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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Dog I Share My Life With

Three years ago my daughters and I went to the Humane Society to adopt a puppy.  There was an adorable girl beagle puppy there, so sweet, just right.  We got the paperwork going.  Before we left we looked at the other dogs.  It was so noisy from their excited barking that we had to shout to hear each other.  But one little dog wasn't barking.  He was cowering in his cage, just trembling.  He was a beagle too, a year old, and his name was Barkley.  I looked into his big, brown, sad eyes and knew I had to adopt him instead.  It worked out well since a woman who'd recently lost her old beagle really wanted the little puppy.  Yes, he'd obviously been treated very badly but we didn't get his exact story. 

So three weeks later we were approved and took Barkley home.  It was rough at first, but he is my best buddy now.  He is still very afraid of a lot of things, but he's very brave too.  He loves   Meaty Bones and rawhide chewies, cuddling on the couch, running outside, and playing with dog friends.  

Silly Barkley:

Brave Barkley:

Barkley when it's his night to cook - notice the scowl.  He isn't fond of cooking.  


Ready for the Renaissance Festival:

He is an angel :)

I Forgot About Solar and Wood

Yes, solar power is part of my plan.  Right now I have an 80 watt panel on top of my van.  I put it there a couple of years ago when we were camping a lot.  I have 2 deep cycle batteries and a 1,000 watt inverter in my van as well, and it has been great to know we can always have a fan, lights, laptop, etc. and not be taxing our van's battery. 

I won't be able to afford a larger solar and 12 volt set-up for a while, but for the time-being we will use electricity from our landlord's home.  I do not know much about wiring the tiny house for 12 volt dc, so if anyone can point me to some good informative websites, please do.  

I would also like to have the option of a tiny wood stove as well.  I'm looking at the 4-Dog Stove Company's wood burners.  They are 'portable' wood stoves, but they have an excellent reputation for strength and stability.  They have 2-dog, 3-dog, 4-dog, and 5-dog models - I think I'd be fine with a 2 or 3 dog.  

I have been in love with the Esse stove for many years... alas, I would have to really save up for this beauty.  


I also love the Baker's Oven.  

But I know for a tiny house I would need one of the smallest wood stoves out there.

Right now I have one of these (electric) :

It puts out a lot of heat, and I wonder if I may use it partially for heat in my tiny house?  I am planning on using one of these for our main heat source:

 And since I sleep with one of these, my night-time heat is covered :)  His name is Barkley :)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Shed First

I am hoping to soon find a place to build and then park my tiny house.  I need a place in the country, and with access to electric service.  But what I'm thinking of doing before I start building my house, is building a small shed, very close to where the trailer will be parked.  

One of the things I really want adjacent to my house on wheels is a small hen house.  So I thought that if I build that first, then I can use it to house my tools and supplies while building the tiny house.  It will give me a secure place to store things and at 8' x 10' it will give me enough room to also work inside of it.  Once I'm done building I can fix up the inside to house my hens and still have an area for tools storage too. 

I have always loved designing and building pretty, useful structures.  In looking for a nice shed photo to place here I came across this:

Oh - my - gosh.  Have you ever seen a more gorgeous hen house???  You can buy the plans for this beautiful "chez poulet" here:

I think my shed will be of more simple design, but wow, is this a gorgeous inspiration.  I have always used bold, black hinges and handles on my fences, gates, and outbuildings, and would love to incorporate that into my tiny house.  And I might just have to put a cupola on my hen house. 

Using What I Have

I have some furniture that I really didn't want to part with, though I know someone else will be able to use and appreciate the pieces as much as I do.  But there are a couple of things I'm going to use for my tiny house after all.  Instead of having the usual kitchen cupboards and counter tops put in I figured I could use something I already have.  

I have a butcher's block that looks almost like this one:

This will be my main workspace.

Across from it, I plan on using a kitchen buffet I have for my sink area.  It looks a lot like this:

I'll use the top hutch piece elsewhere since I'll be having a window above my sink.  I'll cut out the wood top surface to place the sink in (and probably reinforce underneath it).  I'll take out the drawer and attach the drawer front to the hutch, and my plumbing will go in the cupboards underneath.  

