Lifting your 80’s Toyota Van

A question I see that’s common on facebook groups and Toyotavantech website is how do I raise my Toyota Van? There are no lift kits available for any of our vans, that inclues 1984-1989. I’m no expert but what the options I’ve seen are below. Disclaimer: I didn’t do any of the experimentation, I benefited from others experimenting and I used their results on my own van.

ncbrock’s van, photo from ToyotaVanTech, posted on Imgur.

For the front, crank the torsion bars. These torsion bars lift the front of the van. Note, that some say there are some negatives to maxing these out. Putting more stress on the system. This will help you fit larger tires in the front.

For the rear, if you have coils:

  1. You can use a daystar spacer (Daystar Part # KT09100BK). The spacer needs to have about a 1/2″ cut out to make fit over the top of the rear coil springs. Make sure to replace bottom rubber as well if it’s warn out. More detailed info here.
  2. You can change your springs to Moog CC845 made for the Ford Aerostar Van, you will need to cut 1 to 3 coils off. Some report that because of cutting the coils, the springs will start to sag after a while and provide poor performance. This is debated.

For the rear, if you have leaf springs (most cargo vans, although I have a cargo with springs):
1. Add a leaf
2. Add longer shackles.
Find more info on post #9 of this post on ToyotaVanTech.

For both front and rear,

Longer shocks. Detailed here, post number 5. Note that person has a 4wd model. You may need to use different shocks than that person if you have a 2wd. Some use Toyota Tacoma all around. This person used Durango shocks in the front and Tacoma shocks in the back.

With doing these two things alone, you should be able to fit General Grabbers on both 2wd and 4wd without rubbing. On some 2wd models, depending on age of shocks, you may need to do some cutting.

For tires,

Most people’s goal are to fit the General GRABBER A/TX – SIZE: 27X8.5R14LT on their van.

I currently have the LT195/75R14 – STARFIRE SF*510 LT  tires on my van. They’ve done alright in a lot of conditions and aren’t noisy. It doesn’t look like they’re made anymore.

Hope that helps consolidate some lifting information for our Toyota Van’s. Please comment if you have any other info or ideas.

End of Summer Garden Update

A journal documenting the weight of all the veggies harvested from the garden, photos, multiple blog posts every week, all dreams that have gone and past with the summer. The journal lasted a whole two weeks. The blog posts lasted only two updates. The photos were taken intermittingly. It’s just how it is.

Documenting each day’s harvest and weight only lasted two weeks.

Life happens and if keeping up with my day job, relationship and the garden wasn’t enough, capturing it the whole process in luring details just isn’t in the cards. What I can tell you was that it was great year in the garden and it’s looking really good going into the fall. I’m writing this after the power has been restored from a massive atmospheric river blasted Sonoma County and the Bay Area with inches and inches of rain. I love knowing that there are plants in the ground to soak up all this water. California was parched this summer and water rations were in affect. Despite this, the garden produced a lot. More than we could keep up with. Do you know what picking cucumber can fill a jar? What am I going to do with all these pickling cucumbers? There’s still some in the fridge and I’ve already made five different recipes.

One of many buckets of tomatoes.

Plant what you eat is something I preach. I think we planted too much of some veggies we like to eat. For example, the tomatoes kept flowing from our eight plants. Freezing them until there were bags and bags of tomatoes to process. Yet, we were able to keep up with our two zucchini plants. All those hot Korean peppers and other varieties like Scotch Bonnets produced well. As much as I like hot sauces, we probably planted too many. More eggplant and more potatoes next year. We love our greens and had a steady supply for most of spring and summer but it requires constant reseeding and I just couldn’t keep up with it through the heat of the summer. I think I will look into purchasing a pound of mixed lettuce seed that I can spread when walking through the garden. Maybe that was I can keep up.

Mango pico de Gallo from the garden.

Fall is setting in. Most of the tomatoes have been pulled from the ground but peppers are still in. They seem to like the cooler weather in the fall here. We’ve planted celery, more onions, greens, kale and collards. Potatoes and garlic will be going in the ground soon.

Little monkey dick peppers.

