Extreme Vandwelling Part 2: Straw Bale Van in the Yukon Territory

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This is part two of my story on Cud Eastbound’s journey to spend a winter in Dawson City, Yukon Territories. With his permission I’ve reprinted his words and photos here. I think it’s an important story for us because I know many vandwellers who also want to own a piece of land they call their own and can spend part of the year on. I bought an acre of land for just that reason myself. Cud is proof that buying land and making it ready to live on is not that difficult or expensive.

I paid $2000 for an acre in northern Arizona and I plan to dig out a trench and bury a school bus for my home. I believe I can rent a Caterpillar D3 and buy the non-running school bus and have it delivered for less that $1000.  That’s pretty cheap for an underground home ready to move into!

We’re all going to get old and be forced off the road at some time and nearly all of us have a hunger for a place we call our own. While few of us will face the extreme cold of the Yukon, we can buy a piece of land and find old-time, simple, basic methods to create a very cheap and comfortable home for ourselves for our old-age or just for a stop-over on our annual migration. 

The key thing to learn here are Cud’s boldness, ingenuity and frugality. Those are attributes every vandweller should strive to have more of.

I hope you are as inspired by it as I am. Check out his blog at http://nightdanger.lostwarren.com/

Shelves

Night Danger is a big van, but there are many more things I could change on the inside in order to optimize space, and a lot more to come, but for now… Taking out the front seats was good, I need to borrow a grinder to get the bolts out of the floor, but for now it will be good. Shelves! Little shelves, big ones, any kind of shelf is great!

He put in shelves everywhere he could.

He put in shelves everywhere he could find the space.

Because the van was now a stationary home, Cud removed both front seats and made use of the space.

Because the van was now a stationary home, Cud removed both front seats and made use of the space. This is exactly what I plan to do with a school bus, except in Arizona burying it works better than straw bales.

It takes lots of blankets and big dog on the bed to stay warm at thee temperatures!

It takes lots of blankets and big dog on the bed to stay warm at these extreme temperatures!

The Outhouse and Woodshed

It finally snowed!
I still have not gotten my straw bales… a little mix up in Whitehorse. But that’s ok, still plenty of stuff to do! Here’s some photos of my quick woodshed, and some other neat things

straw-wood-shed-001

At -50 you burn a lot of wood so you have to put in many cords in the fall. And it has to stay dry to get maximum heat and burn time out of it For that, a woodshed is critically important. It’s just part of homesteading.

 

In the far north, scrounging is a way of life. If a all possible, everything is reused and given a second life.

Homesteading in the far north, scrounging is a way of life. If at all possible, everything is reused and given a second life. Scrap sheet metal becomes a woodshed roof.

Here are some photos of my really quick outhouse, Its getting cold, and… I am not very fussy about where I poop. But I dug out and buried my main poles, then hucked some tin over it! For the poles I used some of the wood I’ve been getting up the Dempster highway, its old forest fire wood. Spruce I believe, and its light and strong. Normally I would not expose wood to earth, as it will rot, but it’s a temporary structure that will need improvements in the future.

The basics of an outhouse are very simple; dig a deep hole!

The basics of an outhouse are very simple; step one, dig a deep hole!

...step two is bury somme poles and step three is attach some scrap tin. Isn't it a beauty!

…step two is bury some poles and step three is attach a seat and some scrap tin. Isn’t it a beauty!

The Platform

So, first things first I guess… I visit the dump every day to collect as many free supplies as possible.

Thought it would be a great idea to have a floor, to keep me, the van & the straw up off of the ground… less moisture…. keep away from the permafrost.

The sided-walk panels he got for free.

The sidewalk panels he got for free.

So I collected (with the help of Olin & Devon) six 6″X8″ Pieces of old sidewalks from Dawson City… Yes, these beasts are made entirely of 2″X6″‘s. I plan on laying them out so that I end up with a platform that is 6 inches off the ground, and that measures a whopping 24 feet by 12 feet. Also, something strong enough to support my 1 &1/2 ton camper van. Also, I forgot to mention, first off… I had to clear out the brush.. and find a nice spot!

The clearing that would become the home for Night Danger.

The clearing that would become the home for Night Danger. 

The deck being assembled.

The deck being assembled.

The deck covered in plastic and Night Danger in place.

The deck covered in plastic and Night Danger in place.

Straw Bales

So… the straw bales came quite late in the season and I was planning on mudding “stucco” or “cob” whatever the outside of the bales. However the temperature dropped too quickly and anything I would have applied to the bales would have either not stuck, or not cured properly.

I decided to purchase house wrap… $70 dollars later and some tuck tape I was in business.
Had some awesome help from friends and we got it all taped up…. Oh before that I used rope and twine to tie all the bales together, so they would not fall down.

The base layer.

The base layer.

Half way there.

Half way there.

Almost done!

Almost done!

The final step was to encase it heavy mill plastic.

The final step was to encase it with house wrap.

