mines
From the very first people arriving on the shores of Shetland, a need for the island’s rocks and minerals are apparent. As these people wandered over the hills and the land, they made observations of rocks and stones and skillfully learned where useful types could be found. When needed for any purpose, people went to these deposits and gathered what they needed. Rocks and stones were close by; at hand when needed.

One example of this is the need for shelter. The archeological excavation of Old Scatness is a great example of early people using Shetland rocks for dwellings. Another example is the need to keep warm. For whatever fuel was used, fires needed a spark. Shetland doesn’t have natural flint and ancient people learned that quartz could produce sparks and could start fires. And a third example is early Shetlanders needing household tools or implements for daily living.

catpundquarry02Photo: The ancient Catpund Quarry, Shetland. This is a scheduled area-please respect this.

The Catpund Quarry
Because of need and simple knowledge of rocks and geology, primitive Shetland people used what was available and knew where to find it. The Catpund Quarry is an example of where people over many years have exploited the serpentine, or soapstone, of Shetland to chisel out bowls, ladles, plates or decorative figurines for themselves or to barter and exchange with. Knowing that soapstone holds heat and is easily formed, it was a valuable commodity thousands of years ago.

At one time, this quarry was of interest for Robert Hunter Wingate Bruce up to 1924 and eventually for The Sumburgh Mining Co., apparently up to and around the early 1970’s. In accordance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979, the Catpund area was registered in the General Register of Sasines, counties of Orkney and Zetland October 28, 1988 (Ref. Historic Scotland) and was soon excavated afterward. (Uh oh! There I went and put in some researchy stuff! Sorry!)

Supposedly, there’s to be a book, or something, coming soon. With this, we will just have to wait and see. But, it is tempting to wonder just how many more of these ancient quarries can be found in Shetland and where?

For myself, I got an enormous thrill seeing this quarry for the first time. Having only seen mining remnants as early as the 17th century, Catpund gave the possibility of observing a quarry that is over 3000 years old and worked at different times; independent of each other.

Please give this place a visit or two. If traveling out of Lerwick, south on A970 and having passed through Cunningsburgh, estimate about 1 kilometer from the point of leaving Cunnigsburgh. On your right, you should see the “old” asphalted road. Park here and near the burn/bridge that can be found. Follow the burn immediately up the hill from your parked car, respecting the fencing and minding your step. About 250 meters, and along the burn, you should see a small fenced-off area. This is the Catpund Quarry. (Ordnance Survey Map 466- maps are fun) Clothes and shoes appropriate for the outdoors.

REMEMBER: This is a protected and scheduled area. Do Not Disturb…anything! Treat it like a crime scene. Much more must be learned from it. Just observe and enjoy.

For fun, ask yourselves these questions…

    How much of the stone has been removed out of the earth over the years?
    How big of an area all around was used?
    What tools did people use to chisel out bowls, plates etc.?
    How many unfinished implements can still be found waiting for its owner to return?
    What was the work like? Did they work in groups? Alone? Were children along?
    What have I learned from my visit? Did I enjoy it? Will I have use of this knowledge someday in the future?

Whew! Now, a couple of pictures from Catpund Quarry…for the less energetic!
catpundminevy05-copyPhoto: Panoramic view of Catpund Quarry area. In foreground dwellings possibly from Middle Ages
catpundquarry01Photo: Thousands of years ago, people chiseled out useful implements leaving shadows of these in the soapstone at Catpund Quarry

Nya små liv.

Så här såg gårdagen ut på den strand där vi åt lunch, strosade och njöt av det fina vädret.quendalebeach15

På vägen dit såg vi att hagarna börjar fyllas med nya små liv. Officiellt har inte lamningen kommit igång men vissa får tjuvstartar! De allra tidigaste lammen kom faktiskt för flera veckor sedan. Det är inte alls önskvärt har vi förstått för de föds ju och vistas utomhus och vädret kan ju lämna en del att önska. Lamningen kommer att dra igång för fullt om ca två veckor och då kommer hagarna att vara fulla med dessa fantastiskt söta lamm.

