Saturday, November 10, 2012

Five Gertee Travelers Combined

Ever since Team Gertee was evicted for scaring the tourists last summer, I've thought more about how people see us Gertee dwellers, and what they imagine we're like. Gertee definitely has her fans, we continue to meet wonderful people doing this, but we have a lot of detractors too. What gets lost in the arguments over the Gertee idea, is the fact that we do NOT suggest anyone else needs to live like this, we offer it only as another alternative option in the housing crisis to people who cannot afford to rent or buy a standard built home. Obviously not everyone agrees poor people have any right to live within their means.

The main impetuous behind my ACL research in 1999 was the way we were described inside our Seattle Local Agenda 21 Plan: "transients with a significant negative impact on the neighborhood." As we lived near the University of Washington and 65 blocks from downtown, there were many different kinds of people in our neighborhood. I found their insulting terminology unnacceptable, and I was naive enough to think I could force them to remove such foul language from their plan..

I was not a property owner or a business owner in Seattle. I was a renter, and the only reason I began the property rights portion of my all volunteer research project is because I understood U.S. law was based on property. I began studying Communitarian Law when I found it to be the source for all the changes to U.S. law that balanced individual rights against the community at large. That was in 2000. Today I am one of the most informed students on Communitarian Law in the world, and thousands of other students and professionals have benefitted from the research we so freely share online. Many of the people access our published materials and use the information to protect their homes, property and towns from invasive communitarian programs, policies and legislation.

I know it's hard for some people to understand that Gertee is an experimental lifestyle that supports my volunteer work at the ACL, mainly because hardly anyone knows what the ACL is, or what my research represents. To the average passer-by, I look just like any other poor white trash crackhead/alcoholic/public inebriate, and once someone's in the "lowlife" category they are easily written off as useless eaters. The irony of our continued defense of private property rights for Americans who snub us and sneer at my poverty is not lost on me.

But yes, I did know the outsides were dumpy looking. How dumpy they looked was proven to me by the continual "oh my I had no idea it would look like this" exclamations from everyone who came inside them. I always wished I could afford better exterior covers, they could be the most expensive and largest pieces of material Gertee uses, but I put my best materials inside and skimped on the outside.. function not beauty was the goal. Now I'm making more of an effort to make them look nice outside too, even though I'm working with even less capital than I had in Kenny Lake.

We moved to a new RV Park in July. Our new camp has 5 Gertees, one 10', one 12', one 14', and two 9'. They are attached to 4 doorways of the 10' Gertee in the middle. The center "hearth" Gertee has a woodstove under the metal roof ring/crown.

Each of the 3 main Gertees has a different roof ring and both the 12' and the 14' have 2 center 2x6" posts holding up the crowns. The first Gertee we erected was made from an assortment of leftovers. The bottom of a round bamboo chair became the roof ring/crown.


It worked great, and we used the "seriously recycled Gertee" to put all our stuff in while we built the main living areas with insulated floors. The first one is now the shop/office (and the only room that picks up the park's wireless). It still doesn't have a floor in it, so it can only be used if the outside temperature is above zero. It's the only floor that flooded during the big rains and floods this past fall, and the only Gertee Traveler that has a heavy duty vinyl roofcover.

Wasilla doesn't get quite as cold as Kenny Lake does, so we've got by with a lot less insulation and were able to stretch out the scraps we've been hoarding. We planned to build two, ended up building five little ones around the woodstove in the center. Now each "side" of the kitchen Gertee has a doorway with another Gertee attached.

10' central kitchen gertee going up

The center kitchen Gertee has the entrance door, woodstove in center, PVC roof poles, 2x4 wall frames. A new Tool Store opened up in Meadow Lake that has white heavy tarps for resonable prices, the 10'x10' is $10., 15'x15' is $20. The white tarps really helped them look cleaner.

Front doorway and arctic entry frame going up
I got a truckload of useable old/uneven boards from the lumber mill next door for $10! There was enough wood to cut the frames for both 9' additions
small counter and 2 stools in kitchen
I built the kitchen counter out of a shelf, some wood I used in the greenhouse gertee, and covered the stools and the table edge with a cut up vinyl picnic basket. The stools are metal and bamboo from a second hand store in Big Lake. The snap together flooring pad was an extravagant new purchase, one box covering 64 sq ft is $33. at Three Bears.
Inside entrance doorway
top of walls insulated with (unused!) adult diapers
After we finished the cookshack and got the stove running, we bought 2 sheets of 4'x8' insulation and 2 4'x8' sheets of 3/4 inch plywood ($120.00) and laid down a floor for the riveted pvc khana walls.
First 2 gertees covered and "done," 3rd under construction.

Modifying the original gertee roof ring..again!
I was able to put the roof up myself because of the center posts.
Center posts become a bookshelf.

The RV park has water/sewer and electric hookups at every site. We built the water closet as close to the sewage drain as I could fit it without crossing over the space lines. When I finally get the pipe I can hook into the drain and have somewhere inside to dump the slop buckets. Living in a "dry" space means we have to haul and store water in jugs and pots, and we are the drains too. It's more work than most people want to adjust to. I'm one of those who will be thrilled to install water and sewage pipes. I think plumbing (after electric) is one of the best perks of civilization. Spa Gertee coming soon!

9' umbrella used for a roofcover for water closet

donated new-in-package bed pads for insulation

'9' umbrella Gertee next to utilities
Our weather conditions mean we have to use very strong waterproof materials on the roof. Last winter Wasilla got way more snow than normal, and we learned a lot our first winter here. The most amazing discovery was how well the 3/4 inch PVC roof poles hold up under a large snowload. They don't have the weight to hold the roof down during big winds, but they bend and don't break under heavy roof pressure. Just a few sticks of rebar inserted inside the pipe adds enough weight.

16'x16' piece of donated Alyeska scrap vinyl

The vinyl works great for the roof
Wish I had more! I'd use it for floors too.
The final Gertee in this combination is a 9' arctic entry. This was the second one of this model so it went up, from start to finish, in about 5 hours. I cut the boards with my chainsaw. I made 7 frames, 3'Wx5'H and attached them together with cheap zip ties that busted in a big windstorm last week. Some things can't be skimped on, and zip ties that cost more but don't break are much better. I used lite rope to fix the places that broke apart, so it wasn't a big disaster.
Wood for 9' Gertee: 16, 5' boards and 16, 3' boards

9' new ($50.) umbrella roof for entry Gertee.

The umbrella is not waterproof so must be covered.

Finished just in time for first snowfall.
So far the woodstove in the center Gertee will heat all three main rooms if the outside temperature is above 10 degrees F. The back 14' will need more insulation on the walls and some sort of floor covering to be useable when it gets down past zero.
Nordica's been invited to be part of a theatrical production at Burchill High School in Wasilla with some slam poets and artists she knows. We're thinking of ways to build a Gertee on stage during the performance. There are over 1000 homeless teenagers in the Valley, and more than half of them attend school regularly. We think Gertee might just appeal to some of these kids who manage to keep their independence and spirit in spite of all the odds stacked against them.
We already know Gertee won't appeal to the middle class regulators in local government and "helper" organizations that want to put homeless in monitored shelters and micromanage their lives. Offering actual housing to the homeless is practically a taboo. Offering housing that doesn't cost much and doesn't require a bunch of paperwork and international building codes is unheard of in these communitarian times. Doing anything without grant funding or corporate sponsors is just too radical.
In many ways, Gertee is more of a political statement than the ACL.