Interview Time

Well this is exciting. I got interviewed at winter count near Florence, Arizona back in February.

It’s heavily edited from a much longer discussion but I don’t think I sound too stupid here talking about the Vardo.  The interview is very close-up and tight but you can get a feel for the interior layout. There is a lot of good stuff on the Cheap RV Living website and I’ve been a reader for a very long time.  Check it out.


https://youtu.be/ktkXcXmR96Q

Caravan; life in the little green vardo

After a little over a week traveling across the country in the new and improved vardo I want to share a few unedited and unstaged photos of life in the caravan.

It took a couple tries to get a good area to set up in but eventually I risked parking in some low ground. I think it would have been an easy escape had we needed to pull out for rain.

The ante-room serves as a staging area for cooking, working on projects, bathing, and other activities.

The bed and bedroom are the essence of a vardo. The pared-down essentials of travel. This is the bed extended to full width.

The washing up station is my favorite addition. The tank is a recycled Russian samovar and holds a little over a gallon of water. The copper sink provides a place to shave, wash, and brush your teeth.

It is all the details and little fixes that happen over time that make the vardo so personal and cozy. I try to focus on the practical and little innovations that make our life easier on the road.

In a small space, everything has to have its place. Everything fragile or dangerous also has to have a place to travel to avoid damage.

It’s hard to escape an almost nautical feel to the vardo. Many of the same issues have to be overcome as those in a boat. Hence the railings on all the shelves.

I owe much to my good friends who have given many of the finer bits and pieces that I use every day we travel.

I also enjoy repurposing found objects for real use in the vardo. In this case, some hundred-year-old glass insulators serve as convenient rings to hold a clothesline.

The large work counter serves many purposes. My beautiful copper water tank was made by the multi-talented fellow-traveller Mick Robins. The large overhead shelf is very handy for often used items.

The slide out bed spends most of the day in this position, giving more floor space as needed. It’s still plenty wide for a single person to sleep on in this configuration.

Just as with the 19th century living wagons, I try to use every square inch in a sensible way. Having a wood burning stove in such a small space presents its own set of problems and limitations.

This awning arrangement is a new one for me and worked beautifully. The tarp is a fly that normally attaches to my wedge tent but this arrangement served well as a workshop and outdoor cook space for the week.

I am still pleased with almost every aspect of the Little Green Vardo, even after 29,000 miles.

More of my work can be found on my Instagram page.

ProtoStoga

I want to re-share this camper I posted about back in 2010.  I would still like to know more about it but love what I’ve seen so far.

I see some definite similarities to my own concept of a vardo but I really like to metal sheathing as a modern, low maintenance exterior.  Also, the rounded front was a long consideration in my plans but in the end I chose a more “old-timey” look.

You can just about see the evolution of the Airstream design in this construction.  They also have a nice Tiny House that’s worth checking out here: http://www.protohaus.moonfruit.com/

For those who don’t follow the Tiny House Blog, check out the ProtoStoga here:

http://tinyhouseblog.com/tiny-house-concept/protostoga/#more-12243

Campsite Life

Scenes of life on the road and around the campsites.

october-1951-mrs-robert-matthew-an-mps-wife-campaigning-at-a-gypsy-encampment

October 1951: Mrs Robert Matthew, an MP’s wife, campaigning at a gypsy encampment.

Kidsatthecampsite

Kids at the campsite.

landing

A classic image of Traveller children.

couple

Modern gypsies (Romany) in their simple accommodation.

caravanandbender

I really love these little bender tents.

Family Life

A fine caravan for a successful traveller.

This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish, and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet.  Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation.  When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it.  If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.

Paris Travellers

Paris, around 1900.

Paris, around 1900.

A tiny accommodation, side entry single horse style.  It is documented that the adults with this style wagon generally slept outdoors except in very bad weather.  It was a good way to confine the children and the valuables.

This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet.  Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation.  When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it.  If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.

Scottish Highland Travellers…

Perthshire

Perthshire.

I really love these family photos generally taken in front of the wagon.

Scottish Travellers is a loose term that covers many diverse peoples in Scotland and even beyond.  Here, I’m primarily looking at the indigenous folk who seem to be descend from an in situ population of itinerant craftsmen and laborers.

Edited from Wikipedia:

Scottish Travellers, or the people termed loosely Gypsies and Tinkers in Scotland, consist of a number of diverse, unrelated communities, with groups speaking a variety of different languages and holding to distinct customs, histories, and traditions. There are three distinct communities that identify themselves as Gypsies or Travellers in Scotland: Indigenous Highland Travellers; Funfair Travellers, or Showmen; Romanichals (a subgroup of the Romani people) and Lowland Gypsies.

