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Friday, July 6, 2018

MOTORHOME MODIFICATIONS - Replacing Bed Lift Struts, Dash AC and Jam

I'm back!

Finally starting to feel better. I think we have most of my meds sorted out and we will figure it out. Biopsies came back benign!  I go back again on Monday for more tests and I think things are going to be okay.

We were suffering through all this heat and humidity last week in Wisconsin which made me feel like a slug. Fortunately, today is absolutely beautiful. The temperatures are low 70s and the humidity has dropped. We will be like this for a couple days. This is what summer should be like!

Steve decided it would be a good morning to work on the motor home. A while back he had removed the struts from our king size bed. They were no longer working and he knew he needed to get bigger ones to withstand the heavier weight of the mattress we put in there. The mattress is about 90 to 100 pounds. Add to that the actual wooden deck platform that it sets on with steel framing over the engine compartment.  So we figured it's about 150 pounds and the old struts just gave out a few years ago.

The struts that had been on there were too short and would not allow you full access underneath the bed. Because we work so often on the engine, we just got used to lifting the bed (minus any struts) up together as a team.  We were putting a heavy prop pole in place to hold it open. I was never comfortable with that pole and wished Steve would put some better struts on the bed. It had been something he kept putting off and putting off,  and never quite taking the time to order heavy struts that were longer than the original ones. We wanted the bed to open up as wide as possible, of course.

Finally, last week, Steve was making up a list of things he wanted to do to the motorhome. I insisted that the top item on the list would be to order some struts

We used the same company that we had ordered the lighter-weight door struts from. We measured up what we needed plus we figured a little bit more. $19.95 each, 94 cents each for the four ball sockets, plus shipping. Each one is rated for 160 pounds, so that is 320 pounds total. Here is what we got:

The struts came in the mail yesterday from UPS. So this morning was the perfect time to go out there and figure it out. The temps were down and it was comfortable to work inside the motorhome. (after I made my black raspberry jam... more about that later)

We lifted the bed up and put it on the prop pole. Then Steve replaced the two little ball socket pieces with new ones on the lower brackets. And he set the new struts into place on the bottom box surrounding the engine compartment.

Then we had to figure out where to put the ball sockets for the top struts with some careful measuring --- because these were longer then what had originally been in the motorhome.

We measured backwards from the lip edge of the box for the bottom, We then added to that the compressed length measurement of the strut. We transferred that measurement on the top lid, also measuring from the end of the box. Now we knew the compressed length and added just a teeny bit more for comfort. Better to be a little too long than a little too short and crush the strut or destroy it.

He put in the new ball socket pieces on the top lid after drilling holes and we measured one more time, just to be sure.

Here he is snapping the strut into place. It's really easy to just snap them on the ball sockets and they latch into place. To remove them you have to actually use a skinny little screwdriver and release a retaining clip to get them off again.

Then we did the other side...
And tested it carefully to be sure the struts 
were correctly mounted in the right spots. 

Voila! Here it is fully operational:

I am so glad we were able to do that ourselves!

The other motor home modification he is working on was the front dash AC. The last time we used the motorhome, the dash AC would not kick on.  Steve put on his manifold gauges and pressure vacuum tank to check the freon levels. The freon pressure is fine but the compressor wasn't kicking in. It turns out it wasn't the compressor, instead, it was the fan! Upon further examination, Steve discovered that the magnets were froze up inside the fan and it was not turning anymore! Well, it is 23 years old so I suppose some things do wear out. We don't use the dash air that often, which probably also lead to its demise.

He pulled the fan out and is ordering another one for around $30. We aren't going anywhere in the next week or so, so it's okay to have that part non-operational.

He also used his manifold gauges and vacuum pump on both our car and our Tracker. Now both of them are up to snuff with proper AC cooling at the vents in the 35-40 degree range!  The local service station wanted $150+ for each vehicle to do it for us.  Glad Steve is handy and has these tools to do it ourselves.  That would have been over $300 total service bills for the Tracker and car...