I also plan on building or putting in a tall cupboard for a few shelves, and to house my small refrigerator. 

 And I'll use my small kitchen table and chairs as well.  

In my mudroom I'll be able to use my tall bench that I've always loved: 

 So I'll be able to keep the "farmhouse" or "cottage" style I've always loved, and put some of my old, favorite furniture pieces to good use.  They're kind of like old friends. 

The "Final" Plan

Today I made the sketch of my house plans much larger on the graph paper.  I included the full space of the walls so that I could really see how much living space is actually available.  I also marked out where light fixtures, electrical outlets and switches will most likely be, and I got my plan adjusted so that all of my plumbing will be along one wall - bathtub, bathroom sink, and kitchen sink (we'll be using a composting toilet, no plumbing needed for that). I wish I could take a picture of my drawing and post it. 

After making zillions of changes, over the past few weeks, I think I've got it figured out:
(the actual house size will depend on what size trailer I will be able to get)

- trailer size: 24'

- house size: 26' x 8' (I've been researching cantilevering - a foot on each end)

- total square footage including lofts, add-on pantry and mudroom: 330 sq.feet

- ~ 17' x 7.5' living & kitchen area (including my couch/bed)

- 4.5' x 7.5' bathroom

- 4' x 7.5' "downstairs" storage/clothing room for my daughter with stairs going up to her bed loft

- T 1-11 exterior, plywood and bead board interior

- pink, fluffy R-13 insulation (please don't yell at me, I'm on a tight budget) 

- asphalt shingles (something I have experience with vs. metal roofing)

- 50 amp electrical service (using led lighting and low wattage appliances)

- electric 'oil filled, radiator' heater (or one of the cute little "Envi" heaters)

- Eccotemp L10 propane tankless water heater with SHURflo water pump

- 40 gallon fresh water holding tank

- point well with hand pump for tank fill (I've put down 4 of these simple, useful wells in the past.  If you have a high water table they are cheap and work great - only go down max. of 25')

- a "large" 4.5' x 7.5' bathroom with a 40" tub, 18" vanity/sink, composting toilet and 24"            closet/shelving for clothes

-  2 loft areas - one 8'x8', the other 4'x8' with dormer roof line for added head space

- add-on pantry - a 5'x8' 'room' off the end of the tiny house, but attached

- a "mud room" built the same way as the pantry, built off the long wall of the house, where the front door will be

My time frame is tight.  I won't have money to start till probably September, and I need to get the shell built (something we can stay in) by the end of December.  At that time the lease on my townhouse will be up.  I plan on doing finish work inside throughout the winter and spring. 
I can do this, right?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My First Tiny House Purchase!!

Today my daughter and I went to our local Habitat for Humanity Re-store.  I'd forgotten how many building supplies they have there!  In just this one trip I found doors and windows, paint and hardware, flooring and cabinets and sinks... that I will be able to use in my tiny house.  I'm on an extremely tight budget so I will have to save every penny that I can.  Today I really wanted to buy just one small thing, a 'first' purchase for the tiny house.  Among the bathroom fixtures I found it... the perfect medicine cabinet, in very good condition, for just $10 - yaye!  It looks like the one in this photo:

This is some of the inspiration for my future bathroom:

I love bead board, farm houses, cottages, and big beautiful windows :). 

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Pantry Like My Mom Had... will this work?

 In the house I grew up in we had a 'real' pantry.  It was a wonderful little room lined with bright, white shelves, and all of my mom's canning, and our other foods, looked so neat and organized.  My children's memories of being in Grandma's pantry are wonderful too.  I haven't had a pantry like it in any of the houses I've lived in since then.

I'm planning our tiny house kitchen to be pretty roomy, but even a few shelves will not be enough space for a larger food supply, and lots of home-canned jars.  I've always wanted a pantry like my mom had, and my daughter recently said, 'then you should have one'!  So I'm thinking of building an 'addition' onto my tiny house.  It would sit on the ground level, and butt-up to the  house's end wall (and there would be a door going out of the house into the added-on room, of course).  

