renovation

INSIDE OUR RENOVATED HOME ON WHEELS

 

We have arrived. The view looks like burdock- and nettle-covered fields, and two buckling kids — Satchmo and Smithers, respectively. It looks like three weeks of blood, sweat, and tears bringing life and buzzing back into an unused 1986 camper; it looks like home for now. And our home's name is Pink Cameron.

To inhabit a new space is quite strange a thing. Muscle memory has yet to develop, so you hit your head on new things, and your reach for something on the counter falls an inch too short. Your body feels different in your bed, or maybe it's that your bed feels foreign to your body. Our life here has become an amalgamation of all of the things we imagined, and many that we did not.

If you have been following along with this blog for a little while, you read and witnessed our first impression of the camper. Paring back our belongings was an interest of ours, and we have both long dreamed of a composting toilet outhouse, but to claim that we chose this situation would be a falsehood. The truth is that we are extremely grateful for hot water, derive pleasure from lighting, and see nothing wrong with having a bookshelf devoted to vinyl and books. Camper life lends itself poorly to all of the above. Or at least this camper. We said yes to this opportunity because what we wanted most of all was to immerse ourselves in this dairy goat farm while not entering into poverty getting there. The owners at Consider Bardwell generously offered us their camper, on their farm, with a no-holds-barred approach to renovation.

Many skills were acquired along the way; many came too late. We yelled and cursed and sustained countless minor injuries. Without further adieu, a glimpse of Pink Cameron's interior from Dark + Outdated to Light + Fresh!

A few moments, even if brief or rare, have had us feeling like vignettes from a Wes Anderson film: lying on our bed that buts up to the window, reading and rereading recipes from a favorite cookbook while our cat sleeps on the shelf above, our transistor radio relaying all the daily happenings. These moments do exist, and we want to acknowledge their goodness; they are pure in spirit and leave us refreshed. Moments of genuine connection as husband and wife and members of the planet drive our will to make this work—to make Pink Cameron our home.

There are other moments, peppered in more frequently—yet disorienting all the same—where things go wrong. The times when you catch six mice in a day and wonder if the eyes of every mouse bulge out of their head when they die. Or when you have not yet built your cat an outdoor enclosure, and so resign yourself to a litter box that will live at the foot of your bed. And when the fuses and the wires and the converters and the lines exceed your level of know-how by so great a score that you live without electricity or a refrigerator. This all goes without mentioning that hearing, “Wow, you're still painting the inside?” was something of a daily phenomenon.

Wherever we haven't used parts from the farm's equipment shed to smatter together a makeshift version of Whatever-It-Is-We're-Building, we have more-than-likely gone without. Example: we built an outdoor shower using felled logs for the four posts, baling twine for supporting the shower curtains, and rocks from the forest as a drainage base. However, we have yet to begin building our composting toilet outhouse, opting instead to run one-hundred yards down the road to the farm whenever nature calls.

Here we cook most meals over an open fire—a few successes; several flops. We tried potatoes wrapped in foil thrown straight in the embers, and they came out charred to the point of inedibility. Rice came off the fire grate perfectly, as did green peppers—which blistered in sizzling, not smoking (!!) olive oil. Laundry gets washed by hand and dried by the wind. So do our dishes. Slowly, the cadence of daily life is making sense.

Our shelves are decorated entirely with things we use & consume: mason jars full of provisions, spices, and baking supplies; an oil lamp; a few dishes & cooking utensils; a ukulele & a few of our favorite books; our begleri and briki from Greece, plus a carpet from our time in Turkey. The wind chime that our farm friends gifted us is singing a gentle tune in the afternoon breeze and this place is beginning to feel like a home. Perhaps it is because of all the time that we spent trying to make it so. Perhaps it is simply because we have electricity and a functioning refrigerator. Either way, we have arrived at a moment of gratitude & satisfaction—however humble it may be. Here's to a tiny camper nestled in the great outdoors.


—M&S

PINK CAMERON GETS A GOAT

 

If we may, let us lay out an average day since returning to Vermont one week ago:

Wake up at 4:30 a.m. Fumble around to make a french press. Promptly get back into bed, where we will maybe read the news on our phones, or maybe stare at nothing. Head to the farm around 5:15 a.m. to milk a herd of 150 goats and/or take care of farm chores (feed pigs, feed bucks, feed kids, feed chickens). Go back to the Fish and Game to eat several spoonfuls of peanut butter, potentially an apple if we have any left and, if it's a good day, some leftover black beans. Head to the camper to do as much as we possibly can with next to no knowledge of how to do it. Go back to the farm and repeat the same process listed above. Return to Pink Cameron around 7:30 p.m. to work on projects until the sun goes down. Go home, take a shower and definitely drink a shower beer, and then promptly fall asleep.

