Visiting home – The part of the Cottage life

Lake, Finland, Evening

In the previous post I left you hanging, as we were speeding up north through the countryside of Finland. It was me having the wheel as Waffle was peacefully sleeping, missing dozens of moose and a bear running across the road (just kidding Waffle, just kidding, you only missed some bush).

We arrived at my parents in the late afternoon. There was an air of excitedness. A new cottage had joined the family. My parents had of course already had their change to enjoy it to some extend, since it was my dad who got the keys as he signed off the sale. They were rather eager to get us there as well. We were of course anxious to see the place, for the first time as our own property!

We drove there as soon as we got the keys. So many times I have gone down that road, on horse back, whit a dog, on the way to pick berries or mushrooms. But seldom have I been so anxious to actually get to the end of it. We were driving towards our very own summer home!

Our cottage is actually a combination of 4 huts and some storage buildings for fire wood etc. In the main hut is the kitchen, with wood heated stove and oven, a living area with an open fire place and a sauna, which can be accessed through the porch, and is at the perfect running distance from the lake. There is no running water, it is carried by hand from the lake. The lake water is technically drinkable, though it is a bit tinted, but we reserved to carrying water from my parents’ tap. There is no electricity either, just a generator, powering a vacuum cleaner, lighting and the TV if needed. All basic and adorable, true off-grid life.

We entered first the main hut, a descent log cabin. The previous owners had left almost everything behind. Which meant a mismatch pile of furniture, carpets and cutlery. I could see Waffle looking and scanning and deciding to throw practically everything out.

The sauna is somewhat the heart of the place. It heats the whole hut nicely, making it a comfortable place to sleep in, even if the night gets cold. The stove in the sauna has a water tank, in it we can heat about 30 liters of water to a boil while we bathe. And it stays warm all the way till the morning. Wonderful! Of course the sauna is also the place of bathing and relaxation; the most important functions of it.

We were very happy about our new home. In the evening, after sauna and skinny dipping, we wrapped ourselves in towels on the dock, to look at the warm orange light that colored the lake and the forests around it. The wind was gone and the surface of the lake was like a mirror. We breathed in the silence and the peace, as the following days would be full of work.

The rest was needed. The next week was rhythm by the slow mornings (getting the coffee ready took an hour, on our charming wood stove), removing the furniture, kitchen and cupboards. We visited furniture stores almost every day, as it was slowly clearing out, what all we would be needing to make the place functional and pretty.  Always, by the end of the day, we took our dusty and tired bodies to sauna and swim. That is the ultimate sleep bringer in the evenings.

The goal was to get the main hut and the sleeping hut at the lake side livable and ready by the time our holiday was over. The stress was taking its toll. Not everything we wanted was deliverable by the time we would be out of the country, so we needed to make some compromises to get the whole thing in place and just choose the items in stock. Good thing me and Waffle had pretty similar vision of the end result and what would fit the cottage.

In the midst of it all, we managed to put together a small cottage warming party, with my family and some friends gathering around for pancakes, BBQ and beer. The weather treated us good, with sunshine and warmth. That was such an important moment to get our minds off of all the work and enjoy the surroundings with good food and noisy babble.

Every now and then there was time for enjoyment. We got to experience some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises; at that time of the year it is hard to tell them apart. There had been bears right at our property earlier in the summer, but they were now gone. Our neighbors were a crane family, with a brown lanky youngster, some owls and a small herd of deer. They made sure that we were entertained in the evenings before the new TV arrived.

My parents and brother were a great help for us, almost every evening we ate fresh fish they had caught the same day from the lake (delicious!) and they were helping us out in throwing out the old stuff and to carry in the new. In return they can use our cottage and sauna as much as they wish.

To be honest, as the holiday came to an end, we did not feel so very relaxed. We had been stressing and yapping at each other and there had been no relaxing outdoorsy adventures around. We were both still missing the mountains, since that is where we normally would spend a holiday. But next time the cottage hopefully is less work and more relaxation.

