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 How to make your RV fridge colder*).  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.

Crows, murder, and the Julian Cemetery

A damp and chilly fog had drifted in though the mountains and around our Airstream trailer as I took our dogs on an early morning walk and spotted what appeared to be the strange image of an approaching dementor,* which I had first encountered here two years ago.

DSC_0070 Dementor?

It turned out to be one of the many ghosts of trees burned in the 2003 Cedar Fire.  As the morning sun burned off the fog, we enjoyed working on projects and viewing the wildlife around our campsite.  Suddenly, our attention was captured by a murder of crows angrily cawing and swarming* from one tree canopy to another and then we saw it.  A beautiful gray fox walked by, just fifteen feet away.  The crows followed the fox to the Cedar Trail and I followed with camera in hand. As I turned a bend, the fox saw me and dropped a snake that it had just caught.  The crows attention now focused on their next meal, the snake!

DSC_0310 A murder of crows  DSC_0329 Crow with snake

I left the crows to enjoy their brunch, while I returned to camp to enjoy my coffee and read more about Julian’s pioneers as recorded in David Lewis‘s Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery, complete with maps and photographs.  The nearby town of Julian was once an area where Kumeyaay Native Americas lived as seasonal hunters and gatherers.  During the winter of 1869-70, Fred Coleman, a Black rancher living in the area with his Kumeyaay wife, Maria Jesusa Nejo, discovered gold, and former Confederate veteran, Drue Bailey, homesteaded 160 acres of the land and named it after his cousin, Mike Julian.1  After the gold rush, people found the soil productive and many families chose to stay in the area.2 (View Julian’s colorful history in the KPBS video, “The Town of Julian.”)

DSC_0230 "Last Known Address"

David Lewis’s grandfather, Floyd Erving Lewis, is also included in his book, along with the curious story of Leandro Woods, and both are buried in Julian’s Haven of Rest, Pioneer Cemetery.

DSC_0238 Julian Haven of Rest Cemetery

Robert Y. Allen is also buried here and, the day after Howdy Doody paid his respects, I returned to the Julian Cemetery to find the gravesite of Leandro Woods, with the help of David Lewis’s book.  The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the town and David’s map shows that Leandro Woods is on the NE edge of the new section first used in the 1950s.

DSC_0227 Pioneer Cemetery overlooks Julian  DSC_0387 Newest section, Pioneer CemeterySo I carefully and slowly walked up and down this hill several times without finding Woods’ grave marker.  I did find the grave marker of Susie Coleman Williams, the daughter of Fred Coleman, next to the grave marker of her daughter, Clara Angel.

DSC_0348 S Williams & daughter Clara

I finally did find Leandro Woods’ grave marker, hidden between the large cedar tree and the barbed wire fence on the edge of the cemetery.

DSC_0369 Leandro Woods & barbed wire

David Lewis wrote that Leandro Woods was a Native American ranch hand at the Banner Queen Ranch and taught his uncle, Mike Mushet, how “to be a cowboy”, along with “the ways of the local Indians.”  In 1885, Leandro discovered gold, mined it, and after accumulating several thousand dollars, would throw parties at the Hotel del Coronado.*In 1954, his body was found on the highway embankment, just west of Julian.  In his book, David wrote, “Those who knew Leandro well, knew in their hearts that he was murdered. Leandro was missing two things when they found his body: the money in his wallet and the one thing a cowboy like Leandro would never be without, his favorite cowboy hat.” (page 72)1

DSC_0374 Leandro Woods grave marker

 

DSC_0243 This cowboy's hat Howdy and I say, “Don’t take this cowboy’s hat!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

1.  David Lewis, Last Known Address: The History of the Julian Cemetery, Headstone Publishing, Julian, CA, 2008

2. Kathryn A. Jordan, Life Beyond Gold: A New Look at the History of Julian, California, The Journal of San Diego History, Spring 2008, Vol. 54, Number 2

3. Charles R. LeMenager, Julian City and Cuyamaca Country: A History and Guide to The Past and Present, Eagle Peak Publishing Company, Ramona, CA, 1992, page 88.

 

Happiness in the cool mountains

California desert temperatures are now routinely in the nineties and above, so we and our Airstream Safari chilled out in the oak, pine, and cedar forests in William Heise County Park, 4200 feet above sea level, in the Laguna Mountains that intercept clouds and rain that would otherwise reach the desert areas.

DSC_0009 Wm. Heise Co

Daytime mountain temperatures were in the seventies and we made a point of closing the windows well before sundown to keep the trailer cozy during the evenings, but each morning, we woke to trailer temperatures in the fifties.  Since we were doing non-hookup camping here, we routinely turned on our Mr. Heater Portable Buddy at 5:45am and ran it for two hours, which brought the temperature up to 68-70 degrees.  By then, sun was streaming into the trailer as I savored hot coffee, NPR’s Morning Edition,* and summer reading.