Somehow, amid what feels like the most physically exhausting season of our lives, the decision to add a newborn goat into the mix sounded reasonable. Easy, even. Finally, something in our wheelhouse! The story is that this little kid, who we have named Satchmo (a nod to one of the true greats), was born a month after his expected due date. His mom, Yoko Ono, was bred late. Satchmo has no real place on the farm at this point as his 40+ comrades are all quadruple his size. Being that Pink Cameron is located directly on the farm, and given that we spent two months taking care of 100 kids at a time, it makes sense for us to raise him. 

It makes sense for more reasons than one. Satchmo will keep us rooted in our new space: the boy has to be fed thrice daily, which offers yet more incentive to get moved into the camper. He may even serve as a bargaining chip in convincing family and friends to come visit us in rural Vermont! He will get to live a beautiful life outside, where he will graze on rich pasture forage. And after many months of doing his favorite things (read: munch on nutritious flora & run around under the sun), when the time is appropriate, we will slaughter him and process him for meat that will in turn nourish our bodies, and those of our friends and families. The ending to this chapter that we are just now beginning has already been written.

This is the reality of all carnivores: the meat we consume is from a living, breathing animal. It just happens that we have chosen to experience this reality directly. The more we learn of the meat industry, the more we want to inform our own meat eating choices. Perhaps someday—like days of old—it won't be taboo to see the face of the animal you are eating. Raising animals for eventual slaughter is not strange to us, but it isn't easy either. We also recognize that it might be even more difficult for others to think about. We grappled with whether or not to even give him a name, but at the end of the day our goal is to raise Satchmo with the utmost care and attention to his wellbeing—and do that we will. In an effort to continually remain sensitive to those who feel, act, and experience life differently than we do, we promise to write more on this subject.

First, we need to give Pink Cameron's kitchen a second coat of paint and bottle feed our kid.


—M&S

INTRODUCING PINK CAMERON

 

Before we left our home in Ohio for farm life in Vermont, we asked our nieces and nephews to help us name the camper we will be calling home for the next several months. 'Pink Cameron' was the name matter-of-factly put forth by our four-year-old niece, Hazel. For whatever reason, the name stuck, although the camper is neither pink nor worthy of a human name—yet. We are curious what Hazel will think when she's fifteen and learns that she named a 1986 Sunline camper 'Pink Cameron'.

Ah, Pink Cameron. It's bad. It's really bad. Coming in we had some basic ideas of what needed to be ripped out and what simple renovations we could make happen. (Note: neither of us had ever renovated anything.) What we did not expect were the thousands of mouse droppings accompanied by mouse nests in the ceiling and floor. Or that each hideous curtain would have at least ten rusty staples affixing it to the wall. Or that the walls seem to be made of rotting construction paper. Two people of our paltry skill level should not be able to demolish any "home" in one day. Except, of course, the decorative piece of padded carpet above the door (?) which required calling in a skilled hand to remove. We would love to have a word with the people who made this hunk of junk. Nevertheless, we are sure we'll come to cherish our time in this camper. We have been afforded a great chance to live simply and free of charge on the farm, and for that we want to express immense gratitude.

Over the coming weeks we will be sharing plenty of blog posts about our progress on the interior and the exterior. The to-do's include paint jobs, a composting toilet outhouse, an outdoor shower, learning to bake on a charcoal grill, hand washing our clothes, and all of the things we have not yet anticipated.

During times of transition, we often experience something that we like to call "the storm before the calm." Our strategy has typically been to "cleave and leave," but this move — to Vermont, to become more permanent fixtures at this farm — has asked more from us. This move has called on us as husband and wife to have stamina. This move has called on us to honor the slow goodbyes with siblings and parents, friends, priest, landscape, and even creature comforts. The farewells have been said. We are here. As we strip down our new abode in hopes of building a better Pink Cameron, we still find ourselves very much in the midst of the storm.

We have spent much of the past two years on the move: traveling, changing jobs and homes and life circumstances along the way. Throw in an engagement, a marriage, an unexpected decision to take low-paying internships on a Vermont goat dairy in wintertime, and here we are: living and working together everyday. That familiar feeling of calm that accompanies a new adventure and a new place has yet to come. Inevitably, the storm will pass. One of these days, though it seems hard to believe, we will relish the scent of fresh summer rain wafting in through the open windows of a livable Pink Cameron.


—M&S