I hope you’ve enjoyed Cud’s story and been inspired by it as much as I have been. To me the message is that money doesn’t have to hold you back from your dreams, only fear can do that. Like Cud, have a dream and boldly set out to make it happen. Fortune favors the bold, and things will fall in place!

And if they don’t, you’ll still have memories of an adventure that you’ll treasure forever! 

Either way, you win!

Hardships in trying and maybe succeeding or maybe failing are never our enemy. Boredom and un-lived life are!

Bob
About

I’ve been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

17 comments on “Extreme Vandwelling Part 2: Straw Bale Van in the Yukon Territory
  1. Bob Bob says:

    This is a test.
    Bob

  2. raz says:

    cud is having to much fun. love it.love it. love it.

    ice cream raz

    • Lucy says:

      Too much fun ?? U’r kidding, what he had for sure was TOO MUCH WORK ! He dugg holes, he built the platform for the van,he chopped fire-wood, he lift all those straw-bales to cover the van, he built the outhouse…etc etc. I could bet Cud didn’t need sleeping pills those nights after a hard-labor day, bet he slept like a baby !!
      His house is a piece of art @ master piece, very creative Cud !

      My regards to U Raz & to Cud. Lucy.

      Raz: I LOVE ice-cream as well, the problem is….it goes to female’s hips & to males belly !!

  3. raz says:

    is a school bus structurally sound enough to be buried. well and not collapse. why not dig the hole and pour a concrete house? cover with dirt. i know from experience that an underground home is much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. not toasty in the winter but somewhat warm. my definition of warm could be suspect.

    psychologically light is healthy. how is that going to work?

    d3 are good little dozers. if you have never ran one, go slow. don’t try to take it all at once. a little bit each pass. slow and steady wins the prize. also it will take longer than you think. in construction nothing ever is on schedule. things like a rock the size of a studebaker are occasionally discovered. laugh. the d3 is great, you aren’t digging grand canyon.

    you might want to ask the local diggers about the wisdom of this. maybe not i don’t know. i’ve met people that have done the concrete cellar thing before. the choice location appears to have been next to the tavern. laugh.

    ice cream raz

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi Raz, I won’t bury the roof. I’ll orient it east-west and the north side I will backfill to the roof so it that wall will be completely covered and the roof will have a foot or two of dirt. I’ll have to research how much weight it can bear. I’ll put styrofoam down first, then cover it.

      The front with the engine will be completely covered with dirt and the back with the door will be left open as a back door. The south wall will be buried up to the windows and be left open above that for light and ventilation. I’ll probably cover and insulate some of the windows.

      That will be too much sunlight in the summer, so I will put in an overhang that will shade the windows in the heat of the summer and then in the winter it will be low enough to shine through for heat.

      Lots more details but I won’t go into them, that’s the broad outline.

      I built a house in Alaska and rented a D3 to put in the driveway and clear the lot. It was a fun day! One of my better memories!
      Bob

  4. Ming says:

    Bob, instead of burying the school bus, have you thought of orienting one side of it south, making a hill, and partially burying it with one side into the hill? That would transform it into something like an earthship, so you could get solar gain (and some light!!) from the windows that are exposed, but have the thermal mass of the hill to even temps out year round.

    Interesting project, I look forward to seeing what you do with it!

    • Bob Bob says:

      Hi Ming, here are more details of what I have in mind: I won’t bury the roof. I’ll orient it east-west and the north side I will backfill to the roof so it that wall will be completely covered and the roof will have a foot or two of dirt. I’ll have to research how much weight it can bear. I’ll put styrofoam down first, then cover it.

      The front with the engine will be completely covered with dirt and the back with the door will be left open as a back door. The south wall will be buried up to the windows and be left open above that for light and ventilation. I’ll probably cover and insulate some of the windows.

      That will be too much sunlight in the summer, so I will put in an overhang that will shade the windows in the heat of the summer and then in the winter it will be low enough to shine through for heat.

      Lots more details but I won’t go into them, that’s the broad outline.
      Bob

      • DougB says:

        Bob, you had posted before that you found that your land use was restricted by septic requirements or some other legal restrictions that would put a dent in your plans. How did that work out?
        DougB recently posted…The Last Ten PercentMy Profile

        • Bob Bob says:

          Doug, I didn’t buy wisely! It’s nothing I could put the school bus on but I can spend the summer on it. I could build on it but I have to stay inside the code so the school bus idea would be out of the question.
          Bob

      • Ming says:

        ah, that is what I was describing. Using a school bus seems an efficient way to get a liveable structure up and running.

  5. Kezzie says:

    A thing to consider when straw-baling a van, or any living quarters for the winter: Before the base layer of bales goes down, sprinkle moth balls all around,-and around each tire where it rests on the floor- and put some between each layer of bales as you go up. Otherwise you will fight the always losing battle with the voles all winter long. (or mice, depending upon where you live!)
    Keeping the mothbolls OUTSIDE of the vehicle will avoid that smell you can never get rid of INside the van, and keep the rodents well way.

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