Back in my farm days we built lots of outbuildings and a large barn, and then we often added a room onto a structure.  Because of the overhang of the roof, and sealing the added-on walls, we never had any rain leak through that area where the add-on joined the larger structure.  I thought that I could put an outdoor electrical outlet on the outside wall of the house, and when the room was added on it would then be 'in' the room.  Then I would be able to have power in the pantry for lights and possibly a small freezer.  

I haven't yet seen anyone add a 'room' onto the outside of their tiny house.  I could just get a longer trailer, make the whole house longer, incorporating the pantry into the house.  But I'm not sure how long I want the house to be - the more I add into the planning the longer it seems to get!  It seems like it will cost less to not make the pantry part of the actual house (because the trailer can be five feet less in length).  I don't plan on moving the tiny house often at all.  I want to build up a tiny homestead and 'stay put'.  The pantry add-on would be the width of the house (8') and 5' in depth.  It could be detached from the tiny house and moved on it's own, just like people move sheds built on skids.  Will this work?

"Must Haves"

In planning our tiny homes we all have things that are really important to us.  Sometimes it takes living without something you may have taken for granted, to realize that if you have a choice, you want that in your life.  

When my washer/dryer combo gave out on me, I realized how much I took it for granted.  I don't mind going to the laundromat, but it sure is nice to be able to wash something in your own home.  I can't afford one of the really nice  - tiny house size - washer/dryer units, but I found this one that I am planning on making space for:  the brand name is 'Panda' and isn't it adorable?

I found it on Amazon, and have watched youtube videos on how it works:  From reviews, it sounds like it washes very well, but you have to actually attach hoses to fill it and empty the water.  It looks like it agitates really well.  The tiny 'spin dryer' spins the clothes to nearly dry.  There is no heat with the dryer so clothing must hang for a bit to fully dry.  It reminds me of a salad spinner - multifunctional?  It's extremely lightweight (28#), so you could move it to various places if you want, and for under $170 I won't mind the extra work that goes into washing and drying, and having the ability to do so without taking laundry elsewhere. 

Another of my "must haves" is a bathtub.  At first I thought I'd have to purchase a small tub from an RV parts dealer.  The shipping charges were terrible.  But I am finding that Home Depot has a great variety of appliances and things that are small and hard to find elsewhere.  
 At 46 1/2" in length and a depth of 12" it is larger than a typical RV tub but smaller than a regular 60" bathtub.  It is also less expensive than an RV tub of much smaller size.  By adding another foot to my bathroom layout I'll be able to have a decent size little tub :).  

This is another of my "must haves":

I will be looking for a place in the country to park our tiny house.  I  raised hundreds of chickens (and lots of other animals) during our farm years when my children were young.  I miss it terribly, and want just a few laying hens now, for their cruelty free eggs, their endless entertainment value, and their sweet, warm companionship. 

Planning, Planning, and more Planning

I'm sure that everyone who falls in love with tiny homes, and goes on to actually live in one, goes through many changes in their plans.  And even when you think a tiny house is just what you are looking for - whether it be to simplify your life, live more greenly, have no mortgage and smaller bills, thus more options - you still have to wrap your head around the reality of actually living with far fewer possessions and space.  

Nancy, of the Ynez Tiny House, wrote some wonderful posts on her blog about deciding what is important to you, looking at how life in a tiny house will impact your life, and 'trying it on' and experimenting with how the actual sizes and dimensions will feel.  

When I was a little girl I was fascinated with travel trailers and so wanted to live in one.  As an adult, my family grew (with four children) and we took in my mother as well, and our house grew to 4,000 square feet.  All of that space drove me crazy.  After many family changes I am now living in a small townhouse with my daughter, and for a time we lived in a 39' travel trailer.  We both loved it.  For me, small surroundings feel cozy, and safe.  I have no doubts that I'll be blissfully comfortable in a tiny house.  But I knew that I would have to really pare down my 'stuff' and give away many things that had sentimental value.  

