Day 1 on Trailer Transformation – quick inspection.
I emptied out the trailer of the various rubbish and equipment that had ended up dumped inside it – traffic cones, old tyres, electric fence poles, popping paper, old horse rugs and a giant gym ball 44inches in diameter – the usual horse toys.
I had thought the floor would be unquestionably rotten and need replacing, but was pleasantly surprised to see that a good power hose is probably all it needs. The ceiling was peeling paint off the fibreglass hull at the front leaving huge bubbles and hollows. I started to peel it off; it barely needed me to poke at it and the paint fell off in huge flakes. I was astonished to find that a large hole in the paintwork just above the front window where a flake had come off partially leaving a big bubble had been made the home of a small bird. It’s droppings were in the bubble and feathers were stuck to the fibreglass – amazing that it weighed so little it didn’t break the flake!
The front end is in remarkably good condition. The top door of the front ramp is made of ply that’s beginning to split apart, and the OSB lining it is completely rotten.
The side walls have ironmongery for attaching the breast bars to that have to come off first, then the rubber matting which goes to within a couple of feet of the floor, then the aluminium that goes from the rubber to the floor, and behind that is the OSB.
The back ramp is going to go up and stay up, and at any rate is never going to take the weight of horses again so I am pretty certain it won’t need much attention to the hinges. The front unloading ramp however can’t stay on so it will have a door fitted in the whole space – I contemplated stable door style but I think that’s actually quite impractical with wind/midgies and the fact the rear doors are a bit like stable doors anyway. I will remove the ramp and use it as access to the decking that will surround the trailer once it’s parked in position, and fit the stable door to open outwards.
Looking at the available space inside the futon bed is going to have to go along the end wall. This also means that it might be easier to fit storage shelves to the wall without encroaching on the living space. I am acutely aware that pretty much all of my plans for how to furnish this are unrealistic. It’s going to be completely different to what I had envisaged and I’m still not sure how that’s going to look…..
Looking at mattress options nothing foldaway, inflatable or thin is going to cut the mustard. A plinth is going to be obtrusive space wise. A pallet futon is probably not going to be sturdy enough for 150 days use a year or easy to put up and down in the available space. Going to go for a metal futon which means that the bed is not going to be made from anything recycled, but I think comfort is very important, as is ease of use if you don’t want things broken.
Enquiries about replacing the back axle have been made, but right now I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s not going to carry weight like horses again and as the only real issue is that it’s been pulled off (and may be slightly bent) I think we’ll try a friends recommendation of ratchet strapping it onto the body using the tie ups for the horses on the outside, and pray. What’s the worst that could happen….?!?!?
Stove selected – found the perfect one with great angle for the chimney, good weight, etc
Tomorrow Poul and I are going to plod away at stripping. Looking forward to that 😉
Day 30 or something – Wow so much has been going on!
Just before I started this project I went for a tarot reading. It was ridiculously positive, and everything in it so far appears to have come true, including the prediction that the pod was going to be a community project. A community of my friends have been involved full force and work sped along. The Great Dane has been much more involved than I think he wanted, and I suspect enjoyed it more than I think he thought he would. We’ve worked pretty well together. The ENORMOUS list of jobs from stripping and refitting, rubbing down, repainting, fitting stoves, dealing with the axle, finding furniture to fit, researching the industry and what people will expect, exploring toilet and shower options, and trying to get hot water and lighting solutions has been time consuming but SO MUCH FUN!
So far we have an interior on the trailer that is very close to being ready to furnish, with the OSB on the walls replaced and repainted and a ceiling mural started. We’ve made a front door with a combination bolt for security (saves people going home with keys) and replaced the back doors that we have glazed to let more light in. We’ve decided to definitely try strapping the axle up and hoping for the best to move it, and we have very rough plans (and no real idea how to do it) for the toilet and shower block. The stove is in place but not fitted and we plan to make use of chimney heat to warm the toilet and shower cubicle as well as heat water on a gravity fed rainwater capture system. The furniture is bought or ready to be upcycled.
We’ve had lots of obstacles – the unconventional hinging of the door leaving large gaps midgies will come in, what to put on the floor for easy cleaning that’s within budget, how to glaze windows of unconventional shape and size, where to position the stove, how to heat water for the shower when we don’t get enough solar energy in a Highland wood, and many more small, specific to our particular trailer, type problems.
We’ve made lots of mistakes – not checking all the door hinges were identical before drilling holes. Not checking the rear doors were the right way round before painting the inside a different colour to the outside, not being more accurate with cutting the window perspex, not remembering a curved bead will need to be scribed when mitred, and more we won’t have realised yet.
