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.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Living in a construction site

Now that school has started up again, it is back to working in short spurts when I get home, usually still in a skirt and smock. I was originally thinking that moving in before things were finished might be a bad idea - that it would just make things take longer or that it would be uncomfortable without certain utilities set up yet. What I have found, however, is that instead of seeing things as missing, this backwards process has been making me grateful for each convenience that is added. 
Every new step is like a present. 

My aunt and uncle who were visiting in the beginning of September helped put together the compost bins from used pallets. The center area will eventually have a roof with rain water collection to a barrel. The left side will be used for wood this winter and then be converted to a compost bin when the wood shed is built next summer. I have also finally had the pleasure of emptying the buckets, without any issues.

This retrofitted water storage tank is still very much in the experimental stage.  The top spout is two pieces of pvc that screw together through the hole, with thick rubber washers on either side to account for the curve of the tank. It sits under the trailer, the little spout on the top attaching through the floor to the bison pump inside by way of a flexible pvc pipe. Once I have the gutters up I'll be drilling another hole for an inlet. For now, I have a second tank that sits on a cart, gets filled at the main house, and then crawling under the trailer syphon the water in like I'm stealing gasoline from a gas tank. Next step is to build the solar collector and insulated box, to see how I can make it work in the winter time. 

Inside is all rigid piping with a foot valve attached at the end for large particle filtration. This was at the recommendation of the folks at bison pump. Just had to make sure to remove the check valve first. The whole thing sits off the bottom by an inch. The factory installed outlet at the top of the picture is plugged up and will be used when needed to be drained completely.
In retrospect this stand is too short (but fine for this winter, so it stays for a while). I also have to decide if I want to change the direction of the pump (the handle can change direction too) since once I have the hose connected to the water tanks above the shower, it might be awkward looking.
Although this setup allows the kitchen sink to drain, I should note that I am NOT happy with this design, and will be changing it soon. I will most likely just use two separate lines, one for the sink and one for the tub. That way the slope can be more consistent and less attachments to unattached. Right now though it works, so yippee!

My friend Paul who was visiting from Buffalo went and dug me the trench for the grey water filtration. When I have my own land I am planning to create a system that works within specific landscaping. For now though I figure the most direct and simplified design is the way to go for this first winter. Apparently there is not much concern for freezing with a system like this, so we'll see how it goes.

My aunt and uncle also put the black polish on the stove. Now I am just waiting for the stovepipe to arrive and for my brother to finish welding the stand, and then there will be heat. I tried to get the stovepipe locally, but everyone at the local stove places here told me there was no such thing as a 4 inch stovepipe, so had to go back to the original source. In the meantime I am cheating and am using the one electrical line from the main house to run a space heater when needed, which is not very often. This little box retains heat very well. 

So exciting when I could install the stove and actually make tea in the morning.
Soon it will be time for apple pies and pear cake.

The sink....... that drains! Right now the faucet is just for show, but the berkey filter to the left is doing a great job. It did take me a while to find a place to get grey water safe dish soap, however. Even the local coop was no help, with most "natural" products still containing sodium lauryl sulfate or not listing all of their ingredients. Was finally able to get my hands on some of the Oasis brand after some heavy searching. 
The one foot deep closet in all its glory! The hangers are on little eye hooks, and I was able to comfortably fit about ten hangers in all. One of the first things I did when I decided to build this house was cut down my wardrobe. I'm glad I did it beforehand, otherwise I might have eliminated according to what space I had rather than what I needed. As it is there is plenty of breathing room. I am fairly certain that I will eventually be adding a curtain as well as some ceramic door knob I made two summers ago on the sides for scarves.

Some photos taken before the move by my friends Cheech (the first two) and Melanie (the last one). 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Moving in...

School, or at least two days of faculty meetings, begins tomorrow and so this past week has been spent making the space livable and to move it into place. While there are still loads to do, with the electric, plumbing, heating, etc. left to hook up, I have moved my mattress in. 
And for now, that is more than enough.  

Our friend Walter generously made the maple counter tops for me, along with tagging the underside. Incidentally, Walter is also the one who had tagged the vapor barrier with port-a-house.  

Framing for the counter on the south wall with the 12v fridge and sink. 

Framing for the counter on the north wall

I finally got around to finishing the nose (as well as the roof) - in time for picking up the batteries from Massachusetts. This picture shows the roof of the nose mid trimming.
For the toilet, I based the design off of the lovable loo. It's a bit wider to include a compartment for sawdust or other covering, and a little bit taller so the sawdust bucket sits flush under the top, and a short stand for the toilet bucket so it sits right under the seat. This one still needs a lid for the sawdust. To the left you can see a little shelf that is built into the wall and actually sits in some unusable space under the kitchen counter. Next step though is to see if Willow will want to use it too.... 

The unfinished stand for the bison pump, which will be used to pump water from the rainwater collection tank underneath the trailer, either into a bucket or up to storage tanks above the tub. For winter I will be experimenting with using a solar collector to keep the tank itself from freezing.
The line itself, though, will drain back down after every use.

For the short move, Kevin and his children came out to lend a hand and a truck.
Although I would like to try out towing it with my Yaris next time. 

The house in it's new temporary home. It'll be on the edge of my folks property until I have land of my own to move to. Until that time I still get to enjoy access to the shop, the sounds of the river, the vegetable garden in the backyard, and pear trees in the front.

Maple helping me install the cat door.

And the finished cat door.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The beginning of interior work

The bathroom ceiling was the first section to go up.
 I wanted to complete a whole section for that sense of immediate satisfaction before moving on to more complicated areas. That, and I just LOVE the cedar.

The chimney support....
I have no idea how you're supposed to cut around pipes, but this made up method definitely worked for me. First I took a piece of paper, lined an edge up with the wall and drew the basic diameter of the pipe. Then I cut some slits so it could slide over the chimney support and used a pencil to scribe the resulting oval before cutting it out. 

Since the bottom edge of the paper lined up with the wall, all I had to do was square it up, do some basic measurements, and trace.

And voila!

The light fixtures.....
I got these nifty 12v light fixtures and in order to put them in had to cut some of the insulation for the part that protrudes as well as a rainbow like arc for the mc cable to be able to move in and out of the small hole in the ceiling.

For where there are a series of three lights together I used a piece of paper to map things out before cutting into the insulation, and then reused it when cutting the holes.
Putting up a 15' ceiling board by yourself.....

Using three ladders and various wedges and twisting boards to lock things into place and a number of new expletives, it can be done.

 The ceiling almost done....

The pine paneling complete....

The bathroom wall....

It was amazing to see how quickly even this basic framing creates a totally new sense of space.

Cedar from the bathroom will show through these shelves.

The small wall between the kitchen and living area....

The short loft bed....

To the right is the unfinished book case which will have adjustable shelves (I hope). On the upper left is another shelf, which will also be backed with pine T&G, and allow for the possibility of a curtain if I ever desire.

A way to move a miter saw by yourself without dismantling it first....

Just figured this one out today, and my back thanks me...

Next up.... Trim work, under loft and bedroom shelving, and finishing the roof before hurricane season starts up again.