Quick, easy and safe RV refrigerator defrosting

Dometic User Manual Caution: “Do not use: A knife or an ice pick, or other sharp tools to remove frost from the freezer shelves. It can create a leak in the ammonia system.  A hot air blower. Permanent damage could result from warping the metal or plastic parts.”  We use neither sharp tools nor a hot air blower and yet easily and routinely defrost our Dometic RM2551 RV refrigerator (5 cu. ft.) in less than 30 minutes.

Frost and ice buildup on the cooling fins reduces the cooling efficiency of the refrigerator.  As seen below, our refrigerator is overdue for defrosting!

DSC_0004 Time to defrost RV refrig

I usually defrost our refrigerator about every two months depending on outside temperature and humidity conditions.  I like to start a trip with the cooling fins clear of most of the frost to make sure the refrigerator maintains safe temperatures for food (40° F or less).  We use our RV refrigerator full time (it acts as a supplemental refrigerator when at home) and it always has food in it, so it is important to be able to do the defrosting quickly, to prevent food spoilage and to shorten the recovery time to get adequately cold again.

DSC_0002 Gathering defrosting tools Once I determine that the refrigerator needs defrosting, I choose a warm day and gather five tools: a cooler, electric fan, large Tupperware lid, extra long chopstick, and a washcloth.

One of the benefits of our 23′ Airstream Safari trailer is that the large lobster sink/counter is directly across from the refrigerator, which provides a handy location for the fan to direct warm air directly into the freezer/refrigerator compartments.

I then turn off the refrigerator, fully open the door and place most food items in the nearby cooler. (I leave most condiments and other food items in the door in place.)

DSC_0006 Removing food

DSC_0004 Wireless sensor & thermistor

As you may have noticed,  our refrigerator’s white thermistor probe wire is not in its OEM plastic holder on the far right fin where it normally is moved up and down to regulate the temperature (See Adjusting the Thermistor to Improve Cooling*).  Refrigerator thermistors are NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) thermistors* and resistance decreases as the temperature increases.  The higher the position on the fin, the warmer the thermistor will be and the refrigerator will run longer and become colder.  But our probe wire is short and does not allow it to be moved high enough on the fin to obtain the proper refrigerator coldness.  So I found that by removing it from its holder and moving it away and down from the fins, I can adjust and maintain the proper refrigerator coldness (which for us is usually 36-37 ° F and monitored by our AcuRite Wireless Digital Thermometer).

I use a condiment bottle to prop open the freezer door (Thai sweet chili sauce* works well) and place the frozen items in the cooler.

DSC_0013 Freezer door propped open

A closer look at the tools is seen above: an inverted Tupperware lid to collect melting ice chunks, an extra long chopstick* (17.7″ bamboo chopstick for hot pot and wok cooking) to gently loosen ice chunks, and a white washcloth to wipe clean and dry the refrigerator.  (Note: we have greatly reduced our use of paper towels by purchasing a 24-pack of white reusable washcloths from Costco and also available at Amazon.com.)

DSC_0008 Ice cube trays in freezerTip: This set of 4 flexible silicone ice cube trays from Target works wonderfully for us.  It makes ice cubes quickly and takes up less space than traditional ice cube trays.  It helps keep other food items cool in the cooler when defrosting and it helps decrease the refrigerator’s recovery time after defrosting.

Packages of fish balls, jiao zi (dumplings),* and pesto are seen on the left.)

The fan is then turned on and defrosting will take about 20 minutes!

DSC_0016 Defrosting begins

DSC_0018 Water exits via new drain tubeAs ice begins to melt, water drips down and is collected in the condensation drain pan and flows through its bottom hole into the Dometic white drain pipe with cup, which connects with the drainage tubing on the backside of the refrigerator.

Our OEM drainage tubing had become brittle and we replaced it with Shields Rubber Series 162 Polyester Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing, 1/2″ ID (inside diameter).  I chose this tubing over the clear vinyl tubing because it is reinforced, can tolerate hot water (or being in a hot space such as near the boiler tube), is more flexible and is slightly less expensive than their clear vinyl tubing.

The chopstick is then used to gently nudge the melting ice sections forward and off the fins and collected in the Tupperware lid and deposited by nearby plants.

DSC_0023 Chop stick coaxes ice free

DSC_0026 Ice placed in tray:lid

Each section slides slowly and smoothly towards me and reminds me of Dave using a simple tool/key to selectively disengage electronic circuit modules in HAL’s Logic Memory Center.*

The washcloth is then used to remove excess water and wipe down the refrigerator’s insides and door seals, which completes the defrosting process in 30 minutes or less!


DSC_0029 Defrosting completed

Additional information: Airstream’s How to Operate Your Refrigerator* and Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.


