YouTube Videos, Abigail the Puppy, an Aliner Travel Trailer, & Garden Fiascos

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Hey all

It’s the last day of May. I love June. It’s my birthday month. When I was in elementary school, I felt short changed because my friends and their families had left town for summer vacations by the time my birthday rolled around. This year, I will share my 70th, my daughter’s 40th, and my grandson’s 7th in a family-only Big Birthday Bash in my backyard. Festivities will include Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Donkey and an obstacle course, take-out Central American food from my favorite taqueria, Picante, and balloons.

Here in California, we are already nervous about the upcoming fire season. When will it start, whose house will get hit this year, and how long will we have smokey air? A news article in the SF Chronicle said that we’ve already had more fires this year than last year by this time. The big fires started in August last year. They used to start in October. Everywhere I go, lakes and rivers are at a low mark. Fingers crossed.

YouTube Videos

While locked down this last year, I spent a lot of time creating YouTube videos. Just a reminder. I have two YouTube channels.

  1. Mary Ames Mitchell (where I post stuff about my writing, genealogical research, and anything else non-RV related)
  2. Rambling in Ramsey (where I post stuff about traveling in my Ram Promaster City that I usually have set up as a campervan)

Most of the time I spent researching and producing a five-part series about my great-great grandparents Charles & Fanny Ames, 19th Century Human Rights Activists in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment. My target audience was my family (fellow descendants of Charles Gordon Ames). But some of my Christian Science friends have been interested, too, because Charles was the minister across town in Boston while Mary Baker Eddy was founding her church on Mass Ave.

Curiosity motivated me to find out more about the women’s rights movement, which, I soon learned, was interconnected with the abolition movement. And in Boston, the same people who led those movements were mostly Unitarians. Another thing I learned was that back then, the people who were part of the Second Great Awakening (who opposed Unitarianism and Universalism) were as skeptical of science as their descendant Born Again Christians are today. Sorry if that remark offends some of you, but this is my blog and I get to insert my opinion. I tried to keep my opinions out of my videos, however, and state only facts and real-life events.

Abigail, My Corgi Puppy

Since November, I’ve spent a lot of the time trying to train Abby. We graduated from the Marin Humane Society’s Family Dog 2 class last week. FD3 starts the second week in June. Abby is very smart. She can do ‘hoop’ and stay on a mat for five minutes, if she wants to, or if the treat is something really, really yummy. She caught the frisbee in the air three times in a row yesterday afternoon. She is also a huge thief. I can’t set my coffee down, let along a plate of nuts or crackers. And she’s bossy, which is causing stress for 17-year-old Annie. So, I separate them a lot. Thank goodness for crates and tie-downs. Don’t worry. They both get plenty of attention.

My New Travel Trailer

There is no way to cook in a small van like mine with a bouncy puppy. I nearly blew myself up trying it with my propane stove. So, I’ve added a travel trailer to my camping program. In the video, I give you a quick tour of the interior.

My Garden

I thought I was being so smart purchasing a little greenhouse shelf and starting seeds early. I worked all winter building my compost pile. But something isn’t working. These vegetables were planted months ago. Similar plants in my neighbor’s garden are four times the size. However, the artichokes are doing great. I made artichoke carbonara last night. Yummy.

And I have plenty of salad. Lettuce, arugula, and spinach thrive in this tower. A few tomato plant seeds must have made it through the winter in the compost bin because I had five growing in the tower that I didn’t plant. They are now in the raised bed.

Speaking of which, does anyone know what to do with all these pill bugs? I read that they are good for compost, so I scoop then up by the handful and throw them into my compost bin. But nothing likes to grow in this raised bed.

That is all for now. I hope everyone has fun summer plans to look forward to. Stay safe and healthy.

January 2021 Update

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Mary Mitchell with corgis Annie and Abigail
Abigail and Annie were not being cooperative for this photo session.

Hey there friends out on the internet. How were your holidays? I hope everyone has remained healthy, that you are managing financially, and that you are able to see your loved ones.