On the way back, we still managed to have a small moment with friends in Helsinki, before taking the boat to Estonia. On the other side of the sea we were aiming for some wild camping. Estonia is littered with free camping grounds, most of which offer basic, but good facilities, meaning an outhouse, fire pits and a source of water.

One of those locations was on our route, situated in the middle of a pine forest. We arrived in the middle of the night in darkness and rain. A little less adorable as we maybe hoped for. There were some Finns and a Dutch already fast asleep as we were just pitching the tent.

Somehow we were a bit too tired to make the return journey a descent road trip. We drove fairly straight towards Riga, with one pit stop to stretch our legs and visit the seaside. Also Latvia should be more famous for the camping grounds. We happened by a very large one. It was made in the forest right on the seaside, a strip of a few hundred meters, or more,  of forest housed multiple fire pits and tent spots, definitely very pretty and tidy! It happened to be the season for bill berries too, and the forest there was full of them.

In Riga we climbed to the plane, fingers still dyed by the blueberries and an apparent longing to get back to our cottage. The next trip to Finland has already been planned!

More pictures you will find from our Flickr!


Project Caravan – Almost There

It has been a while since I last wrote anything about this caravan project. It is partially because we have mainly been waiting for things to arrive, plus I am running out of hours in my days.

But some advances have been made. Last time you saw the project we were busy with the wires and insulation and sealing all that inside the walls. That has all been finished now! Also the battery found it’s place on the floor. and everything looks tidy.

We left the trailer waiting for the working week, with the idea that the following weekend we would build it with the intensity of a squirrel high on cocaine. There was a surprise waiting once we finally made it to the scene on Saturday morning.

A bed.

There was a bed frame occupying the space that was earlier a floor. Waffle’s dad had been clearly unable to stay away from the project. The bed is built so, that it also works as a storage and hides the battery. The bed bottom has hinges and is cut in half on the middle, so we can easily get under it to reach what ever we have stored in there. Also the frame for the door had appeared.

Trailer, caravan, teardrop

We had to stuff our squirrels back to where they came from and start doing the small bits. I went around the outside, armed with a scraper and some filler, aiming meticulously at the screw holes and other cracks, to make sure no water would be stored in there and that the surface would be even and smooth for the aluminium to lay on.

After that the wood was also oiled, by Waffle, to make it water resistent already. We do not want any issues with the moist here!

In the meanwhile Waffle was fighting his battles on the inside of the trailer. He was working on the switches and electricity outputs and lights as well as the mounting of the charge controller and its monitor.

We have 4 spot lights in the roof, consuming about 2 watts each. On the walls, on either side, we have bright, twistable reading spots that consume 3 – 4 watts. To make searching of things easier there are long led strips under the bed and inside the cupboard that will appear later on, to the top front part of our trailer. All the lights together are swallowing about 20 watts of electricity.

Then we have charging points, USB ports and cigarette lighters, for juicing up the phones and hooking in the TV and the cool box. For them Waffle created small wooden stands to enforce the wall a bit and make them sturdy.

There are also the switches. We have a main switch, which makes sure the whole circuit is dead and a switch that…. On top of that there are also the switches controlling the lights and the power to the TV.

With the installing of those we made a small mistake. Waffle accidentally short circuited them and made the cables melt. Good thing nothing started burning. After a quick study on electricity, circuits and switches we realized that only the positive current should run through. The negative wires need to bundled together and be forgotten. After that we put on some fuses too, to make sure that a mistake like that would not destroy the whole installation, but just pop a fuse.

We were almost ready to give a go for the solar panels. We plugged the cables in, threw the panels onto the roof and rolled the caravan out, what an exciting moment. The trailer was safely standing outside and the moment of hitting the switch came.