Great expectations: Nests, beasts, bread, books and America

The Nest Caravan trailer prototype, designed by Robert Johans, is a sleek, new trailer with a fiberglass monocoque body that does not sit on a steel frame, which makes this 16′ trailer lightweight (about 2000 pounds) and easily towed by a standard car!  The Nest Caravan prototype has a queen size bed, large counter, vent fan, and a removable step bumper for the option to install a bike rack (see video linked above or photos here).   See how Robert built the prototype: “Nest Caravans – Building a new FG trailer step-by-step.”  Last spring, Robert sold his prototype and company assets to Airstream Inc., where he will assist Airstream to develop the Nest, expected to be launched by late 2017 or early 2018.  I have great expectations that the proud and happy owners of this new trailer will enjoy the ease of towing, not worrying and dealing with filiform corrosion, having fewer, if any, leaks, saving money on tow vehicle fuel, and feeling good about going green (it has an integrated solar panel!).  Future buyers and Fans of the Airstream Nest will not have to contemplate acquiring fantastic beasts to tow this trailer!

DSC_0084 Airstreams pulled by F-250s

Surf’s up and time for keeping cool along the coast and doing summer reading, gardening, hiking, house and yard maintenance, and fun cooking!

DSC_0094 trailer towed by car

For the centerpiece of my summer reading, I have great expectations in the New York Times Bestseller, Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, which was the inspiration for the wildly successful Broadway musical Hamilton,* winner of 11 Tony Awards!

DSC_0425 Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton

My expectations for making beautiful and delicious challah from scratch were fulfilled by Maggie Glezer’s “My Challah” recipe on page 94 of her wonderful book, A Blessing of Bread: Recipes and Rituals, Memories and Mitzvahs – “Modern-day takes on age-old recipes for challah, holiday breads, and everyday family breads from Ashkenazi, Sephardic, North African, and Near Eastern traditions, interwoven with joyous family stories, wise folktales, proverbs, and prayers.”

DSC_0419 Challah, Maggie Glezer recipe

I have very great expectations this summer in the new writings of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.

DSC_0007 Harry Potterbooks

A new book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script), will be published the day following the official stage production opening in London on July 30.  Other new writings include, “Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” the second in a series of stories called History of Magic in North America,* written by J.K. Rowling as a prelude to the movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,* opening November 18, 2016!

Summer for us is a time for a staycation in happy San Diego with its many attractions and a time for sharing stories and cherishing memories of our Airstream camping adventures before its time to wash, wax, and treat our Airstream in the fall.

DSC_0509 Sharing stories & memories

And as we approach the fall, we also have great expectations for “the miracle that is America” as reflected upon by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in their introduction to the performance of “Hamilton” at the 70th Annual Tony Awards!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Encore: See and hear the creator and star of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda sing the production’s opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,”* at the White House Poetry Jam, May, 12, 2009.

Monkey business under the Hunger Moon

The Hunger Moon* was rising as we unhitched our Airstream Safari in the California desert, which marked the conclusion of the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey.*

DSC_0038 Hunger Moon 2016

This moon is also called the Snow Moon* because it usually occurs during the snowiest month of the year, but in San Diego, we just had the hottest February since records began in 1874.  Here in the desert, we experienced comfortably warm, sunny days, and cool, clear nights that were perfect for celebrating the Chinese Lantern Festival* as we did last year at this site, except this time, we suspended a large paper Chinese lantern with string attached to a long bamboo stick from our garden.

DSC_0049 Chinese Lantern Festival Full Moon

Evening breezes made low light photography of this large paper Chinese lantern challenging until I held on to it…

DSC_0079 Lantern festival celebrator

while our Chinese lucky lion* looked on and laughed (perhaps regarding the Year of the Monkey political predictions)!

DSC_0065 Chinese lantern festival lion

The Chinese New Year* is also known as the Spring Festival,* and this year, it felt like spring arrived early at our campsite, especially with freshly cut Freesia flowers that Larry brought from home.

DSC_0007 Spring Year of the Monkey

Larry also brought a pork and mushroom mixture that was placed in dumpling wrappers to make siu mai,* which were then steamed.

DSC_0121 Larry making siu mai

DSC_0131 Pork mushroom siu mai

Recent rain and warmer temperatures have brought new growth and flowers to Agua Caliente’s Moonlight Canyon flora.

DSC_0097 Moonlight Canyon

Swaths of red were seen across the desert due to prolific chuparosa, Justicia californica, blooms.

DSC_0106 Agua Caliente chuparosa

And a beautiful and fragrant Cattleya bloom greeted us upon arrival home and seemed to announce the arrival of spring!

