Month: January 2015

straw-header Recently I was surfing the net and came across a website I was extremely impressed with. I was so amazed by it I just had to write the author and ask permission to repost it here. He graciously agreed so here it is in his own words. He has a lot more on his blog but I’ve condensed it down to this post and another one after this.  

Many, many times online I’ve seen vandwellers talk about getting a piece of land to spend a part of the year on. Cud Eastbound isn’t a man who just talks, he does! This is his story of living in the extreme far north: Dawson City, Yukon Territories. Be sure to check out his blog here:   http://nightdanger.lostwarren.com/

Hello, my name is Cud Eastbound & on June 6th 2014, I set off on an adventure to move to the Yukon. I packed/gave away everything I owned, released a new album, left Halifax and went westward on a 2 month cross Canada tour, leading me all the way up to Dawson City, Yukon Territories, Canada. I toured with my 77 Dodge Camper van, who’s name is “Night Danger” (like those moose signs through northern Ontario).

Cud is a true adventurer! I truly admire his bold fearlessness in jumping out into the unknown.

Cud is not a wanna-be adventurer; he’s the real deal!! I greatly admire his bold fearlessness in jumping out into the unknown. If I could live my life over again, he’d be a role-model I’d want to follow!

Night Danger has been around the continent a few times and I found it was time to find a place for it to rest for good. I’ve made a few modifications, and love living out of the van, so I figured I would try and see if I could survive a Yukon winter by living in my van.

The first challenge was to find a way to efficiently heat my little abode, so before I left Halifax I constructed a wood stove that would fit nice and safely in the back of the van. Second Challenge was to find a way to hold in the heat I would produce to stay warm all winter. I was not keen on using traditional insulation, because at that point I might as well just build a little shack, so I came to the conclusion that straw bales would be my best bet. Once I was finished with the first winter, I could donate the bales to folks who have live stock, or dog sled teams or something.

Now that's insulation!

Now that’s insulation! The only way to live in a van at the extreme cold of the Yukon is with extreme insulation, and hay bales provide it and is also very cheap! Here you can see the outline of the van hidden inside the hay. 

I was lucky enough to have a friend lend me some land in Bear Creek to try out my project on. The adventure continues as I try and seal up leaky doors and windows, its a constant learning process. There are many folks helping me out with ideas, labour, time and most important of all support. Thanks to all of you!

I have to go stoke my wood stove now, its starting to get cold, the ferry is getting pulled out of the water tomorrow, and I am so very excited for my first winter up here in the Northern Yukon.

Insulation is no good without a source of heat. Cud welded this woodstove himself and found it worked great in the van.

Insulation is no good without a source of heat. Cud welded this woodstove himself and found it worked great in the van.

Woodstove and Safety

My first time welding, I decided to make a woodstove, and I hauled it in my van on tour from Halifax to Dawson. I am Pleased to say that it works amazing! I have not tested it at -50 yet… but I have high hopes!

The design is pretty simple, I created a woodstove that was small enough to fit in my van, but with a twist! Inside the stove, I created another stove… and within the empty spaces I poured in crushed fire brick… the stove is only about 18 inches long by 12X12… but… it packs a mean punch, and so far testing it in my van on frosty nights is proving that it stays warm from 8-10 hours… I am stoked!!! More about the woodstove to come…

The stove burning in the van.

The stove burning in the van. The license plates keep embers from burning through the floor.

This is the box surrounding the woodstove

This is the box surrounding the woodstove

I made a platform for the stove to stand on, that is off of the wood floors. I also put metal against the walls, then using aluminum spacers I laid down some more metal about an inch away from the metal on the walls. This way, as the metal heats up the cold air rushing past it and cools it.

straw-stove-all

The stove is encased in sheet metal which is held away from the walls by spacers. The air space allows cool air to carry the heat away and protect the walls.

The stove is encased in sheet metal which is held away from the walls by spacers. The air space allows cool air to carry the heat away and protect the walls.

The stove is encased in sheet metal which is held away from the walls by spacers. The air space allows cool air to carry the heat away and protect the walls.

The chimney is also tripled walled now, there is the insulated stove pipe, then I put corrugated tin, then a metal casing to hold it all in place as it exits the van window. For added safety, I started putting down my collection of sings and license plates, this is just in case an ember or spark flies out of the wood stove, instead of landing on my “hard wood” floors, it will burn out harmlessly on the metal!

Also, I’ve noticed a lot of people concerned about my well-being… I’ve been burning wood in my fireplace nonstop for 2 months now, and I clean my chimney pipe (in case of creosote buildup), I check everything every day. I DO NOT leave my dog in the van, the only time he is there is when I am there with him. I do have a Carbon Monoxide detector (Thanks Diana!)

Because the chimney is so cose to the flammable straw and plastic, it has to be very well insulated not to melt and ignite them.

Because the chimney is so close to the flammable straw and plastic, it has to be triple insulated not to melt and ignite them.

Last week has been around -25 or colder, I’ve noticed the van is very nice and warm, holds the heat well, except for the floor… as the fire place sucks air, cold air from the outside creeps in along the floor… I fixed that by drilling a 2 inch hole in the side of the van right next to the woodstove, put in a PVC pipe & on/off Valve I was given by Martin (Thanks Martin!).

straw-heat-use

So, I am still alive and well, I appreciate everyone’s concerns, comments, outrage and love.

It’s -30C (-22F) and I’ve slowly been sealing up little gaps here and there.
I had to wake up at 4 in the morning to put more wood on, that’s only a 6 hour burn… But! It’s the challenge!

I have about 6 big rocks I keep on top of my stove, thinking that they might create more surface for transferring heat into the air. They also stay warm a while after the fire has gone out. The best use I have found for them is warming up my feet, or throwing into my bed in the morning, they warm me up!

Cud sets these rocks on the woodstove over night to act as thermal mass.

Cud sets these rocks on the woodstove over night to act as thermal mass and feet warmers.

That’s all for this post. In my next one we’ll look at the details of how Cud…

  1. Cleared the land.
  2. Dug an outhouse.
  3. Built a wood base for the van.
  4. Put up a woodshed.
  5. Built the hay walls and covered it with plastic.

See you then!