DSC_0028 Coffee and summer reading

By the afternoon, sun was illuminating our homegrown Alstroemeria flowers on the other side of the trailer and had restored our Lifeline AGM batteries back to 100% via our two factory installed solar panels by mid-morning.

DSC_0057 Vista view & Alstroemeria

Mule deer and wild turkeys reside here, along with a plethora of wildlife, which quickly accepted us as part of the local milieu to the extent that at times we felt like we were in a Bambi movie.*

DSC_0153 "Luna Gobblegood" turkey

DSC_0054 Spotted towhee

DSC_0147-2 Acorn woodpecker

Spotted towhee (left),  Acorn woodpecker (right),  Merriam’s chipmunk (lower left) and Steller’s Jay (lower right)

DSC_0253 Merriam's chipmunkDSC_0043 Steller's jay

The goldspotted oak borer* continues to kill trees, which are cut down and its chips provide a natural mulch.

DSC_0075 Larry, Mac & Tasha on chips

As long as dogs are on 6′ leashes, they are permitted on trails here and our corgis love hiking on the Cedar Trail with its lovely oak and cedar trees and benches.

DSC_0081 Bench on Cedar Trail

During our 5-day stay, we had time to work on projects. Larry is seen below making one of four mid-19th century shirts (based on Saundra Ros Altman’s: Past Patterns, #10) for my work at a historic house museum.

DSC_0194 Larry making period shirt

DSC_0197 Larry's sewing (close-up)

DSC_0172 Larry's outfit for Howdy Doody

 

DSC_0404 Wm dressed for Whaley House

Three years ago, Larry made a new outfit for my Howdy Doody doll that I had as a child.  (The Howdy Doody show started the year I was born, 1947.)

Just before our trip here, I learned that Robert Y. Allen was the creator of the famed Howdy Doody face, was known as “Grandpa Bob” in the nearby town of Julian, died at the age of 99, and is buried in Julian’s Pioneer Cemetery.  So I brought Howdy Doody to pay his respects to Robert Allen on May 19, the anniversary of his death.  His grave marker is just a few steps away from Marshal South’s grave.

DSC_0208 Howdy visits Robert Allen's gravesite

With happiness in our hearts, we returned to camp with one of Julian’s famous apple pies* and celebrated life in the cool mountains and time with Howdy Doody.*

DSC_0246 Bill, Howdy & Julian apple pie

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Desert bighorn sheep – Part 2

The obvious feature of the desert bighorn sheep is its big horns.  Rams have the largest horns, which are curled and weigh up to 30 pounds (including the skull, according to Mark Jorgensen, in his book and slideshow, Desert Bighorn Sheep: Wilderness Icon*), and become especially important in dominance rituals* during mating season.

DSC_0259 Resting ram & annular rings)

DSC_0263 Resting ram (2)

The ewes have smaller, spike-like horns that help protect themselves from predators such as coyotes.

DSC_0244 Ram and ewe

DSC_0290 Desert bighorn ewes

Mark writes (page 73) that ewes use their horns to strike other ewes in competition for food and water, and that they also use their horns to expose the fleshy fruit of cactus, which is then picked out by their lips.

DSC_0140 Cactus chewed by bighorn sheep

Agua Caliente Regional Park was once occupied by residents that planted oleander for its durability, flowers, windbreak and privacy features.  Unfortunately, this non-native plant is toxic and one oleander leaf ingested by a bighorn sheep can be deadly (page 116).  Efforts are underway by the State of California to eradicate oleander from Agua Caliente County Park within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  The plants were cut down and chemicals applied to the stumps, but last month we spotted an oleander regrowing at Agua Caliente site #80.

DSC_0068 Oleander poisonous to bighhorn sheep

Peninsular bighorn sheep were listed as an endangered species in 1998 and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife now monitors their recovery* by briefly capturing, testing, counting, radio-collaring and tagging sheep.

DSC_0301 Desert bighorn sheep close-up

While the sheep socialized, I imagined them “talking” to each other, but according to Mark, the lip curl (seen below) is actually the ram’s testing of the hormonal levels and receptivity of the ewe (page 77).

DSC_0303 Bighorn sheep lip curl

DSC_0302 Large horns on rams

Not only did the sheep appear contented, I was definitely contented and feelin’ groovy* with our special time together and am looking forward to the next meeting when our camping season in the desert resumes next fall.

DSC_0284 Contented ram

*This is a link to a YouTube video.