Adventures of the Yellow School Bus | "Part II of the Bus Tour" | Text and 29 Photos by Candice Granger

In this shot, you can see the water tanks in the background, our fire pit 
to the left side, and Jim Bob's hanging flower pots along the bus cover.

Here it is. This is our bus. You saw the inside of our home last post and now it is time to take you on a tour of our outside space. (If you missed the inside tour click here.)

Here we go. We just recently put a cover over our yellow monster for two reasons: 1. to make our tin can cooler in the hot Texas summers and 2. to catch rainwater.  This cover has made a HUGE difference this summer.  Last summer we ran two AC units all day and it barely kept the interior space tolerable.  This year, one AC kept us perfect.  Yay.  The cover is 30' x 62'.  It is big and has made a big difference in our daily lives.  These last few rains we were able to catch about 500 gallons worth of water.  It adds up fast but you still have to think about the long stretches that we go without rain. We have to store it up and make it last through the dry times.

No, those are not dogs on our "porch", those are goats.  They like the shade just as much as we do and we often find our farm animals lounging about on our patio furniture.  Each goat will often find a patio chair and climb up and lay down.  I walk outside to find them all "sitting" around the table, looking like they are discussing important matters.  It makes me chuckle.  It makes Jim Bob say four letter words.

Someday soon we will build a patio off the front of the bus.  Am I ever looking forward to that day!  Right now it is just dirt (dirt that is brought into the bus on every single flip flop!).  We had to level the pad for the bus and the grass just never grew back.  Now I know it won't grow back under the cover because of traffic and lack of sunlight.  If we build a nice porch, we will have to figure out a way to keep all the goats and chickens off.  We might see some backlash from animals around here.

Phin, our kitty cat, was the was the only animal lounging on the patio furniture when I walked by...he didn't seem too bothered when I snapped a picture.  I guess I woke him up.  What a life!

Front of the bus. The black and blue barrels are our recycling barrels.  We recycle absolutely everything we can.  What we can't recycle, we take to a dumpster in town.  We take our recycling to a recycling center about 60 miles from us, quite the trek but well worth it.  

We also compost.  That is our compost on the left in the cinder block bin.  I put about 3 pounds of worms in the compost last summer.  So far, so good.  We have lots of black soldier fly larvae too.  Those guys can devour our kitchen scraps in no time.  It's crazy.  The trash cans are our feed buckets for the dogs, goats, chickens and donkey boy.  This shot also shows our filtration system attached to the wall of the bus.  That's what that long silver bullet looking thing is...the UV light filter.  We also have a sediment filter and a carbon filter.  If you are interested in seeing more details about our rainwater system, check out this link to our blog.  It shows the set up on our studio building. 

This is the fenced off backyard.  We have to keep goats out of the back or they will eat our jasmine and garden down to the nub.  We like to keep the chickens out of the back just to have a safe haven for insects, frogs and whatever else needs a place away from those raptors. They often just jump over the fence but we quickly chase them out. Chickens.

Since the goats aren't in this area, I get to have some plants!  This is the little walk around to our bathroom.

This shot shows the other side of the jasmine bathroom wall.  It's our shower!  You can't beat an outdoor shower in my opinion.  At night, you can see the stars, feel the water and the coolness of the night.  It makes you appreciate being alive.  The jasmine is slowly growing up and around the fence panels to create a nice little private space.

I really don't like the time of year when it is too cold to shower outside.  We push it to the absolute latest date possible.  The kids will start taking baths in the bus early but Jim Bob and I try to suck it up as long as we can!  

This is our outdoor sink and potty area.  Zeb is supposed to be washing his hands.  I can only imagine he will walk away with everything else wet except his hands.  :)

This is the potty area.  Our composting toilet is the blue box with the flower.  We do our "duty" in the bucket toilet and cover it with peat moss.  When the bucket is full, we empty its contents in a hole that we dig in the pasture with an auger and then cover the hole up.  Our peat moss barrel is the black barrel with the green lid on the left.  Being on 100% rainwater, flushing a toilet is not an option.  We would be flushing our drinking water down the toilet...that wouldn't make any sense.  Read the book Humanure.  It will change the way you look at water and the water that comes out of your faucet.  I am not a doomsdayer but I do think that some drastic changes will need to take place in our kids' lives or our grandchildren's generation to insure they have what they need to survive, like clean water.  I don't know if the answer is composting toilets but I do think the answer lies in being more conscientious in how we handle our precious resources.  That is what we are doing here.  Just trying to live a simple life in the most conscientious way possible.  