We have lived in this home now for our 6th summer. The past five summers we have never had any black raspberry bush up in the front corner of our fence.  This spring we noticed raspberry bushes growing so we helped prop them up and let them drape over the fence to give them somewhere to grow. Imagine our delight as the berries ripened and we saw they were black raspberries!!

I imagine that some bird flying overhead either dropped a berry here that went to seed...
or it came out of some bird poop!!!???

Either way, we now have a nice thick lush black raspberry patch! 

(Steve has a red raspberry patch
 he planted in the backyard 
that won't be ready until next week) 

Last week we picked enough to do a double batch of uncooked freezer jam. It was way too hot to do the cooked type over the stove.  This is good, but it takes up too much room in our freezer.

But this morning, since it was cool, we had enough to do a triple batch of regular cooked Black Raspberry Jam. Steve kept picking more berries while I started making the jam.

It was so nice to be able to use the canning kettle on the stove and have the kitchen a comfortable temperature to work on the jam. I love my old fashioned kitchen and having fun preserving foods like we used to do with my mom, when we were kids.

Here we are, 20 jars finished. 
1 jar is in the fridge for Steve to use immediately.

Other years, when it's too hot in the kitchen, I have Steve use our outdoor propane burner and I set up my canning kettle out there. But then it means carrying things in and out and in and out from the kitchen as I work on the jam indoors.

We also use the outdoor propane burner for other things. It was originally intended for deep fried turkey. We don't do those very often. But we do use it for canning, or if I want to simmer a stinky dye pot for spinning wool or yarn. The best use is for steaming Alaskan snow crab legs! It keeps the stink out of the house and we can use the very large kettle on the outdoor propane burner. 14 minutes and they are absolutely perfect.

I wasn't feeling very good on our 21st anniversary last week, so instead we did our special meal of crab legs in the kettle this week on the 4th of July!


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Been Outta The Loop

I am sorry.  I have had readers emailing me and texting me about not blogging lately.

I am having some medical issues.  It has resulted in 3 emergency room visits, 2 doc office visits, 2 specialists, and an outpatient surgery and now to explore and take biopsies and find some answers.  Multiple tests with CT scan, EKG, bloodwork etc. all completed.

I am taking so many pills each day that I rattle when I walk. 

Trying to get better and get some answers.  I think I am on the upswing now.

We have a lot of camping to do, 
grandkids to cuddle, 
rugs and quilts to create
 and projects to do around Our Old House. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Campground Pfundtner! Making a Motorhome Parking Pad and Power Post

Five and a half years ago, when we were searching for a house, we made sure we were able to buy one in a city or town that allowed us to keep our motorhome parked in our own yard. Some areas have zoning laws, some areas have HOA rules, but here in Chilton we were informed that we didn't need any special permit to park our motorhome in our yard at the particular house we were looking to purchase.

Before we even wrote the offer on the house we made sure with THREE official sources, the city planner, the city zoning department, and the City Police Department. All three gave us the go-ahead that it was okay to park our RV in our yard as long as it was licensed, operational, and not parked up by the street. Putting it in the backyard at the far back end of our driveway was just fine with them.

(the red box is where we wanted to put it)

The weekend that we moved into the new home was on December 31st 2012, We had a contractor team over doing some skim coat plaster in the ceilings in all the rooms on the main floor, before we brought over our furniture. The contractor guy just so happened to have a big plow on his pickup truck. So for an extra $20, we had him plow straight back from the end of our driveway to the back lot line so we would have room to bring the motorhome over in a week or two.  He plowed it wide enough for two motorhomes side by side! LOL

The week before we were ready to bring the motorhome over, there was a huge crash in our backyard during a storm. Oh my goodness! A huge section of the old box elder tree in the backyard crashed down right in the exact section we were going to put the motorhome. If we had brought the motorhome over that weekend, it would have had a big section of tree go through the front windshield or smash the roof!