As for the wildlife in the yard, I’ve been able to witness the migration of native birds throughout the summer. Right now, our residents our Chesnut Chickadees, Lesser Gold Finches, Sparrows, and Dark Eye Juncos. As much as I love all the visitors, I need to buy some bird netting to give the seedlings a fighting chance.

Below are some more photos from the garden…

Delicata squash bumper crop.
Butternut squash.

What’s Growing in Northern California – Harvest Update June 3rd

It’s been a huge blessing to work from home. A fifteen minute break can be spent watering the garden and watching birds dance around the bird feeder. A lot of winter crops are starting to reach maturity. Spring peas are just past their peak. I’m letting some mature on the vine to harvest seeds for sowing in fall. I shelled the others. What’s nice about sugar snap peas is that you can eat them at any stage. A great variety I’ve always loved for its versatility.

Walls walls onions.

The fava beans have been cut but I left the roots in the ground for the added benefit of carbon sequestration and organic material. Onions may have got stressed out at some point because some are starting to flower which affects their taste and ability to store well. I’m picking them sooner than I want. I’ve planted more seeds for a fall crop so I’m hoping those provide better results. The tops never did yellow and fall down. This crop was Walla Walla, the onion I just planted are Spanish Yellow. We will see if there is a huge difference in bulb size and growth pattern.

Sugar snap peas shelled.


No waste garden notes:
It’s very hard to keep up eating everything in the garden without letting the products go bad. Even with a small kitchen garden, lettuce will flower, peas go unpicked, and beets get forgotten in the fridge. Every few days I try to get into the kitchen and think of food I can make with what’s in season. Grow what you eat often is a way to avoid too much food going to waste. That’s something I continue to practice and mention in this blog.

Drought notes:
Warm weather is around us and we’ve had very little rainfall in California. One way to help with water use is mulching. I can’t say it enough, it helps keep water in the soil and adds organic material that builds healthy soil. There is some concern about wood chips stealing nitrogen from plants but I’ve had plenty of success using it and don’t plan on stopping. Check out my post on mulch here.

List of To-Do’s in the garden:
– Weed, tons of crab grass still coming up even though sheet mulching (process of laying down cardboard and mulch) helped with a lot of it.
– Finish planting summer crops.
– Plant celery seeds. Such a great plant to grow because often you don’t need a whole bunch for a specific recipe.
– Continue harvesting spring crops.
– Tie up rest of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Harvest Update

Today, I went out to harvest turnips from the garden. It’s always a pleasure to grow a plant successfully that you’ve never grown before. It’s a balancing act, you don’t want to plant veggies that you’ll never eat but you want experience growing some veggies that can add to your palate and food storage. Here in Northern California, i planted these seeds in February and I’m harvesting them now in late May. The variety is an heirloom variety called purple top white globe and the seeds were bought from seed savers exchange. I have to say that the termination rate for these seeds was excellent. I admit that I didn’t thin these as much as I should have but the crop still turned out well. These turnips will be made into a mashed turnip recipe mixed with potatoes and turnip greens and a whole lot of butter.

Purple Top White Globe Heirloom Turnips

Also in the basket of today’s harvest was some fava beans. Tore most of them out to make room for summer crops. I took the tops of the fava beans and shredded them with the lawn mower for compost and left the roots in the bed to decompose. Pretty cool that you can see the nodules that help the bean fix nitrogen.

Home grown fava beans.

Making Spicy Kimchi

It’s so great to have garden space and a “big” kitchen again. Don’t get me wrong, eating out is great but there’s something that feeds the soul when making a meal with your partner. The teamwork and the ability to enjoy something you created right then and there. What’s this all have to do with Kimchi? Well, having the garden and kitchen has gotten me back to my cooking and fermenting ways. Along with a partner that encourages me every step of the way, I’m being pushed to new heights and challenges. With our new found love for kimchi fried rice, it renewed my interest in making kimchi from scratch. A trip to the Asian market to pick up the goods and I went quick to work. Gojuchang, a Korean pepper paste along with garlic, fish sauce, ginger, scallions, a huge Napa cabbage, and some salt. Does that not sound like it will be good?

I loosely followed the recipe found here: https://www.feastingathome.com/how-to-make-kimchi/

Here is the delicious kimchi fried recipe, super simple! https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018097-kimchi-fried-rice

I will report back when it’s done fermenting, until then, enjoy being on this beautiful planet.