I told myself that I will always have the memories associated with those things, and after all, the people we love are what are really important in our lives.  And I also know that other people can use and appreciate those pieces of furniture or useful objects that I give up.  I remind myself that part of the reason I want to live in a tiny house, with far fewer possessions, is to live more in keeping with the way the majority of the world lives.  Knowing that someone will be thrilled to find my pretty red casserole dish at the Goodwill store makes me feel good.  So now I am taking the necessary step of purging.  In planning my future tiny house I am looking, in detail, at how much of what I now own can come with me. 

I have read a few people say that you have to really think about your priorities.  And I am looking at how my small house will have to function for me.  I love the small sinks and RV type  cook-tops and ovens in tiny houses.  But I realized that the kitchen, and cooking and baking and canning, are a big part of my world.  So I added four feet to my original floor plan to accommodate a 24" gas range and double bowl sink.  I also made my bathroom larger, knowing that a tub I can soak in is important to me.  

In addition to the layout of a tiny house we have to decide how we will handle all the activities of daily life:

- where will we get our power from - electric? propane? solar? wind?  
- do we want to be able to live off grid?
- how will we heat and cool it? 
- how will we have water?  how will we heat our water?
- how will we deal with our waste products?
- how will we cook or keep food cool?

I know these things are really basic, but when you are going to live in a tiny house, with the ability to move your house at any time, you aren't limited like you are when you buy a house in a neighborhood or live in an apartment and all of those choices are already made for you.  

So the planning goes on and on right now.  With each decision made the reality of the house comes more into focus.  I would love to hear other people's thoughts on their priorities and how their small house will function for them.


Thank you!!

I want to say “thank you” to all the people that have shared their plans and dreams, building progress, tips and tricks, insights and lessons learned.  I am still finding new blogs, and I recently joined three google tiny house "communities".  I also want to say that Alex Pino's Tiny House Newsletter, that I receive through email, always brightens my day with tiny house news and stories.  Here are some of the blogs I really enjoy, and once again, thank you, to everyone that takes the time to share their adventures.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Here Goes....

I wasn't sure if I wanted to 'blog' about my tiny house build or not.  I decided to try this out for a couple of reasons, 1. to possibly be of some help to someone else out there, and 2. to document my progress. 

Every time I read a blog or watch a video about a tiny house build I am inspired.  It gives me hope that I can succeed in this endeavor too.  And while I see many young people building tiny houses I am also seeing many 'older' people too.  I am one of those older people (51 right now).  I'm going to be doing nearly all of the work by myself, so I guess if I can do it, so can someone else that may have doubts?  

In addition to the hope and inspiration that I gain from others' blogs, I also see the many variations and ideas that everyone comes up with.  The talent and creativity I've seen is amazing!  Sometimes just one different way of doing even something small helps me to think of a solution to a problem or a new way of achieving the result I want.  Or I just fall in love with a new feature I see and change my plan completely!

In documenting my progress I think it will help me to remain optimistic and focus on what I've achieved.  Journaling and writing has always helped me sort things out, and 'digest' the activities of life.  

Why do I think I can build a real house?  Well, in past years my children and I built a barn and several other farm buildings.  I learned a great deal through all of that, and I love designing and building simple, beautiful structures.  Now that there are also so many resources online to help, I am choosing to be confident that I will succeed at this!  My children are incredibly loving and supportive, and even if they can't help a lot physically, their emotional support feeds my soul.  After several years of debilitating illness I want to show them, and myself, that I am a healthy, strong person again.  

I remember the incredible feeling of building our barn - I knew every nail, screw, hinge, 2x4, and sheet of plywood.  I had an intimate, often love-hate, relationship with my circular saw and drivers.  And when it stormed, and I waited it out in the barn with our sheep and goats, I felt an amazing sense of ... I can't even think of a word for it... intimacy comes to mind again, and a bit of pride I guess.  It was big and strong and despite it's flaws it was beautiful to me, and I built it.  I want to have that same feeling with my house.  

In the 12 years since I lost my farm I haven't had a "home".  With each house or apartment I never felt settled. I am so yearning to finally have a place that truly feels like home, and I think I will feel that through building this little house.  I almost called this blog "finally, home", but I wanted to put the word "tiny" in the title so that people looking for blogs about tiny houses could find it easier?  I am a Michigander, and my daughter tells me I am fierce and tough like our state's mascot, the wolverine, so that became the name.