We need to get the pod moved onto the site before we can progress. The only problem is that Muscle Man is unwell once again and it looks like major surgery so he’ll be unavailable to tow. Towing is going to be awkward until we see if we can get away with either strapping up the axle or removing the rear wheels. We have about 10 days until our deadline and it’s looking unlikely. In the meantime there’s interior painting to be done finishing the mural, seals around all exits to stop rain and draughts getting in, and a boot rack and shelves to be made from pallets as well as an old toy chest from my childhood to paint and use as a coffee table and blanket storage. The gaps are really oversized due to the hinging angles or the way the box was made so that urine would drain out so normal self adhesive door seals are not going to do it. Thankfully the rubber matting that we took off the sides is easy to cut and glue onto the metal frames with a strong glue. The rest of it I hope to reuse in the shower.
I have The Great Dane here to help me for about 3 days in the next 10, and I will need him to help me build all of the toilet and shower cubicle, the kitchen unit, and the decking, and bike parking. I don’t want to be a wimp and move the date back any further. Not only because it means losing income – much needed income – but because I feel like it’s admitting defeat and the project is too big for us. It has been a MUCH bigger project than I expected.
Are we on budget I hear you ask? Well I haven’t added it all up yet – but I am willing to go on a limb and say no. The only reason we have not gone over further than we have is because of the kindness of friends giving up their time and skills for nothing more than a BBQ at the end of the day.
At this point my biggest pointer for anyone wanting to try this is to make sure you have plenty of help. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have skills – many of us learnt to use a jigsaw, grinder and sander for the first time on this project! Most of this I only knew the theory on (thank the gods for YouTube!), but having friends to help hold, climb, paint, grind, sand, saw, drill, and even babysit has made it all possible for me to have a try, and stay close to target – weather and waiting for items to arrive in the post have held us up by about a week.
Ok it’s now 12th July, and I have lost count of how long we’ve been at this, and how many obstacles – injury, illness, mechanical break down, other engagements etc
Don’t misunderstand – it will still definitely be cheaper to do it this way than buy a generic, characterless, prefabbed pod in, BUT if it isn’t finished in the next 10-14 days I’m going to tow it to Dornoch and throw it in the sea because I’m getting sick of it hanging over me as an unfinished project. We’ve not postponed anything, we’ve just worked it round all the other projects and events because I couldn’t face seeing the “to do list” get longer and miss out on fun like the family holiday and birthday parties etc (although mine was scaled down somewhat as I was just plain exhausted). It’s cost maybe twice what I thought it would now.
So where exactly are we at? Still need to get the outhouse done, but the plans for it are in place at least. All the bits except some more hammerite, some silver VHT paint and a sky light for the roof of the outhouse are paid for and bought – I should probably have my fire extinguisher from the horse lorry serviced as well. Muscle Man did manage to get day release from the garage to move the pod to the woods. The plans for the hot water fell through because the parts will take a month to order in and I can’t wait that long.
I still need to paint the mural, and ceiling and some wood work and furniture – in fact I still need to build some furniture….Oh and the ENTIRE out house.
I thought we would have been finished roughly two months ago and right now I can still see at least two weeks of work left. I may as well have ordered those bloody bits for the hot water system. Reading back over the last entry – I was in absolute denial about what still needed to be bought. I’ve probably spent at least another £700 on the outhouse and I’m not done yet.
I still haven’t done the flipping murals or finished the ceiling – sigh.
The weather has not been kind to us. The recent 60mph winds really got in the way of roofing the outhouse – or “The Stall” as I have now decided to call it. Until the roof is on I can’t install the shower, or toilet, or the kitchen sink my daughter clevely made. We’ve had all kinds to deal with including the rear diff going on Muscle Man. He needed new shock, bushes and springs, a steering damper, whole rear axle and was garage bound for six weeks. When we went to the Scottish Land Rover show we had to take the Subaru. It didn’t feel right – it felt like cheating on Muscle Man and like being a total fraud/wannabe amongst the Landy owning crew in the campsite. The reason this was a pod problem though, was because it meant I couldn’t collect things we needed, and paying Highland delivery charges on each individual thing (generally £30 a pop starting price for delivery, needed about 100 things – no joke) bought online was not within budget at all. I needed the car to do the 100 mile round trip to Inverness and go get EVERYTHING I needed in one day – that just never happened. Little by little, as we were near places that were closer to home for various reasons, we managed to collect a lot of what we needed, and some is still to get. Also I had nothing to tow it to Dornoch and toss it in the sea with – which is probably the only reason we kept working on it. My back played up badly for a while too, and Poul did masses of overtime to pay for the extra expenses so momentum slowed to a couple of half days work on it a week.