Make Your Own Easy DIY Scrap Wood Potting Bench

Easy simple pottery bench.

Everyone with a house seems to have a pile of wood that stacks up over time. Odds and ends, maybe some pressure treated 2x4s or one too many fence boards. What better way to use this wood than using your imagination to create something useful.

Anybody can make one of these simple potting benches with a saw, drill and some extra wood lying around. I’m not going to lay out exactly how to make the design I made because you may have different scrap wood lying around than I do. What I will do is show you some pictures of what I came up with, some general tips, and encouragement to get out there and try!

What you might need:
Scrap wood
2 1/2″ self drilling screws.
Impact drill (standard drill works too)
Circular saw (or a hand saw if you’re looking for a workout.)

I added some hooks and nails to hold scissors for harvesting greens and a spot to hold my hori-hori.

I suggest looking at a few designs before starting out. I searched google for simple designs and modified the design to fit my needs and work with the materials I have on hand. I wanted a shelf so I chose to run the 2x4s up the back. I also wanted a place to store soil underneath so I installed a shelf. The bench can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There’s something magical about creating something of your own design then putting it to use right away. Happy Gardening!

Toyota Camper Van – Adding Carpeted Panels

Now back from another camping trip on the Yuba River where owls hooted through the night and osprey glided above the water during the day. My focus has now shifted towards polishing the rough edges of my camper build on my 1985 Toyota Van. I personally like to go camping, I don’t like to wait for my van to be “perfect.” I’d rather spend time in remote areas then worrying about putting a final piece of trim up. With that said, I’ve taken some time off of work and with that time, I can make some aesthetic as well as functional improvements to the build.

My new friend Eric showed me a method of building some panels by wrapping the wood in cheap carpet. The key is to use carpet with no backing. I used some utility plywood (about 11 dollars for a 4’x8′) and bought some carpet 10’x12′ (60 dollars) to make the inside a little more cozy and polished. I also think the carpet/wood combo has some insulation properties as well as reducing outside noise. I attached the carpet with a staple gun to the wood then screwed the wood to the metal using self drilling/tapping screws meant for metal. An impact driver and the screws make this job easier. Do not use wood screws for this job or you will be having a heck of a time.

Tools for the job, self drilling/tapping screws 3/4″ and a impact driver.
Roof with insulation before adding plywood with carpet.
Roof after adding carpet.
Back windows are covered but didn’t cover mid windows because it’s nice to have a view. Can you spot the tenkara rod?

DIY Compost Bin Made from Pallets

Pallets are everywhere for free. Check Craigslist and you’ll probably see something local. Often, they’re thrown behind dumpsters. Here’s a pallet 2 stage compost bin I made from some pallets I picked up. The idea is that one side will be loaded first then by the time the next side is full, the first one should be fully composted. The front is from paint my brother was throwing out.
**I chose to line with hardware cloth because of rats but is definitely not required.

Mock up of compost bin.
A branch from a tree I cut was used as a brace.
Inside of the compost bin that’s been lined with hardware cloth.
Finished compost bin made out of pallets.

pleasures of power washing

The problem with a new tool is it can soon become your favorite tool for every job. While that may not sound terrible, it can be a detriment. For example, when I decided an angle grinder was the best tool to get a stuck drum off my van (it didn’t work.) A pressure washer is one of these tools that has quickly become my recent tool to obsess over. I’m not the only one that recognizes the joys of uncovering a pristine surface under a muddied exterior. See r/powerwashingporn on Reddit or find Youtube videos with millions of views. Imagine being the doer and not the spectator. Imagine holding that magical wand and disappearing years of filth that would have taken many painstaking hours to clean by hand. Glorious! My new purchase this past week was a gas pressure washer. I have used electric but nothing compares to the force of a gas powered unit. With that force comes ear wrecking small engine noise but I think it’s worth it, my neighbors don’t.

All hail the screaming banana, a used Workforce 2500psi 163cc bought for the Facebook marketplace price of $180. I don’t like to own tools just to have them, this tool will get a lot of use and is a great addition for many DIY tasks around the home.

Workforce pressure washer did handy work with these bricks.
Cement cleaned up real nice.
This one was cool power washing discovery. A cobblestone path under 5 inches of soil.