Steve needed to cut down this rotten big old tree before we could even bring our motorhome here to our own yard in the middle of winter. We had to move the motorhome out of the storage unit because a new renter was taking over the lease by January 15th.  Yes, we normally keep the motorhome outdoors all winter where we used to live as well.  Because we usually do take off for 6-7 weeks each winter to travel south, it doesn't pay to rent storage for a full winter.

Using the chainsaw, Steve took care of the remaining tree and cut up the huge hunk on the ground too. He is a certified by the by the state of Wisconsin DNR, Department of Natural Resources to cut down trees safely. 

Both trees in the backyard had rotten centers so he took them down to the stumps.
We would remove the stumps in the spring when things thaw out.  

We advertised on Craigslist, for anyone who wanted the free wood to come and get it. Within half an hour there was somebody here loading it up as fast as Steve could cut it into chunks. Since most of it was dead, it was pretty dry already. We don't have a wood burning fireplace so it was a win-win for both of us.

Now we could bring over the motorhome and park it in the plowed area. We moved it to our yard just the nick of time because an ice storm was coming that night. It patiently waited in our yard for a couple weeks before we hopped in and went away on a pre-planned vacation to Louisiana and Texas for the next two months..

By the time we got home at the end of March it was mostly bare in the yard --- the snow had mostly melted. Of course, the ground is all grass and still frozen.  But it would become a muddy mess in no time once the frost came out of the ground.

Now came step two of our plan:

We contacted back to the city and made sure that we were doing everything "legit" by extending our driveway backwards to the end of the property with gravel. They said it was absolutely okay and we didn't even need a permit! Imagine that?

We contracted about five or six different landscape contractor people, asking for someone with a little skidloader to level out the yard, and then have a load of fine gravel "screenings" dumped, and level it out for our planned motorhome parking pad. We measured out our plot and staked it with string so it was easily discernible. 

Not a single contractor followed through! Some even give us an exact time over the phone that they would stop by to give an estimate. Not a single one called us back with a price or even to discuss the job. Geesh.

We took matters into our own hands. Steve rented a cute little skidloader unit from a local implement shop. He didn't even have to trailer it here. They said just drive it straight down the side of the road over to our house, right in the middle of the city. They said people do it all the time!!

It was about 2 miles from our house,
and here he came, right down the street! 

He went right to work, and leveled out all the soil, after scraping off the sod.  The device sure made it easy... and he was done in no time.  Plus, he had a lot of fun!  He is like a big boy playing with a sand box toy.  LOL

Steve arranged for a dump truck full of fine screenings --- which is a very fine gravel with powdery stuff kind of mixed in that will compact as it rains and becomes a good hard surface. Less weeds grow through and it stays level and doesn't develop ruts after a while like regular driveway gravel does. We used the same product in our driveway up in Oconto and knew it was what we wanted.

Steve leveled out the yard and had everything ready. The dump truck delivered the gravel right on time. The driver was even skillfully able to spread it out in smaller piles as he dumped and moved along, taking care with the overhead power lines as well.

Steve played with his little toy 
and finished leveling it off .
He made a beautiful parking pad!!!

Can you see him grinning from ear to ear while doing this? 

Once he returned the skidloader,
then he drove our tracker over and over it back and forth,
packing it down evenly.... 

The driveway is on our property but we allow the neighbors to use it to access their garage. They even help with snowblowing sometimes when we are gone. By extending our drive now straight back, it gave us both more turnaround room from our garages when leaving. 

 the red line is where we added the gravel motorhome parking pad

Fast forward 5 and a half years----
The parking pad is just as beautiful as it was when we put it in.

We always wanted to run a power line out to the motorhome. We wanted to wait until we had the electric panel to the garage upgraded. Otherwise, it had originally only been 15 amp in the garage. Really, that was not enough. We would just run an extension cord out to the motor home if need be. But it really wasn't enough power to run the air conditioners or an electric heater or anything. Even running the vacuum cleaner would make it pop the breaker. It was just enough power to maybe turn on the fridge to cool it down for a day before we were loading up for camping.