Did I mention that the weather was S H I T…..?
Today I took on the corner of The Stall that I have been blithely ignoring thus far. It’s such a complicated place, and I think I was hoping fairies would come out and make it all perfect for me it at night if I kept pretending it wasn’t there. Strangely it was nowhere near as complicated to deal with as some of the things I thought would be easy. The Great Dane warned me again about that word I use so often “just”. The whole thing has been built with a an attitude of “just” rather than a just attiutde; “Just do it like this” , “just put it there”, “just bang it in – it’s too late to worry about things being level” are now my stock podding phrases. It was while I was being warned about the danger of a “just” containing sentence that I realised that this project has been completed with absolute attention to ignoring the details.
To be fair to us we’ve been up against it. Both the hammers we own are bent, REALLY badly, and one has no rubber handle on the end anymore so you have to hold it too high up or it will cut your palm. We have a rubbish saw and a 75% more rubbish saw – hand saws. The generator won’t work so no power tools, and the tape measure can’t be put fully away inside it’s housing or it gets stuck and can’t be got out without serious frustration and all of your coffee break. Also, the button for holding it out in place doesn’t work so after a meter or so it really needs two of you to work it. The screw gun is my hero – 12 well used years old and not got the best of bits because the screws easily eat them, so we take it really easy – it basically just saves me turning my wrist and there’s no other benefits. Sometimes I think doing it by hand would be easier as a screwdriver wouldn’t strain my arms so much when I’m working at funny angles.
That’s the whole problem really – the funny angles. That’s what I have been ignoring. I just bartered one of our foals for 7 bundles of prefab panels for sheds. I hope they’ll make 5 pods, an office, a reception/shop, and potentially a field shelter too. The greatest joy of these projects will be working with squares and rectangles (excepting roofs), because the pod is anything but, and even those that are, aren’t level. The trailer is a bizarre pointy arch along the top of the main part and then tapers into a nose. It’s also a mix of metal, and fibre glass. The Stall is wood and metal and PVC sheeting and joins on at the awkward nose where the teeny jockey door will give people a chance to get to the toilet without getting rained on or midged. The corner here where metal corrugated sheeting meets fibre glass at a strange angle, and wood has to be attached to aluminium that has the chimney for the stove coming through it, as well as managing to floor over the tow bar and scribe around the brake and jockey wheel, whilst keeping the angle for run off of rain, and incorporate a second valley to join the gutter, made me realise that this project had given us a really hellish learning curve. Surely the following pods will not be this hard to build?!
Last week I had the help of my friend who came up to stay for a week or so to give us a hand, for about the third time I think. She’s a good egg. She’s got a list of back and joint problems that mirrors and surpasses mine. We tend to find the weather effects us both badly and while she was up we had a couple of electric storms and an arctic blast. Bad enough in winter but aggravating at this time of year to our spirits as much as out joints. She helped me with many parts of it, and nearly put herself in hospital filling in the soak away with rocks three times the size of her own head. We even managed to figure out the trusses together. That felt good – it felt like we’d gained more adult points that day. On the very many times we sat back and admired our handiwork and it’s rough edges, I kept saying that I might put a reminder to guests before they review us, that this was built by a bunch of disabled women, kids, and a foreigner. None of us with previous experience or qualification to do so. Just a mad idea on how to solve the eternal problem of making a living in a place you love with enough time left over to love it.
We’ve slogged at this, there’s been weather, sickness, injury, 6 weeks of car break down, many unmissable family events, small children, unworkable ideas, unbuyable materials, unaffordable delivery charges all in our way. Yet we have kept plodding at it – every day moving something forward a bit. As I type the partially painted top for the toilet takes up the middle of the living room floor, the room is to the rafters in pots, pans, towels, and furniture for this damn pod ( I really didn’t realise how much the interior was going to cost – we’re probably close to 2.5 times the budget now), so whether I have shopped, or researched, or just written the plan for the week repeatedly around the weather – I have always been chipping away at it. This week I am going to sacrifice the 3 days we had booked off to go away as a couple to celebrate our anniversary (a year since our engagement) but instead we are going to batter in to getting this finished ASAP. Ironically my first night in the pod may have to be my anniversary trip – that’s if I am lucky!
So what have I learnt so far?
Triple the budget
Double the time
If being on time matters, don’t work with funny angles.
Get better tools.