Friday, September 10, 2010

Little Icebox on the Prairie

Originally, when I thought of moving to North Dakota, I pictured the fun scenario of buying a cute little fixer-upper farm house. I would stun everyone with my hitherto unknown prowess of house repair and transform what was previously discounted and unwanted into a showpiece of cuteness. I even had a blog title picked out for my experiences..."Little House on the Prairie: 21st Century Edition".

But none of those plans worked out. See, there's something called the Williston Basin, a large geological something-or-other that includes parts of 3 Canadian provinces and 3 states. It also has a lot of oil in it that people start pumping at random times and thus create an oil boom.

When things aren't booming, there's not a whole lot going on otherwise. There's wonderful and important crop production, but that's not exactly the sort of thing that drives tourism. But with the oil boom, and the rest of the country's economy doing so poorly, one thing the Williston Basin has right now is JOBS. Lots of jobs.

Lots of people want those lots of jobs, but during the none-boom years, all those farmers are NOT building lots of houses. There is a finite number needed to support the regular population. This leads to an interesting little equation.
People(P) - Housing(H) = Housing Shortage (HS). Then we get into some of your higher math, which is P-H=HS + Winter = Brrrrrrr!

I looked and looked for some kind of rental, but came up empty over and over again. Finally it came to the point where I had to make a decision RIGHT NOW, so I rented a trailer space in a cute North Dakota town named Grenora. At the time I felt very sorry for myself, but I'm coming to be grateful for what I have as I read of those who can't even find a space to rent.

I still plan on looking very consistently for a house to rent, but barring that happy circumstance, I will be spending my first winter in North Dakota in a little travel trailer. With two hairy dogs. Who didn't want to go outside to go to the bathroom in California if it was raining!

My dad helped me look at a few trailers before we found one that was structurally sound for a price I could afford. We finally got one for $1400 and my wonderful Daddy has been spending the last couple of weeks working on incomprehensible things like lights, vents, wiring, and such. I contributed to the over-all effort by scraping the peeling paint from the roof and re-coating it with roof goo. My mom helped by being properly admiring, and the dogs helped by seasoning everything with a preliminary coating of dog hair.

And so, without further ado, I introduce the new Kahrs' family home.

The interior, including my spacious bathroom, where you have to step outside to change your mind.

I won't be cheated out of my remodeling fun after all, since I plan on doing a few small things the budget allows to update the look of my little house-box. But the main priority will be to winterize it so I don't freeze. And in North Dakota, that's not the hyperbole that it might be in other states. What fun it will all be!


  1. Tina, the first thing you want to do is build a cover for the trailer, like a car port. The roof will not like 3 feet of snow on the top. Beleive me! Then you will want something that can roll down hanging from it on all 4 sides. Next you will need skirting all aroung covering the tires, etc. Also some jacks at all 4 corners or at least the back end. Next pick up some plexy glass about 1/8th to 1/4th inch thick and cut it to the size of your louverd windows, drill holes in the places where the screws go to hold the trim on the inside of the windows, remove the screws and place the glass over the louvers and screw them back on to all of those windows. You can still see out clearly and you have the sky lights for fresh air, especially if the car port is covering the trailer no rain etc. can come in and less wind and cold. Also you can close that front window cover in the winter too. That helps hold the heat in, and on those those windows that are not louvered, you might want to place plexy glass as well, that little air space between insulates too. You will have to decide if you want to cut it to fit the entire window or two seperate pieces for each window, I used one piece, less cracks to leak through. If you wake up in the middle of the night and need to open the door, in the middle of a storm, don't panic if the door does not open, you may have to body slam it to get it to budge, especially if it rained before it snowed, it will be frozen shut.(True story) Also when the dogs need to go out during a storm having the roll downs down will keep them much more comfortable day or night, you might have to clean up a few dropings later, but at least they will not have to suffer holding it in for unending hours. Let's see, oh yes, water, you will need to wrap your pipes and hose that brings the water into the trailer, or the hose will burst if it freezes. I know you have a potable water storage tank, but toilet flushing showers and dish washing seems to empty it rather fast so you will need it flowing and blanketed from the freeze. Also, your refrig. works much more effeciently on propane rather than electricity, so it is a good idea to buy or rent a couple of ten gallon tanks to have on hand when the 5 gallon runs out. You will need lots of propane for heat in the winter, so get those extra tanks. It just might snow there for more than one day at a time and you do not want to run out and have to go to town to fill up your tank when you cannot see to drive and your fingers are so cold you cant detach the tank and hook it back up when you get back, much easier if it is right there you just swith to the other tank without unhooking anything. Too cold for that nonsense. Also have some kind of camping lanterns, preferably the kind you can crank or battery operated, also a battery operated heater or a gas generater. You never know when the electricity will go out and that is what operates the heater and lights, the propane cook stove and refrig will still work but it is not wise to heat the place with the cook stove because it takes away the oxygen and you will suffacate and die. Not a good idea. Well if I think of anything else I wll let you know then. Get started right away, winter is here, there, if you get the drift, because you will be getting the real drift soon, snow drift that is. Happy trailering and many blessings. Gin

  2. Thanks for all the good advice, Gini! This will be quite an adventure.....