Monday, May 30, 2016

Upcoming Forum

This Saturday at the Woodstock Library I will be giving a presentation on building and living tiny. I'm also looking forward to having conversations with residents about how we envision the various shapes and ways mindful living could be encouraged in our community. It all starts at 5pm. Hope to see you there!

For more information visit:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Plumbing update

It has been a long time posting because, well, Willow and I have just been enjoying living. Exiting yet another long and very cold winter, the house has stayed snug despite a cat door that has decided to stick in the open position during subzero evenings. This year I estimate that I used less than a cord of wood for heating, and found that temperatures rarely dropped below 60 degrees, even first thing in the morning. 

I have received a few requests for more information on the plumbing so here you go.  As of yet, the shower is still not hooked up, so it is sponge bathing using a pitcher and water heated in a kettle on the stove and then mixed into a two gallon bucket of cold water. Laundry is done in small batches in a 5 gallon bucket with a plunger. 

These two 'piglets' hold about 70 gallons combined. An insulated plywood box then covers the sand filled area. The tanks did not seem to freeze at all, although twice I had to thaw out the intake pipe due to my own negligence in draining it properly when refilling the the indoor tanks.
The overflow for the tanks with a makeshift guard against critters.

Rainwater collection filter at base of downspout. During the winter I did have to clear ice out of it a few times. 

Half round gutters to the downspout.

This is the left side of the shower area with an overflow valve. On the top of the picture you can see part of an old style laundry rack that can open up above the tub.

The overflow valve can swivel out over the tub when filling the tanks. I just used a sharkbite elbow, and it has been holding thus far.

On the right is the tub faucet, which is also able to swivel.

I turned the bison pump and added a quick release, which allows me to fill a bucket directly if needed, and helps with draining in super cold weather. There is a check valve near the tanks at the top.

To fit the space best there are two 15 gallon tanks linked together in the middle there. Had to remember to add a pinhole on the tank on the right to allow air to escape just a bit. The left one has the overflow hole. These 30 gallons can last me almost two weeks if I don't overload on the laundry.

Closeup of the center area reveals the drain for the tub faucet in the back, which is on one line shared with the Berkey filter line and the sink faucet. The sink runs in a small stream, which I decided not to fix since  it keeps me from overusing the water. I just fill large kitchen pots from the tub faucet when needed.

This spout has been added in the kitchen so that the Berkey water filter can be filled directly from the indoor storage tanks.

Two sidelite windows make for some stellar mini french doors. 

Hope that answers some of the winter living and plumbing questions that have flown this way. If not, let me know and I'll try and add some more detailed info.

Enjoy this glorious change in the weather!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Spring is here and I have been celebrating by not being on the computer, so apologies for the lack of updates. While there is still much to do on the house, I have been enjoying the other aspects of life- the reasons why building the house was so appealing in the first place.

Spring began with my trying my hand at sugaring. Tree identification during winter turned out to be not as easy as I originally thought, and accidentally tapped some ash (although no sap, so the harvest was safe- and yes, please enjoy the pun). I did ultimately find 3 new trees, and I think a few more for next year. I went low tech with a fire pit out back this year, although I think I'll try making a barrel stove for next year since my teaching schedule conflicted some with the needs of the sap boiling process. Still, was able to produce almost a gallon of syrup this year, and had a reason to enjoy the brisk beginnings of spring outdoors.

The harvest after one was already given away.

The garden has been sorely neglected for the past few years and is full of gravel. As such, I ripped it all out, put in raised beds (to also help ward away those pesky rabbits, which seems to be working thus far, yay!). I am so looking forward to being in the garden this year AND having the time to actually weed and harvest.

My brother and his wife live in the woods, so I've taken it upon myself to teach my niece (and when he's older, my nephew) the wonders of growing their own food. One of the beds now belongs to Maple, and after perusing the local farm stand, she chose brussels sprouts, tomatoes, radishes, peppers and oregano for her first garden. 

This past weekend, which marks the 2 year anniversary of the start of house building, was also the time that I was able to install the portable deck. Treating this house as more of park model, the deck is built in three sections that bold together. When apart they can be loaded on the back of a pick-up truck. They sit on a ledge that is bolted to the trailer, and have four adjustable legs on the part cantilevering out. Now all that is needed are some chairs...

The cabinets under the bed have their doors, using fabric as a cover. There is another design idea I think is better that I'll try out another time, which would use wall paper (and that way it wouldn't have to wrap around the edges.

Possibly the best house related present ever received.... a friend was working in his wood shop and created some unusual and aesthetically pleasing sawdust. So of course he sent it into work with his wife Sarah, wrapped in a box, for me to use in the toilet. And of course I sent it back empty of the sawdust, but with cookies as a thank you.

Created storage for jewelry using fabric and an old picture frame.

The cabinets in the kitchen now have doors (little black knobs too, just not in these pictures) and have been painted. Still have to put in the drawers, but that will come soon I'm sure). 

I adapted this shoe box design from one by Ana White at (a great site for straight forward and simply beautiful furniture designs by an amazing lady up in Alaska). I had some extra 1/2 inch pine that seems to be holding up well.