It was partially cloudy and the panels were a bit dirty too, so we were not expecting too high amount of current to hit the system. Once Waffle read the numbers on the monitor we were pleasantly surprised! We were producing enough power for all the lights and still pushing a bit into the battery! The total amount of power coming from the sun was about 100 watts, that I would call a success! Especially when nothing burned nor exploded!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So now we practically have our own power station. Some bits are still missing until we get the thing on the road. So the next post will be about treating the walls weather proof, making a door and the additional bits we are requiring to make the trailer livable.

I’ll also try to get some better pictures for you guys to look at!

Until then then!

Parts One and Two and Three!



Building a Caravan – The Walls and What Goes Within

caravan, DIY, Project

Parts one and two of this project are here: #1#2

So, now we have acquired most of the stuff, so much so, that we have been able to start the actual building of this thing.

In the midway of April, with Waffle’s dad’s determined leadership the walls begun to rise. The walls obviously are the biggest and most visible part of the whole thing, and do require quite some time to get perfectly right.

We started with the outer wood structure at the front and carried on to measure and cut the sides.  The curve was calculated so, that the straight part of the wall would reach 70 cm of height, which would guarantee useful inner space as well as functional aerodynamics. To the sidewalls we got the profile of the curve simply by estimating the length of the straight part of the roof and then pending the flexible plywood between the point of 70 cm of height in the front and the ending point of the straight roof at 250 cm. Waffle had drawn sketches too, to give direction to the desired shape.

The holes for the windows were cut too. The positioning was thoroughly considered in relation to the TV and the sitting position and bed location.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is how we ended up with a wobbly structure of a front panel and two side walls. At this point I think it is rather acceptable to fall into despair and tell yourself that you are worthless and your great plans will never become reality.

After the sudden drop of confidence we gathered our minds and pursued our dreams again. Some screws and supporting skeletal structures later the walls stood up in a lot sturdier fashion.

Especially the curving part is well supported, since the bendable plywood is relatively skinny. There we used the skeleton studs as separators, so the space between each stud is 4,4 cm.  They are directly screwed onto the outer walls, from each end.  For the roof part, the studs stand about 25 – 30 cm apart. On top of that structure we placed another plywood, 15 mm in thickness to serve as the roof.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The walls are studded lengthwise, again each horizontal stud is about 25 – 30 cm from another. In between them there are vertical bars to ensure stability,  the window hole is supported of course too.

At this point we needed to stop and think through the electricity installation. We needed to drill holes for all the cabling in the studs, so that the wires would be nicely hidden behind the insulation and the inner walling. Before putting in the said insulation and inner walls.

First of all there is the charge controller which regulates the power input from the solar panels on the roof to either the battery, or the appliances and lighting. We will install a set of witches for lights, and a few sockets charging batteries and for things like TV and fridge (or well, a cool box). Maybe also a main switch to cut off all the load from the system, just in case.

Followed a mission of drilling, passing wires and re-drilling and passing wires again. After that we had a mess; wires and cables running through the floor and the ceiling into walls and out of them. At that point we learned the importance of labeling, and counting.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You see, if you don’t check which wire ends where you’ll end up with a total mess once the inner wall comes up and you can’t follow the length of the wire anymore. C’est du caca. Also you want to make sure, that all the wires that leave from the charge controller and switches, come out of the wall in the appropriate place too. Otherwise C’est encore du caca. After all the labeling and follow up on wires was done, we finally got all the mineral wool insulation (4 cm thick wool plates) in place and screwed the inner walls tight.

Getting it all right took about 4 reruns. There was every time something wrong,  wrong cables in wrong places, cables missing etc. We even noticed at the last minute, that the cables from the solar panels to the charge controller were not sufficient. You need cable made especially for solar panels.

Now we have an insulated wooden box in our hands, spewing wires out of its walls. The next steps will be mounting the interior. So structures for bed, cupboards and so on. And of course finishing the outer side of it, caulk the screw holes and seams, get the aluminium, mount the solar panels, make a door, give it a name etc. More on these things later!