All’s well here. As you can see, Annie and I have a new puppy. I was searching for a dog to adopt on Craig’s List and happened on a Corgi puppy. Our whole household is getting out more. No more sitting in front of the computer for hours for me. Sometimes Annie is very happy for the company and sometimes not.

Abigail and Annie on the floor in my studio.
Annie likes it best when Abigail is contained.
Abigail and Annie guarding the garden against squirrels.
Abigail and Annie guarding the garden against squirrels.
Both dogs still fit on my chair during coffee time in the morning.
Both dogs still fit on my chair during coffee time in the morning.

We’ve taken one day-trip together. You might have seen the above YouTube video about it.

Making YouTube videos has been my Stay-at-home thing. I run two channels. One is for my RV stuff called Rambling in Ramsey. I posted this video a vew months ago about converting my Ram ProMaster City into a camperfan without building anything or making permanent changes to the van.

I haven’t taken any overnight trips in a while because of the pandemic. Sadly, that means I haven’t seen my family in Southern California for a while. Real bummer. But the grandson who lives near me in Marin County loves toodling around town in Ramsey. Our favorite haunts are still the Railroad Station and the Dump.

I also have a YouTube channel by my author name, Mary Ames Mitchell. I post stuff about my books and genealogy research on that one. At the beginning of 2020, I created a series of videos about book formatting. You can access them from the tab above “Self-Publishing Guides.” But I need to redo them using a more updated verrsion of Microsoft Word.

My current project is a video about human rights. For several months, I’ve been working on a video about my great-great grandparents Charles and Fanny Ames. They were human rights activists in the 1800s. Originally, I only intended to compile the historical research that I had in my possession so that the rest of my family could access it. But as I gathered letters and notes, I wanted to know more details.

Researching through Charles and Fanny’s eyes, I’ve learned how interconnected the abolition and women’s rights movements were, how the Unitarians were involved, and what exactly heppened between 1833 (the founding of the American Abolition Society) and 1920 (the ratification of the 19th amendment). It’s amazing how many parallels I’ve found to what is going on today with human rights on all fronts (race, sex, and religion). Now I know how the term liberal came about.

I’ll let you know when I finish. Meanwhile, stay safe and be kind to each other.

Preparing for Fire Evacuation

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It is only the middle of August and California is already burning. I’ve packed my Promaster City campervan, which is also my regular car, for a quick escape. At night I pack up my computer and hard drives containing all my work and place them by the door. Anything else that I don’t want to keep in the van all the time, like valuables, family papers, and my clothes, I place by the door, too. As my very first boss, Rudy Medina, told me, “Stay flexible.”

Also, stay safe everybody, and healthy.

Layout Plans for Converting a ProMaster¬© City Cargo Van to a Mini-Campervan

Hi again,

In response to my last blog about my new campervan, Ramsey Jr, I received requests for specifics for the furniture I used and where I purchased it. Here is a list. I am also inserting my detailed plans and elevations to show you where I placed everything so far.

Note that I am 5′-7.” I barely fit lengthwise in the cargo section when the back seat is tumbled forward. If you are taller, you will need to purchase a cargo van without the back seat. Also, I have included things like lots of water bottles in preparation for boondocking for 7 days in one stretch.

List of essentials

TravelingPosition

This photo from the Ram ProMaster website shows how the van looks with the seats in place. This is how I need the van to be when I am hauling grandchildren around. Since the main purpose of this van is to visit my grandchildren 400 miles away, this was an important feature for me.

Promaster City w back seats up

The rest of the drawings illustrate how the furniture is arranged when the back seat is tumbled forward and I am actually camping. The layout allows for a nice open space in the middle, which I really like. It reminds me of the layout for VW Campers, just a wee bit smaller. The ceiling is high enough to walk around in the space hunched over.

CookingPosition

SleepingPosition

CookingLoungingPositionPassengerSideElevation

For the shelf, I used the IKEA Pinnig ‘bench with shoe storage.’ See my note about installing the middle shelf upside down to give the shelf a lip that holds in drawers/boxes.

Pinnig-shelf-on-IKEA

As you can see from the next elevation, I can sit on the folded mattress, which serves as a ‘couch.’ The sleeping bag is converted to a back cushion for the ‘couch.’

