Ah, with the new growth of spring comes another year of Edna and my 2+ Year North American Tour. Eight years ago today, I purchased Edna, knowing she would be built out into a mobile free teahouse, and eventually travel from sea to sea. Three years ago today, after five years of traveling the west coast, serving a ton of free tea, and building Edna into a permaculturists playground on wheels, we left on a multi-year North American tour. Our travels have been slow, allowing us to settle in places, build our community, and serve a lot of free tea. From Texas to Maine, from Southern CA to North Carolina, we’ve been meeting new people, helping people fix and build things, doing bus projects and maintenance, and pushing the boundaries of words like WORK and FREE and INTERDEPENDENCE and SHARING.
Over the past three months since our last update, we’ve been mellow. The plan for the winter was to spend it writing. And I’m proud to say that lots of writing has been accomplished! What am I writing? Some of you have figured it out. I am writing the Tea Bus Factory Service Manual. This will be a freely downloadable, Creative Commons licensed PDF featuring all of the systems of Edna Lu the teabus as an example and inspiration for your own personal small-scale, DIY, low-environmental impact, and mobile living systems. This includes info on solar/electrical systems, water systems (fresh, filtered, hot, and grey), using coolant to heat things (waste vegetable oil, water, air, etc.), running alternative fuels like waste vegetable oil and biodiesel, building with salvaged materials, and so much more. Each section has primers on skills, tools, and materials needed, including tips on salvaging and purchasing the greener options. I’m excited to share it when completed! This will hopefully be later this year.Over the past few months, we served tea on New Years Eve to celebrate 10 years of free tea, at a Black Lives Matter/Say Her Name rally in Durham, at a Really Really Free Market in Carrboro, at a Last Friday Artwalk in Hillsboro, and at a Third Friday Artwalk in Durham. We also went to Carolina Friends School (again) and hosted a workshop for middle-school boys called Bros on the Bus, where we talked about flirting and other fun things about growing up. Although we haven’t been out serving tea much, the few times we have been out, we’ve been well received and had a great time.
Bus Projects (skip if uninterested):
Of course, bus projects are continual. This winter, we’ve seen: Replumbing the coolant system into two loops (Loop 1: clean WVO system; Loop 2: either dirty WVO system or hot water heater, or neither, as well as the Webasto and heater core), installing a new light above the dash area, installing a new solar tilt system (blog entry to come), working on a solar dump to heat hot water with waste solar power (still in the works), fixing the skylight support system (for when it’s open), attempting to solve an air leak in one of my Racor fuel filters (still in process), fixing some minor electrical issues, installing a new water filter, installing a high-pressure adjustable propane regulator, etc.
I also have been trying to figure out why my WVO system has been losing heat. I thought it might have been the way I mounted my final heat exchanger (facing down), when it should have been placed with the WVO outlet facing up, or at the upper end of the heat exchanger. I removed the heat exchanger half thinking it would be filled with polymerized oil from having air caught it, plus a ton of heat, but nope, it looked pretty clean. I cleaned it out, and put it back together, and relocated it to face the proper direction, only to not have solved my heat problem. I also removed a rear, and likely unnecessary heat exchanger, which definitely had a lot of polymerization in it (probably because it was facing down). I haven’t driven at all since I completed this, but I don’t think much has changed, heat-wise. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s some hidden polymerization in the final heat exchanger, or what???
As part of my WVO replumb, I installed a pressure relief valve on the WVO filter head. I have a history of WVO leaks, stemming from pressure building in the clean WVO system from heat. It can’t expand because there’s a 3 way switch in the front of the system, and a fuel pump that doesn’t allow fuel to flow backwards in the back of the system. Originally, this was showing itself as a spike in the fuel pressure when running bio/diesel because the o-rings in the 3-way valve were letting excess pressure it slip by. When I replaced the 3-way valve with one that can stand higher pressure (WVO Designs), that problem stopped, but fuel started to leak elsewhere – especially around the fuel filter housing. Hence the pressure relief valve. I haven’t driven much yet, so we’ll see how it holds up!
A HUGE shout-out to Randall and Lisa of Fireside Farm, where we have been staying for the winter. This little homestead has been such a blessing. Our hosts offered us a place to write for the winter, a tiny community to be with, and an atmosphere for learning and growth. In exchange, we have been helping out around the homestead, fixing and building things, preparing food, fermenting a ton of food and beverages, cleaning, organizing and offering our support in the ways we know how.
I also spent a week in Bonlee, NC as en employee of the ReUse Warehouse, a salvaged building material non-profit based in Durham. I was hired to single-handedly take as much wood out of a house as I could as quickly as I could in order to salvage the material, as well as get it ready to be burned by the fire department. It was a tough, but super fun job. I pulled 5 floors, 4 rooms of wall paneling, a ton of trim, and most of the larger siding pieces.
Our future has never been so planned! We leave early April for Asheville to attend and serve tea at Mother Earth News Fair. We’ve never been to Asheville, so we’re looking forward to it! We will be stationed by the main gate, where 18,000-20,000 people will walk through over the weekend. Wow!
After a month back in Efland of writing and bus projects, we take a couple weeks through Virginia on our way up to Thomas, WV, where I will be working for the summer. I will be working with friends to help do a salvaged remodel of a soon-to-open grocery store, music listening/recording room, an apartment, a bakery, and perhaps a little work on their earthen tiny house hotel. I feel blessed to work with good people, doing work that is within my moral framework.
Traveling the west is much easier for me. I can go almost anywhere on the west coast and have a place to park, good work (monetarily compensated or not), community to be with, and more. Since heading east, those things have been more rare, as these relationships take time to build. In this process, it’s been a little harder for me to get my ever so small monetary needs met. I only need to make about $6,000 or $7,000 a year in order to live well (most of this goes to bus maintenance and projects, then food, tools, biodiesel, and on down the list). As my monetary resource have dwindled, the work offer in Thomas was crucial, welcomed, and feels absolutely right. That being said, I will be serving some tea in WV, and hope to make a few side trips as well.
Mad love to all the folks who have sent sweet care packages of tea and supplies: Alex for the maple syrup; Annie of Pollinator Handmade for the tea, teacups and tea towels; Casey in Brooklyn for the 3 month Global Tea Hut subscription; White Deer Apothecary for the Fire Cider, tea, and tinctures; Joanna Kulezsa for the 4×5 framed portrait; and so many more!
Also: A HUGE THANKS to the 35 or so folks who pitched in more than $600 dollars to help get a mega order of tea bus stickers made. Wow, I was floored at the response to our need. We now have stickers for the next 2-3 years to give out! Wow!