Indigenous Highland Travellers – In Scottish Gaelic they are known as the “Ceàrdannan” (the Craftsmen), or less controversially, “luchd siubhail” (people of travel) for travellers in general. Poetically known as the “Summer Walkers”, Highland Travellers are a distinct ethnic group and may be referred to as “traivellers”, “traivellin fowk'”, in Scots, “tinkers”, originating from the Gaelic “tinceard” or (tinsmith) or “Black Tinkers”.  Mistakenly, the settled Scottish population may call all travelling and Romani groups tinkers, which is usually regarded as pejorative, and contemptuously as “tinks” or “tinkies”. Highland Travellers are closely tied to the native Highlands, and many traveller families carry clan names like Macfie, Stewart, MacDonald, Cameron, Williamson, and Macmillan. They follow a nomadic or settled lifestyle; passing from village to village and are more strongly identified with the native Gaelic speaking population. Continuing their nomadic life, they would pitch their bow-tents on rough ground on the edge of the village and earn money there as tinsmiths, hawkers, horse dealers or pearlfishermen. Many found seasonal employment on farms, e.g. at the berry picking or during harvest.  Since the 1950s, however, the majority of Highland Travellers have settled down into organized campsites or regular houses.

Origins and customs
The Highland Traveller community has a long history in Scotland going back, at least in record, to the 12th century as a form of employment and one of the first records of that name states a “James the Tinker” held land in the town of Perth from 1165-1214 and share a similar heritage, although are distinct from the Irish Travellers.  As with their Irish counterparts, there are several theories regarding the origin of Scottish Highland travellers, one being they are descended from the Picts, excommunicated clergy, or exiles from the pre-Norman-Invasion.  Highland travellers are distinct both culturally and linguistically from other Gypsy groups like the Romani, including the Romanichal, Lowland Scottish Travellers, Eastern European Romani, and Welsh Kale groups. Several other Continental European groups are related to the Scottish Highland Travellers, and share similarities to other non-Romany groups across Europe, namely the Yeniches, Woonwagenbewoners in Holland, and Landfahrer in Germany. As with Norwegian and Swedish Travellers, Highland travellers origins may be more complex and difficult to ascertain and left no written records of their own. As an indigenous group Highland Travellers have played an essential role in the preservation of traditional Gaelic culture.  Travellers’ outstanding contribution to Highland life has been as custodians of an ancient and vital singing, storytelling and folklore tradition of great importance. It is estimated that only 2,000 Scottish travellers continue to lead their traditional lifestyle on the roads.

Tents and the Vardo Life; What is a Bender?

vardoandbender

The bender tent provides shelter from the damp while keeping the living space outdoors.

Travellers in Europe and Britain have always been associated with a style tent called a bender.  This comes from the construction technique of cutting saplings and bending them into a dome, elongated dome, or half cylinder shape,  These frameworks were then covered with tarps and made watertight in the temperate damp.  The origins of this design are lost in the mists of time and are believed by archaeologists to be one of the earliest style of recognizable tent structure used by humans.

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This size bender can more than double the living space of a vardo in a matter of minutes.

Even after a certain level of affluence allowed some Romany and other Travelling folk to own living wagons, the bender continued (and continues) to be a way to extend the living space without the need for a lot more gear.

In England, Gypsy women often used their homes for fortune-telling, especially around the Gadjo (non-Gypsy) vacation centers. Image, early 20th century. Source: Romany & Traveller Family History Society.

The fact that a tent becomes the subject for a Blackpool post card shows the ongoing fascination with “Gypsy Culture,” especially in the British Isles where Travellers are simultaneously suspect and romanticized.

Fortune Teller

The front or vestibule provides a place to do business in relative privacy. Source: Romany & Traveller Family History Society.

If you have family that me be Romany, Traveller, or Fairground folk in Britain or just want to learn more, check out the Romany & Traveller Family History Society at http://rtfhs.org.uk/.

A Romany Family in Scotland

Near Boglehill in Midlothian, Scotland, n.d. late 19th century. Source: Romany and Traveller Family History Society.

I really like everything about the image above.  We see three very different types of wagon-home-conveyances and a family, wearing clothing of the time.  Travellers on the margin of mainstream society have been shunned, persecuted, and culturally dismissed while at the same time romanticized for their freedom and seeming lack of attachment to a more mundane life.  I am glad to see a revitalization and pride from reconnecting with family roots.

Legal Documents.

People who have lived “off-grid” so to speak often have few documents or any official standing, making family histories more difficult to trace.  Hospital records, cemetery documents, or government permits, such as the Pedlar’s Certificate above, are the only way for many to trace their ancestry.

 

Diaper Family Portrait.

Fortunately, there is a concerted effort in Britain by the Romany & Traveller Family History Society (RTFHS) to create a clearinghouse for descendants of those often overlooked by the mainstream.

About the RTFHS:  Back in the early 1990s, a group of keen family historians with British Gypsy ancestors first met at a Gypsy family history conference organised by the historian and author, the late David Smith. Until that moment we’d all thought that we were pretty much alone in trying to trace our travelling ancestors and that there was no-one out there to learn from or share our experiences, trials and tribulations with.