CookingLoungingPosition-elevation

SleepingPosition-Elevation

LoungingPositionBedExtended

Working Position

Here is the listing for the table that I have. I bought it for my Class B. I love it because it can be a coffee table or a dining table, and there are no cross-bars, allowing my knees to fit under the table easily. But the price has gone up considerably on new ones. Sorry about that. Look up Beckworth & Co. They may make a less expensive version now.

Folding-Table

Last but not least, something that is very important to us old folks. I double up the plastic bags and bring along a container of hamster shavings to sprinkle on top. The shavings prevent bad smells. During the day, the toilet becomes another convenient surface to place things at a workable height. I know, it sounds gross to use your toilet as a work surface but really….

ToiletPosition

This last photo, which was in my last post, shows you where I place the canvas bags filled with my clothes. I use a bungee cord to attach them to hooks on the seat belts. A black-out curtain hangs across the front area from a tension rod so that you can’t see in from the front windows.

Meet Ramsey Jr Thumbnail

 

 

 

Meet Ramsey Junior

Hi

I haven’t posted for a while because my van life has been in transition. I traded Ramsey, my fully-stocked 21-foot Class B that got 14 miles per gallon, for a small cargo van that fits in my garage and (supposedly) gets 28 miles per gallon on the open road.

I made the decision to make the swap after taking a trip around the Northwest last August. As you can see from this map, I visited many National Park sites. What a treat that was!

2019-Aug-Map-NorthwestNatParks

But on my way home I was wishing I didn’t burn so much fossil fuel while enjoying the scenery. I was coveting smaller vans. Driving Ramsey around for two years taught me what I need and what I don’t.

  • I never used Ramsey’s shower.
  • I only need one burner on the stove.
  • I don’t need a generator and air conditioner.
  • I don’t need a sink and complicated plumbing.
  • It is just as easy to use a bucket as it is to use the toilet that requires black tanks.
  • Since I have a wonderful home where I can entertain, I don’t need my RV to be a place to cook elaborate meals. Besides, one of the fun things about traveling is trying out local restaurants.
  • I don’t need a whale beached on my driveway when I’m not using it. It blocked access to my garage.

I suddenly knew I was done with my Class B, even though the PleasureWay Lexor is an absolutely beautiful mini-RV.

Fortunately, a cute couple in Oregon was ready to start where I’d left off and purchased Ramsey from me. I put 2/3 of the cash back in the bank and used the rest to purchase Ramsey Junior, a ProMaster City cargo van – the passenger wagon version.

I did a lot of planning before making that purchase.

  • I took all the items that I had had in Ramsey that I thought I would need in a small campervan and placed them in a pile in the middle of my garage.
  • I put the smallest items in 11″ x 17″ plastic tubs that I could stack.
  • I obtained measurements for self-inflating mattresses from the Internet.
  • I got measurements for the cargo spaces in Ram ProMasters, Ford Transits, and Nissan cargo vans.
  • I marked the spaces out in my garage and made mock-ups of how everything would be placed in that space.
  • I measured myself sitting to see how high a chair could be and not cause my head to bump the ceiling.
  • I drew plans using Adobe Illustrator.
  • I test drove the ProMaster and the Transit and lay down in the backs of both to see how well I fit.

Promaster-City-Wagon-Layout

I took a few practice trips in my much-more-cramped BMW X1. That helped me eliminate more stuff I didn’t need. I watched countless videos about van conversions to see what other people found important. (It is amazing how some couples actually live full time in tiny vans. One couple packs a water heater and a stove in the ProMaster City!) I do not live full time in my van, and I place elbow room high on my priority list.

RamseyDrivewayFacingDown

My goal is to be able to live off the grid for a week at one time. I’ve made the decision to stay with a cooler instead of a 12-volt fridge, which would need some sort of power. I can charge my phone, my computer, and my LED lantern while driving. But what if I am in one place for a week? Do I need to buy one of those self-contained batteries, like the Jackery, and a solar panel? I’m still working that out.

Meanwhile, here is a video showing Ramsey Junior so far. I have taken several weekend trips in him and been very comfortable. Let me know your thoughts.