We have a total of 15,000 gallons of water storage.  12,500 of that is hooked up and storing water right now.  7,500 gallons are hooked up on the bus cover and 5,000 gallons to the studio building.  The big green tanks are our water storage tanks.

The blue barrel is one of the two roof washers (one for each side of our bus cover).  A roof washer catches the first bit of rainwater that runs off a roof.  Since the first bit of water is thought to be the dirtiest, you don't want all that dirt in your storage tank.  So you divert the first however many gallons to a separate storage tank. Once that fills up, the rest of the water spills into your mega storage tanks (that is where the horizontal PVC pipe is going).  Roof washer water does not go to waste.  I use it to water our plants and the kids use it for different sand castle projects.

We are still working on our gutters.  Here is Jim Bob putting an end cap on the last stretch of gutter. We still have the other side to finish up. 

This is the other side or the front.  It gives you a different perspective of the water tanks.  We were very excited about getting them under a cover and out of the direct sun.  We didn't want our water tasting like plastic.  Yuck.  The best part of using the clean water that falls from the sky (besides its refreshing taste) is the ice it makes!

This is one of our ice cubes - nice and clear right?  Our ice cubes in Alpine were solid white - even with a RO unit.  It was kind of scary.  Isn't water clear?  Why does it turn white when you freeze it?  Turns out impurities in the water are happily dissolved at room temperature but once you start to cool them or freeze them they begin to separate from the liquid and turn opaque. They are then pushed to the center of the cube where the water is slower to freeze.  Eventually the impurities don't have anywhere else to go and congregate in the middle of the cube. See that white opaque spot in the middle of our cube?  It might be time for us to change our filters...  When we first got hooked up on 100% rainwater, we were blown away by these ice cubes!  We thought it was the coolest thing that they were clear.  Life's little pleasures!   

Kids have fun in this spot.  I have "eaten" a lot of mud pies from that little play house.

Now on to our studio building.  Here are our 2500 gallon tanks.  They catch the water from the studio and the patio cover. Check out the catchment system in more detail here.

Here is a different view of the studio.  To see how the building went up, check out this link.

Here is my work space.  I have a laser machine to the left that keeps me busy with various projects such as the donor wall at the Fulton Mansion.  When it opens back up on October 24th, you will have to go check it out!  I'm excited.  Anywho - this is my space.  Yes, those are two dogs laying around and a cat in my machine.  You can tell who feeds them!

I left the lid open for like 2 seconds and he was in it and asleep before I could throw him out!  Cats.

This is the kids spot where we home school, craft and build stuff.

Lena Marie is busy crafting and Zeb is probably building a rocket out of a cardboard box.  

This is Jim Bob's side of the studio. This is where he turns mud into beautiful pottery!

Here he is trimming a hummingbird pot for the Hummingbird Festival in Rockport this weekend. 

Some pottery studio equipment.  This pug mill was given to us by our dear friends Margaret and Oliver Hughes.  It allows us to recycle the clay that is trimmed off pots or pots that didn't make it through the process.  Jim Bob puts the leftover clay in the top of the machine where the handle is, adds water and it mixes it all up.  It then pushes all the air out of the clay and sends it out in a log shape - ready to use all over again!  Super awesome piece of equipment.

We have two Paragon kilns that fire all of Jim Bob's work.  It can get crazy hot out in here when the kilns are firing to 1,989 degrees.  That's hot!  It's nice in the winter but not so much in the summer.  

Here is a pot ready to be glazed and then put in the kiln to be fired.  Once it comes out of the kiln, it looks like the pots in the back...all bright and pretty.  The bottom shelf is bird feeders.  

We will have it all for sale at the Hummer-Mall during the Hummingbird Festival.  Come see us!

That's it!  That is our outside space and our studio space.  That is our whole world!  Well, minus the farm yard.  Maybe that will be the next post.  Meet the farm!  

As most homesteads, it is a never ending project.  Some days we think that we will be working in the studio but the the farm says something different - like you have neighbor's cows in your pasture, so today you get to fix fences and not engrave or make pots.  I love it.  I love that everyday is different and unexpected.  It keeps us on our toes and keeps life interesting.  Isn't that what we all want, an interesting life?  I feel pretty lucky that I get to wake up every morning and share this journey with my beautiful family.  I try hard not to take it for granted because I know it will be over way too soon. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet say it the best:

"What day is it?"
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh.

-A.A. Milne

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