This year, since Steve had the garage panel updated, he wanted to put in a 50 amp line out to the motorhome.  He gathered all of his materials, including a power post just like what the campgrounds use. He purchased extra heavy duty #6 gauge wire and the underground conduit to run it through.

He measured out where the line would run. We already had called Digger's Hotline when we did the fence and knew there weren't any power, gas or water lines in that area of the yard.  He painted a line on the ground where the trench would be dug.

Thursday morning he rented a trencher, and it was the best $30 he ever spent. We haven't had much rain here in Chilton and the ground is rock hard. This thing dug a beautiful trench about 14in deep by about 35 ft long.

 I shot a little You Tube video 
of how neat this thing worked:

He only ran into three rocks, and NO tree roots. Whew! 
The dirt is all hard packed and dry 
no moisture or mud at all, 
even 14 inches down. 

At the end, he just had to use this little trowel to get under the fence. I was being silly and posted it on facebook --- saying that he dug the whole trench that way!  LOL !

In 20 minutes, he cleaned up the trencher and returned it back to the store in better shape than when he got it. What a nice guy.


Sunday morning he decided to set the post in concrete, after laying the conduit underground and running the wire out to the area where the post was going to be located.

Before he began he had to carefully make a template of the bottom bolt pattern of the post. Then he knew where to put the four anchoring threaded rods to set into the cement. What a smart guy!

He likes using this new post cement concrete mix--- You just pour the bag of powder in the hole and spray it with a hose.  Then mix it up with a big pipe or stick until it looks to be the right consistancy. It sets up REALLY quick!  He figured between two and three bags to fill the hole.

He mixed up the first bag in the hole by adding the water and stirring it with a big pipe. Then he set his wooden template with the four threaded rods into place quickly before the cement hardened.

Now he did the second bag of cement mix scooping it in one scoop at a time around the threaded rods and mixing it as he went. Doing about two or three scoops at a time made the mixing easier than trying to dump in one big bag at once. Slow and steady wins the race he says.

Now he was right near the very top. The two bottom bags worth of cement were already solid and firm. He was able to take the wooden template off as the four bolts were now firmly cemented into place. They were not going anywhere.

Now he opened the third bag and mixed that a scoop at a time until he was up level with the conduit.  You can see the lip edge of the conduit around the opening of the loop of the heavy wire.  The tips of the four threaded rods were protruding just enough to mount the post. Perfection! 

It dried very quickly.  In a half hour, he set the post into place and it was perfectly level. He carefully bolted it down using lock nuts, sometimes called aircraft nuts. The post was perfectly level, plum and and straight in all directions.  I love how precise he is when we work on projects.

That's the way Steve likes to do things!

Once he got that far, now it was time to call our electrician friend Tom over to finish the final hook up. He came this afternoon, but I was napping and missed him.  Steve said he double checked everything, hooked the lines in the breaker box in the garage, and we were good to go.


Now our "guesthouse" motorhome can be securely plugged in using the thick 50 amp cord. We can now run both roof air conditioners safely, in case of friends wanting to visit.  The motorhome makes a great mini hotel room out in the yard.  Plus, my my mom and stepdad want to spend a couple days in there when they come up to visit from Florida in August. They can be comfortable and have their own personal space.

We mainly will use it to run an air conditioner to cool down the rig while loading up and prepping for vacation or weekend trips. We can start the refrig on electric a day or two before leaving, and get it cooled down before loading it up.  Or if something happens in the house, we can be comfortable in the motorhome until things are made right again.

Also, where Steve located the post in the driveway, we could easily accommodate a second RV if we had company come and moochdock in our driveway for a visit. 



On a side note, follow-up with doc on my blood pressure spike. The meds from the doc on Friday didn't work so well.  By Saturday, (non stress day) it rose and rose... by dinnertime it was up to almost 200.  Talked to doc, back to the ER we went. Once there, it went over 200. Time to take action. In 5 minutes they had me settled in a room and started doing tests.  Trying a different drug and will follow up with a specialist next. It came down and I was released by midnight.

    Will see how this one works?