Dear Ol’ Dad

Posted by Rebecca

Thinking about downsizing?  There are many approaches….  Trade in your gas-guzzling SUV for an economical sedan.  Remove all items from your home that do nothing more than collect dust.  Take the big real estate plunge and cut your square footage in half.  Or consider a backpacking trip as your next vacation.

True, backpacking is not for everyone, but if you have the physical stamina it is an effective way to learn to survive with just the bare necessities – food, water, shelter.  Even if just for a few days, backpacking can give you the opportunity to re-evaluate your physical needs.  Maybe you could live with a little less.  Maybe you don’t need every new technological gadget that is released.  Maybe you would be happy with little more than the necessities.

My dad and brother moved to Jasper, Alberta, in the middle of the Canadian Rockies, in 1993.  I was living there at the time and they decided to join me.  My dad had just been through a rough few years with the death of my mother and a brief failed marriage, and he chose nature as his method of healing from the loss.  So with my 4-year-old brother, Liam, in tow, he started climbing mountains.

His first mountain summit started out as a mountain bike ride.  My dad had the heaviest mountain bike in town, and the only mountain bike that had a baby seat screwed on over the back tire.  As my dad ascended Pyramid Mountain, my baby brother squealed, “Faster, daddy, faster!!”  When the trail diminished into boulders, they hopped off the bike and began scrambling over the rocks, climbing higher and higher.  Before they knew it, they had summited.  Thus began a couple of decades of backpacking and mountain climbing, and living life in a tiny tent.

My dad has a small one bedroom apartment, where he has lived since 1994.  He never felt the need to get a bigger place because whenever Liam wasn’t in school they were exploring and sleeping in a tent.  Their home away from home is cozy, often quite chilly, but has the best view imaginable.  And it has everything they need, which isn’t much at all.

My dad and Liam.  The world is their playground.

The scrambling is a little more sophisticated these days.  But it’s still just the bare necessities.

Another unusual Harrap tradition – ever since Liam was a tot, room in the tiny tent was always made for Grinny and his wife Gwvera, a couple of nature-loving bunnies.

An ice axe, helmet, boots and beer.  What more does one really need?

Tiny shelter in a vast landscape.  According to my dad, “When you’re plodding up the mountain trying to make the summit, and you look down and see that tiny dot, and you know you’ve got the difficult down-climbing to do, you’ve got a hankering for that little tent. Because, right now, that’s your home.”

Grinny and Gwvera making tea in the tiny kitchen.

A tour of this garden is breathtaking.

Cairns usually help to keep you on a trail or signify the top of something.

I think this cairn signifies a spectacular view.

Each and every time my dad embarks on a backpacking or climbing trip he encounters a new, exciting, wonderful experience in nature.  On his recent trip, “I did find something amazing – a freshly dug grizzly bear den.  (Now there’s a small home if ever there was one; the big fella wouldn’t have space even to have a roll and a good scratch.) Fortunately, the owner wasn’t  home.”

My dad, David Harrap, is currently writing a book entitled, Streams Full of Stars, about his life with Liam.  I’m not sure when it will be available for purchase, but I will keep you posted.

Rebecca Knabe


Trailer Pick of the Day – Morning Sunflowers

Posted by Rebecca

This little mobile has a pretty sunflower ‘hedge,’ creating an aesthetic barrier between the trailer and the street.  And right now they are in full bloom!

Rebecca Knabe

This Is How My Garden Grows

Posted by Rebecca

I grew up in a family that upheld some quirky British behavior, that have become known as Harrap traditions.  Harrap is my maiden name, and although I’m not currently married, I retained my last married name because I’m too lazy to get a new driver’s license, passport, social security card, yadda, yadda, yadda.

My dad was the only one in my immediate family that was actually born in the Queen’s home territory, but my mom, an avid wanderlust at heart, happily incorporated the Western European lifestyle into our home.  My parents baked mincemeat, and steak and kidney pies from scratch.  Our house was full of heirloom antiques.  Anytime there was a tragedy, illness, problem, or the car broke down, we would first make tea before doing anything else.  And we firmly believed in repeatedly attempting to sneak ripe cheese through customs anytime anyone visited from England (most of which was confiscated).

However, I recently realized the one tradition that I have continued on my own is the desire to show off my garden.  This is new for me.  For the first time in my 38 years I have a garden that I did myself.  And it’s growing.  Almost nothing is dead yet!!  Amazing!  It’s a work in progress, but this summer for some reason, it is actually starting to look pretty good, if I do say so myself.  The garden tradition goes like this:

– Wait for someone new to visit.

– Insist they follow you around the garden.  Usually this is very exciting.  I visited my relatives in Australia in 2007, and a trip around my Uncle’s garden was fascinating, with tropical vegetation and stories of weird and/or deadly creatures that made their way into and out of the garden.  When I was 10 years old my dad and I went to visit Great Aunt Nat in England, and as she took us around her formal estate the dear old lady farted with every step she took, but pretended she didn’t.  Very exciting indeed!!

– Next you point out flowers or bushes and rattle off the common, Latin and genus names of what is growing.  “Oh look, there’s a Queen Victoria’s Knickers or the Regina Laurifer Vestimentum, from the genus Aeonium.”  Or something like that.  At my place it’s a little different.  They ask what that is and I say, “I don’t know, I just tossed some wildflower seeds on the dirt and voila!”  And then they ask what that over there is and I say, “I don’t know, I just like purple.”  And then I ask them if this and that are weeds and if I should pull them.