DSC_0191 Cattleya (at home)

“Winter is gone, the mountains are clear, and water sparkles… Spring comes, birds sing, and flowers fragrant.” (A Chinese Spring Festival – New Year’s couplet,* Chun lian.)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Summer spiders, flowers, stir-fry and Sonoran hot dogs

As our Airstream Safari rested between camping seasons, an orb-weaving spider spun a sticky, spiral-wheel shaped web* attached to the trailer’s rock guard and waited for the capture of its next prey.*

DSC_0013-2 Orb-weaver spider

On the eve of summer solstice, our night-blooming Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum) produced six blooms by our outdoor kitchen (See “A night-blooming interlude“, History Safari Expresso).

DSC_0487 Cereus & outdoor kitchen

Under the Full Buck Moon,* our pitahaya (Hylocereus undatus) sent up into the heavens its first spectacular bloom over the patio pergola (See “A pitahaya summer interlude,” History Safari Expresso).

DSC_0025 Pitahaya bloom 2015

Under the pergola, Larry stir-fried meat, then vegetables, in a wok over a 250,000 BTU burner and then tossed them with pan-fried Cantonese-style egg noodles that were golden “brown, firm and crispy on the outside, and yellow, moist and soft on the inside, a combination of texture that is classically Chinese.** (See “How to make chow mein with Ken Hom“.*)

DSC_0032 Stir-frying in patio kitchen

For my turn in our outdoor kitchen, I made my version of the Sonoran hot dog, based on a recipe adapted from Robb Walsh’s The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook.

DSC_0048 Sonoran hot dog prep

A Sonoran-style hot dog is a grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog placed in a toasted bolillo (Mexican-style bun) and topped with your favorite condiments.  I prepared bowls of chopped tomato, onion, avocado, grated cheese, refried beans, and fresh salsa verde (made by Larry).

DSC_0049 Sonoran hot dog prep 2

The grill was fired up and the dogs were cooked until the bacon was crispy (about 7 minutes).

DSC_0054 Cooking Sonoran hot dogs

The bolillos were toasted and the pocket was lined with refried beans, avocado and cheese.  The cooked dog was placed inside and topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, salsa verde and squiggles of a blend of mayo, Tabasco, and lime (or lemon) juice.

DSC_0059 Hotdog drizzled with mayo-blend

Earlier this month, The Huffington Post said, “Make Sonoran Hot Dogs, And You’ll Never Go Back.”  The history of the Sonoran hot dog can be traced from Hermosillo, Sonora, to New York, Los Angeles, and Tucson.  Perhaps TBM has earned enough dietary credits to do another Tucson Sonoran Hot Dog test!

DSC_0057 Fiesta in a bun

The Sonoran hot dog is truly a fiesta on a bun!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

**Asian Vegetarian Feast: Tempting Vegetable And Pasta Recipes From The East, Ken Hom, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1988, p. 150-151.

Author’s note: For additional visual delights, see “A Peruvian Apple Cactus interlude,” History Safari Expresso.

Catfish by the sea, again

For the past eight years, we’ve rounded out our camping season by unhitching our Airstream Safari trailer on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach.  Reservations for the popular beach side campsites need to be made up to  6 months in advance.  Our favorite site has windblown bushes (Melaleuca nesophila) that provide privacy, but California’s drought is now having an impact on them.  A ranger told me that the park is now limiting watering to three times per week and will be replacing the turf with drought tolerant plants.

DSC_0114 South Carlsbad State Beach

DSC_0128 Campsite on the bluff

Each year we enjoy listening to the continuous sound of the surf* and watching the shore birds soar by on the updraft of the sea breeze along the bluffs.

DSC_0068 Surf at Carlsbad

DSC_0337 Pelicans soaring

Nearby is The Flower Fields* 50-acre garden on the Carlsbad Ranch, featuring Giant Tecolote Ranuculus blooms* 10 weeks each spring sustained by reclaimed water from the City of Carlsbad and a drip irrigation system.

DSC_0035 The Flower Fields

DSC_0043 Giant Tecolote Ranunculus

On this trip I did  a photo shoot of a crow dive-bombing a squirrel hole in an attempt to capture young squirrels (See the dramatic photos and story in my post, “A crow and squirrel interlude,” History Safari Expresso).  I was also lucky to have the camera ready when a Great blue heron landed on our campsite fence.

DSC_0293 The crow and the squirrel

DSC_0225 Great blue heron

We decorated our outdoor camp kitchen with papel picado for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.*  Larry deep fried catfish.

DSC_0144 Cooking catfish, Cinco de Mayo

DSC_0157 Catfish by the sea

The last time we ate catfish by the sea, we enjoyed beautiful, glowing sunsets.  This time the sun silhouetted San Clemente Island.

DSC_0191 Flying solo at sunset

The ocean is a wonderful place to contemplate the mysteries and celebrations of life, as seen in my post, “Ocean gleanings,” History Safari Expresso.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.