A Year in Augustine: The Lessons We’ve Learned

Deciding to live tiny in Augustine has been one of the best decisions our little family has ever made. There hasn’t ever been even a shadow of regret. We simply love what we’re doing. But, like everything in life, there is some good and there is some bad – an experiential mixture. Here are a few of the problems that arose, the lessons we learned, and solutions we’ve come up with.

The Great Polar Vortex, circa 2019

If you were anywhere near the Midwest last winter, you know about (or felt) the Polar Vortex, the record-breaking blasts of freezing air blowing down from the Artic circle. We moved our Airstream to central Indiana just in time to immediately regret it. As wind-chill temperatures dropped into the negative 30’s (!) and snowflakes the size of Frisbees descended upon us, we stuffed newspapers in our coat sleeves and burned our book collection in the living room floor.  

In reality, I think we actually stayed fairly warm. Taylor might disagree. We ran two electric heater’s full time, and our Suburban furnace (which had never been used because… Florida) was ignited during the night. Admittedly every plant we owned gave up and died, and we went through more propane than if we flew a hot air balloon across the Atlantic, but we made it.

The one serious downside was our water pipes. They froze almost immediately, unwilling to even expend the energy to try. In anticipation of the cold, we had insulated and heat-taped the exterior hose, which surprisingly worked, but what we didn’t expect was the pipes to freeze on the inside of the Airstream. The heat wouldn’t reach into the cabinets or under the bed, basically all the places that our pipes live. Any pipe touching an outside wall froze. We spent a number of days without running water, which was more of an inconvenience than anything else. At the time we were luckily at a campground, so we filled up water jugs from the lot’s winter spigot and showered at the bathhouse and our gym. We waited it out. Needless to say, we were not prepared. We have since re-thought our winter strategy.

Home is Where You Park It

While being able to go anywhere is the biggest draw to living in an Airstream, finding that perfect spot in “anywhere” can also sometimes be a headache. The “Blessing/Curse” ratio of parking is one of mobile living’s most interesting uniqueness. That was carefully worded.

In the grand scheme of things, all tiny living is comparatively cheap. But campgrounds can be more expensive than we like and are atmospherically less than ideal. They are not our thing. While we searched out the illusive perfect spot, we moved from a country road in West Virginia to the Indy-area and stayed at a campground 30 minutes east of the city for a month.

Since then, we have found our space for our time in Indiana. We came across an amazing site called Try It Tiny, where we live among a half-dozen other tiny homes across a few acres. It is a lovely little spot in the wide-open countryside of northern Zionsville. While we’re only 20 something minutes away from the heart of Indianapolis, it doesn’t feel like it. We wake up to dairy cows grazing across the road, and the golden heads of crops dancing in the fields beside us. We live where you imagine when you think of Indiana. And we love it.

The Mice-capades

You will never know how much it pains me to write this, because you will never know how deep and true my phobia runs. Among the things to have happened in the past year, this ranks among the most traumatic. We had a mouse situation.

The Airstream factory is notorious for cutting extra large holes in the subfloor for the pipes to be installed later. It’s basically an educated guess where the pipes will eventually land, and sometimes the holes are in the wrong spots altogether. This means unless the Airstream is fully gutted, there will be many superfluous holes. Pests love that.

So I crawled under the Airstream with spray-foam and went wild. I got at literally everything – every crease, crack, and dark stain. I cried the whole time. We shoved steel wool in any area that was wide enough and then foamed that. I prayed over some areas.

The whole ordeal took maybe a couple weeks to resolve, but I think the emotional scars that I was left with will never fully heal. Traps were set and worked, as well as baited traps under the airstream. We also used something called Freshcab, a product farmers use to keep pests out of their tractor cabs. It’s just a bag of strong smelling potpourri that we hung under our sink, but mice are supposed to hate it. So far it seems like they do. We haven’t seen one in months.

Wear and Tear

It turns out that when two people (and a large Muppet) live in a small space together for a year the evidence of wear and tear is more dramatic. This was expected, but it’s also a real annoyance. High traffic areas get filmy, things break, and paint starts chipping everywhere. This last item has been the real culprit. Our quarter round specifically has not held up like we had hoped. It’s on the shortlist.

Also, things that we initially put off are coming due. We never replaced the screening on our front door. We left the old showerhead affixed to the curved wall instead of buying a new one. The screen door needs a slide handle, not a piece of backsplash cut to size. We left some things for later. Later is now.

More consistent upkeep is required in a small space – dusting, repainting, recaulking. We have a renovation party planned for the near future, something we’re simultaneously dreading and really excited about.

Everything in it’s Place

It seems like only recently, maybe in the last few months, that we have discovered where stuff should actually be in our home. It only took a year. We have gone through our stuff… again. We have been able to see that we didn’t pare down quite enough and we have been able to let more stuff go. It takes awhile to see what reality looks like living in small area and what will be needed, but we are finding our rhythm. It’s a great feeling to watch things settle into their right place. The more our stuff finds a home, the more at home we feel in this space.

New Perspectives

Actually living full-time in an Airstream makes all the plans you thought you’d laid out so perfectly seem dumb. Like real dumb. Small inconveniences become full-blown problems and things you didn’t think would bother you begin to stoke the flames of rage inside. A year living in a small space makes you rethink how things are laid out and how things function – basically all the stuff you overlooked.

A great example of oversight is our bed. I initially built the bed frame as a solid piece, with three access points – two from the outside and one on the inside front of the frame. We thought this would be enough. However, a year later and I’m already planning a remake of the bed-frame. We want the bed to raise on lift-assist pistons to provide easier access to our storage area. I’m tired of crawling down there. This is just one example of things we overlooked. I have an entire list of renovations to our renovations that are in the works: the kitchen backsplash is getting upgraded, the composting toilet is getting a rework, I’m adding hinges to our bed’s wrap-around table so our laundry hamper can fit beneath it. Things need reworked. One year inside Augustine was all it took for new perspectives to arise.

After a year, we’re looking at the Airstream with new eyes. More experienced eyes, we like to imagine. We feel ready again to meet the challenges tiny living throws at us. Maybe in another year we will see things differently and more things will be added to the list. That’s something we love about small living – stagnation cannot survive. We are finding ourselves learning everyday through this process. Our wheels are moving, the views are changing, and we are growing along the way.

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