– Finally you stroll the entire property whilst clasping your hands behind your back, muttering things like, “Isn’t this lovely?  My, how delightful!  Pity the summer is only a few months.”  You do this until someone suggests tea and makes their way inside.  Or in my case (like this morning), someone steps in poop and the rest of the tour is spend locating the Hazmat suits and organizing the biohazard cleanup.

My garden is still in the construction phase.  There are pavers to lay and flower beds to create, but I’m definitely on my way.  I’ve still got work to do with this little Harrap tradition, but that British blood pumping through my veins is hard to deny.  And I’m so excited to have a garden of my own that I actually want to show off.  😀

Rebecca Knabe

Trailer Pick of the Day – Turquoise and Red!

Posted by Rebecca

Every now and then I’m driving down the road and I see an amazing trailer.  I usually drive by and wish later that I had stopped to take a picture.  Well, this time I stopped.  Isn’t it a beaut??

Rebecca Knabe

Fashionable Trailers

Posted by Rebecca

It’s finally catching on….  This trailer thing.

The reputation of the poor mobile dwelling has declined over the years – the first true mobile homes were horse-drawn carriages, then houses built on skids and moved by teams of horses; next the fancy camping trailers that were brightly painted to match the car hauling it around.  After that trailers became a little more stationary as the width and length grew, but it was still a respectable home.  The last 20-30 years, however, is where their reputation really went down the toilet, with run-down trailer parks and cheap housing options that attracted hoodlums and hooligans of all sorts.

But in this broken economy that has affected everyone, the value of the mobile home has vastly increased.  No, not the value as a monetary asset, but the value as an inexpensive structure.  And this value is being noticed by small business and boutique owners around the country.

The Fashion Truck is a “well-curated, lively mix of apparel and accessories products brought to trend seekers in a step van turned modern boutique,” according to their website.  It’s a Boston-based fashion truck that makes stops at markets, bazaars and parties.

The Styleliner has a collection of mobile stores in NYC, the Hamptons, Palm Beach, FL, and elsewhere, “that are hocking vintage accessories, sexy shoes and denim to die for in their haute wheels,” stated an article in the Edmonton Journal.

Sarah Ellison Lewis couldn’t deal with the price of store leases in Austin, TX, so she opened her funky shoe boutique in a renovated trailer, and parked it between a chic hotel and a popular brunch destination.

Photograph by: Jay Janner , AP

This trend is gaining momentum; so much so that ExTreme ReTrailers designs custom retail trailers as mini stores on wheels, with prices starting at $10,000.

So you see, this trailer thing really is catching on.  Or maybe this trailer thing always had it, and we are the ones who are finally catching on.

Rebecca Knabe

Life in a Tiny Apartment

Posted by Rebecca

Reading My Tea Leaves is a blog by Erin Boyle who shares a 240 square foot Brooklyn, New York apartment with her husband, James.  Her blog features a series called Life in a Tiny Apartment that lists survival tips for teeny-tiny-space living.  So far, she has posted 26 tips which include these great ideas:

– Organize your closet.  One way to accomplish this is by using uniform hangers.  These hangers – Ultra Thin No Slip Velvet Suit Hangers – are excellent space-savers and look great too.

– Make the bed.  If my home is locked I have to enter by the back door, which spits you right into my bedroom.  For the first time in my life, I make sure to make the bed every morning.  It is awful coming home to a disheveled room, and since the bed takes up most of the room’s area, it must be neat and welcoming every day.

–  Take out your recycling.  Most small homes have small garbage cans to match.  If your area offers recycling, don’t wait for it to stack up….  Take it out right away.  It reduces clutter, and frees up space for other kitchen junk.

–  Compost.  Composting is another super way to cut down on your garbage can usage and stinkage.  If you don’t have a garden of your own, Erin recommends freezing your compostable items until you have a chance to donate them to someone who would love them.  I have a garden, but I also have a dog who moonlights as a garbage disposal.  If I even attempted a compost pile, Cassi would happily eliminate it everyday.  But I have a neighbor who is just itching to receive my peels and pits and whatnots, so I have a bucket with a lid to collect these nutrient-rich delectables.

– Unpack your bag.  If you go on a trip, don’t wait to unpack when you return.  It will save you many detours and stubbed toes, as you attempt to navigate around your luggage.

–  Buy baskets with lids.  I’m not a basket gal.  I once lived on a dirt road, and the house and everything in it was perpetually covered in a layer of fine dirt.  To me, wicker and baskets are just country-cozy dust collectors that you can never fully clean.  But I agree with the idea – all your storage items should have a lid so it can double as a table or a stool; and all your tables and stools should have a storage compartment.  If an item in your tiny home doesn’t serve double duty, you better really love it.  If not, get rid of it.

– Get a tiny dish rack.  I have a nice chrome one from Ikea that I usually fold up and put away, but if it’s left on the counter it doesn’t look too bad.  Make sure your kitchen is as efficient and streamlined as possible.

–  Splurge on pretty towels.  Chances are your towels will be on display – either on hooks or open shelves.  When I moved into the pink trailer I kept only the towels that matched, and were fluffy and not showing age.  You will only need a few towels, so make sure you love them and they look great.

Check out Erin’s blog for more small space survival tips, as well as yummy recipes, do it yourself projects, and great photography.

Rebecca Knabe