The tub is ALMOST finished, but I was able to get the show curtain and shelf in. My brother welded the frame together for me (since it will be holding my indoor water storage) and then I lined the bottom with some of the extra cedar from the bathroom walls. The shower curtain is some copper tubing bent into the shape of the tub. There are two shower curtains used, one of which is cut in half, and then installed with overlapping at the open sections.

To celebrate Valentines Day I wanted to honor the benefits of living on one's own again by taking up a hobby that would only prove to annoy any house mate, especially in a house this size. So I am teaching myself the banjo and how to sing. Of course, Willow immediately leaves when I practice, so that should tell you something about my current skill level. I'm just happy I can now tune it without breaking a string.

There is an air of welcomed normalcy and routine setting over the house. Willow is completely back to her old self, hunting and all. Even came home one day after work, and while sitting in the house Willow came barreling through the cat door with a certain lack of grace. I looked outside and noticed her ladder had been moved. That means she jumped three feet straight into the cat door. Nice to know it can be done. 

I know I had promised some more info on some technical concerns for those interested in winter living in a tiny house, but those will have to wait until next time. Hope everyone is enjoying this lively time of year.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The winter that keeps on going.....

This winter has certainly been the one to put the house through its cold weather tests. I am very happy to report that it has passed with flying colors, and has proven to be more comfortable than some of the apartments I have lived in. I wouldn't even consider the house as fully winterized as of yet (skirting was not completed, some of the older windows still need storm window), but if it could make it through these past few months without a hitch, than I am certainly not worried about future winters. 

The cold, unfortunately, was the least of my worries this winter. On New Years Eve I found out that my cat, Willow, had Injection Site Sarcoma, an aggressive tumor cause by one of her previous inoculations. Lesson learned... cats should get injections only in their hind leg, where the surgery is more apt to get all of the tumor, or in the tail, which won't be missed if needed to be removed. The only option was radical surgery which required amputation of her front left leg. My brother lent me a dog gate to block her in on the bed loft, and my folks lent me a dog crate to hold her litter box and so she could be further enclosed when I was at work. 

Her initial recovery week was of course during that extreme cold spell we had. With temperatures in the negative teens, the house was still relatively comfortable until you factored in a half shaved, drugged up kitty wearing a cone and missing a leg. She slept under the covers at night, so I could share my body heat, and then I would wake up at 3am when she was too drugged to make it to the litter box. After a few cycles of that, the combination of having no pillows and only one thin urine free blanked, which would encourage me to get up and stoke the fire, and a transition from cone to onesy made our nights, thankfully, less eventful.

Willow is adapting to her new tripod state, and now that some of the snow has melted, she is able to return to her indoor/outdoor life. In fact, yesterday I came home to a half eaten mouse on the rug. Never thought I would be so happy to find a dead thing in the house.

With the change of seasons will be coming some new posts with further details on what I have found about winter living in a tiny home. It seems like a number of conversations taking place in the online tiny house community suggests people are wary of the tiny house and winter combo. Having just lived through it, I can honestly say that it can easily be done.

For the time being though, I thought I would share an image of the house with its never disappearing snow tunnel entrance. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Settling in

I went with a great suggestion my brother gave me, which was to use tin ceiling panels as the heat shield for the stove, although it was a little flimsy, and so had to back with a sheet of aluminum. The stove is sitting on a floating steel shelf, so that wood and newspaper can fit underneath. After a few nights of unbearable heat and open windows, I've gotten used to the routine. On sunny days, though, the sunlight through the windows is enough to heat the whole house. I have yet to see my breath when waking up or coming back from work. Maybe it won't be the same in February, but this little stove has been doing more than I had ever hoped.

Under-counter shelving next to the stove.

The trunk I have been lugging around with me for over 7 years finally has a home. It slides out from under the bookcase and then the front flips open to reveal the drawers. 

I was actually surprised how simple in was to make these shelves. Just ran vertical, and then diagonal cuts on the table saw, then when the table saw broke (nothing to do with these cuts, I promise) used a miter saw to make the diagonal. Then ripped the wood into 4 identical strips, and voila. 

Becoming un-tethered.

The lights are on and the house is officially off-grid, which meant I could finally take the extension cord out of the living room window. Almost 2 months in, and no major issues as of yet. There are still wires to be run, lights and switches to install, and the more detailed monitoring system still needs to be installed. Still, there is an outlet and 2 lights, which means I am set for winter. Anything else is bonus. I have also started to turn off my fridge. Although I feel like the system could handle it even after 4 cloudy days, I am using my fridge like an icebox, freezing soda bottles of water and ice packs outside at night. Works like a charm.

Testing out the first AC outlet.

Drilling out blank switch plates I was able to install dc switches. 
I blew out the dimmer switch that came with this lamp when I tried to remove the transformer and rewire it for dc. I have another dimmer switch ordered, but for now there is the toggle one dangling from the bottom.

I am in love with these mono-point ports, which were from a 12v track system with just no transformer installed.

The label from one of my two solar panels.

I still have wiring to do, and one conduit remaining that needs wiring run through it, but I thought any of your DIY-ers might find it useful to actually see what all the components look like, and how much space they take up. This all fits into less then half of the nose of the trailer.

My dad made me this amazing adjustable stand for the panels.

Eventually these will be used instead of the sandbags.