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På vägen hem såg vi kor och några ganska nya kalvar i en hage. När vi stannade för att titta och fotografera såg vi att en ko rörde sig lite oroligt. Närmare inspektion genom kikaren avslöjade att hon höll på att föda. Två små klövar stack ut. Vi väntade och såg mer och mer av frambenen komma fram och till sist huvudet. När huvudet väl var framme gick resten ganska fort. Vips låg kalven på gräset.

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En fantastisk avslutning på en härlig dag.

When Dad Died…

…a couple of years ago, I was home for his last week in this life. He had lived alone for a year and did a commendable job with clearing-out Mom’s things; she having passed away a year before. Having always said he loved life, it was now Dad’s turn to leave us. I think, as circumstances were, he was confused, sad, frustrated and scared that last week.

Once, the minister was there doing his job; seeing if he could be of help. I overheard him saying that things will be all right and Dad replying in a very horse voice, “I truly hope so”.

Thinking back, Dad had lived a hard life. Beaten as a child by a dominant father, struggling as a boy through the Great Depression and being bullied, having barely gotten through school. The last year, as I would call him every week, he would talk about things. Things that was personal and fond to him. Like being on the Gerber Farm.

Dad talked about being at the Gerber Farm and how much he enjoyed it. John and Ida Gerber owned the farm and had one son, Frank. The farm was somewhere near Alliance, Oh. Dad was there between 12 and 16 years of age (during the 1930’s) and would live several weeks during the year with the Gerbers, sort of to ease the situation at his own home. As he talked, he seemed to think of them as second parents. He was just like a member of the family, went to church with them, had dinners and it was a get-away for him and, perhaps, a pleasant alternative from his life with his real family.

Sometimes, he would be with them even on holidays and school breaks but most of the time it was summers and as a helper. He would take a trolley or train from Massillon to Alliance or that Dad’s father, Albertum (Burt), would arrange alternate ways.

As he spoke of the Gerbers, he had a nice sparkle in his eye, one of remembrance. He said he would really want to go back up there to see what the place looked like, just one more time.

He had a good relationship with these people, except Frank who would play tricks on this “helper”. John and Ida would give Dad clothes to wear and, as Dad said, they took the time to teach him important things, both with being a farm helper and about life in general. Dad was responsible with keeping the barn clean and keeping things straight. John had often told Dad that he did a good job and was a very good worker.

Once, when Dad arrived to the farm, John Gerber had bought 100 baby chicks, or “peeps” for one dollar. He gave these to Dad to do with, as he wanted. Well, Dad liked the peeps and had no idea about what to do with them. People nearby knew about his peeps and asked Dad what he was going to do with them? Dad didn’t know other than that he had to take care of them, and that’s what he was going to do.

Because of his other chores, Ida said she could take care of them for Dad but would want pay for her work. Dad said that was O.K. and laughed at this, because he didn’t have any money and so the deal wouldn’t be any problem.

Ida took care of the chicks as they grew. She fed them. After a time, when the chicks were older, she killed them, picked the feathers off, sold some but prepared the rest as meals for themselves. She sat down with Dad and, in black and white, showed him all the costs. She tallied the initial investment, her labour, the cost of feed and a pen for them as well as what she had sold. Dad got a very good lesson in business economy from this.

When it was all counted up after expenditures, Dad had made a profit of four and a half dollars. Dad smiled and said, “it was a chunk of money for those times.”

dad_img-copyAs a father with a family, Dad always had his heart “ out in the country”. Whether it was the houses we lived in, the baling of hay as boys at “the old farmhouse”, Kidron auctions, tomato gardens, new mown hay or smell of manure being spread on the fields at springtime, the country never left Dad. It was that single sparkle that fathers keep in their shirt pockets, when real life can be cruel; when life doesn’t turn out like one wishes.

For myself, I miss Dad! I miss chatting with him over the phone. I miss listening to him reminisce. I miss his subtle humor. I miss his postcards; his Christmas cards, his letters, his bundles of paper, his awkward handwriting. I miss…

He’s resting with Mom at Stanwood cemetery now. But, more so, I truly hope things “became all right” for him and he’s elsewhere…on a farm…enjoying it…and finally living his dream.

PS– Written because we watched a cow give birth to its calf on a farm in Quendale today! The familiar smell of spring work in the air, too.