Houseplants & Full-Time RV Life

I’ve always surrounded myself with lots of houseplants. For me, a house doesn’t feel like a home without them. I grew up in a house full of them. My mother could always find a spot for just one more. Last summer, my brother repotted one of my mother’s only remaining houseplants, a philodendron. He’d discovered my father had continued to care for it these last 25 years after her death. It was looking a little sickly but considering its age, not too bad. It’s now living in a senior facility – along with Dad.

Sixteen years ago as we prepared to leave Massachusetts to head south, I had a “plant adoption brunch.” Anyone attending had to take a plant with them as they went. Years later, I continued to get updates on some of them. I did have plants that traveled with us to Virginia, and they tagged along in our RV as we explored the country for several months. While driving, they sat in the bathtub; at a campsite, they sat up on the dash.

Since then, my collection of plants has grown and this time adoption was not an option.

Downsizing with My Plants

As we became full-time RVers, I planned on bringing all my plants with us. Downsize was not a word I would apply to my plants. But when there is greenery spread about 1,250 square feet, it’s not until you bring it all together into one spot that you realize how much space they all take up. Being generous, we have about 300 square feet in the RV, so I knew I had a problem. I eventually conceded that some of my indoor plants were going to have to become outdoor plants.

houseplantsI used the USDA plant hardiness zone guide to pick a few I thought could live out there safely. Southeastern Virginia is zone 8a, so if necessary, the aloe plants could stay outside. But being one of my favorites, I wanted them inside with me. Other favorites, like the jade and snake plants, had become very large over the years, and there was just no spot big enough for them. But the winters here can get a little too cold, and it was a risk. I felt like a mother bird pushing them out of the nest.

Shelter in the Cold

RV Life - greenhouseFor about three months, I carefully watched the weather reports for falling temperatures. I thought I might have to get into the habit of dragging them all inside at night. But I was lucky that the early winter months were mild long enough to figure out that we needed to get a greenhouse. A small ceramic heater made sure the plants were safe from the cold.

Hens & Chicks HousplantThey seemed to thrive in the greenhouse, especially the hens and chicks. I get my love for plants, if not talent, from both sides of the family. My earliest memories of visiting my grandmother were seeing these pretty little, spikey plants along the rock wall leading to her door. I was fascinated by them. I bought one a couple years ago after learning that I could keep it as a houseplant. It has since produced many chicks that have themselves become hens.

Loving the RV Life

Thanksgiving CactusThose plants that remained inside have also thrived. The RV has light filling the main room from windows on three sides. An orchid that in twelve years never produced more than three flowers is currently showing nine flowers from its thirteen buds. The Thanksgiving cactus, which sits on the corner of the desk, has had its second bloom in five months. And one of the small snake plants now living inside could become large enough to get pushed out of the nest by fall.



Relearning How to Shower

When living in an RV full-time, a honey wagon is needed by those without a sewage connection.When living in an RV full-time, and it doesn’t have a sewer system connection, you need to be very conscious of your water usage. Any water brought in must be taken out via the storage tanks. Because we wanted a site by the creek, we knew we’d be reliant upon the weekly services of a honey wagon. Every Monday morning, the honey wagon hooks up and drains our three tanks—one black water tank (toilet, 50 gals.) and two grey water tanks (sinks and shower, 85 gals.).

In the shower this morning, as I scrubbed my hair with my eyes closed, I could hear the birds loudly chirping. The water from the showerhead was off, and through the skylight the sun was filling the enclosure with bright light. It is going to be a beautiful day the red-winged blackbirds were telling me. I used to spend 15 minutes in a stream of hot water, but now I am usually in and out in about eight. And with the promise of such gorgeous weather, I didn’t feel deprived. I can’t say the same on a cold winter day. Liv

Accidently Going Green

To be honest, I never used to give much thought to water usage. At some point, I did learn to turn off the faucet while brushing my teeth. I also felt good about trying to run the dishwasher only when it was full. And finding a dripping tap always caused thoughts about how wasteful the person was being. Therefore, whenever I heard something about its conservation, I self-righteously thought, no problem, got it covered.

But this changed over the last year when a Swedish teenager raised my climate change awareness to the sky, and the associated guilt. I’ve learned that small homes are more environmentally friendly in many ways, and bolstered my feelings that living in an RV full-time was the right way to go. But not only for us.

Showering a New Way

I recently did a bit of research to see how much water a person uses per day. Most of the newer information indicates that, on average, a person uses 55 gallons per day. I then narrowed in on the numbers only related to our grey water tanks. It appears that folks typically use two gallons per minute in the shower.

Due to our lack of sewage hookup, how we showered needed to change. It is no longer as simple as, turn on the water, lather and scrub, rinse, and turn off the water. Nope! Now it consists of:

  • Turn on the water and wet down body
  • Turn off the water
  • Lather up and scrub
  • Turn on water to rinse body and wet hair
  • Turn off the water
  • Lather up and scrub hair
  • Turn on water to rinse hair
  • Turn off the water

I’m not so big – yet – that it takes me a full minute to wet down my body and hair. And even if it did, that equals two gallons; rinsing, another two gallons. So instead of averaging 30 gallons of water for my former 15-minute, hot shower, it’s now only about four. With two of us following the same routine — minus the hair washing for one of us, 60 gallons drops to eight.  That’s an 86% reduction in water usage! Living in an RV full time

Hand Washing Gone Viral

Water running as hands are scrubbed.I cringe whenever I see a faucet gushing out water, as someone demonstrates how to wash our hands during this time of the pandemic. As they meticulously scrub their hands, the water continues to stream out in the background. That’s at least two gallons per hand wash, and how many gallons per day? You can often use your wrist or a towel to turn off the faucet as you scrub

Please turn off the tap while you wash—and make Greta proud.

Water, Water, Everywhere

As I sit here, the sound of rain bouncing off the tin box we call home surrounds me. It awoke me last night, and my first thought was about wind speed and direction. If from the south or southeast, we could again find ourselves becoming an island in Muddy Creek. Today the wind is out of the north, and the only nuisance is the wetness outside.  That was not true last week.Flooded road in campground

So far, water is one of the only troublesome aspect of living in our RV. Of course, this is not a general negative to RV living, but of where we chose to do this living. Water from the nearby North Bay drains into and out of the Muddy Creek; when winds are strong, and from the south, water in the area along the creek will rise three to four feet.

When the road floods leading to the campground, I need to be watchful for ducks and fish floating over the pavement. The flooding is not all bad, though. I enjoy watching the ducks glide over someone’s front lawn. And large herons also make appearances to get some fast food, as the fish are visible in the shallow water against the green background.

Catfish Rescue

As the water was being pushed back out into the bay last week, I needed to stop and rescue a big catfish. It was caught halfway to the roadside drainage ditch when the depth became too shallow for her to make it across. I stopped, climbed out of my car, and sloshed over to where the poor creature struggled. I’d never touched a live fish before, and she was determined not to be my first. She kept squeezing out from between my hands, like toothpaste from a tube!

Heron Reflected in Roadside DitchBut as she angrily swished her tail back and forth, splashing me, it kept hitting the ground and propelled her forward. She moved closer and closer to the ditch. In the end, I needed only to get my hands under her hind end to flip her into deeper water. Pleased and congratulating myself out loud, I turned to find someone waiting in their car at the edge of the puddle watching the show. Drenched, I plodded back to my car and headed home. I’d probably only accomplished giving a heron some fresh sushi. Oh, well.