Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Nostalgic Saturday And The Seasonal Compost Flip

Last weekend, we took a break from our own day to
day hub-bub and helped out some fellow tinies.

It felt really good to build be around a still forming tiny be around a pair absolutely lit afire with excitement, conviction, and determination. Our friends, Justin and Jenny, first found us through our blog. They began following along- avidly- earlier than most. With every post they commented and shared our enthusiasm- helping propel us forward on days we couldn't quite do so by ourselves. Then, we started a totally unrelated business, but they embraced that with the same bright delight as our tiny house journey- nearly every week, one or both would visit us at the farmer's market, buying a smattering of items each time. They even put us in contact with a possible restaurant collaboration! 

Before and After in the "Bedroom" :)

They also came over a few weekends back, our first dinner party of any kind! It was a great time, full of enlivened conversation and a genuine desire to learn about one another. We learned that our timelines had certain similarities. In October of 2013, as we moved into our tiny house- still not quite complete- they moved into the small RV they currently call home. It was a strategic step on their part, not only did it help them financially in preparing for the project, it prepared them for living tiny before they even began prepping the trailer. They have faced two hellish winters (for RI anyway) in that small, scantily insulated RV. During the especially bitter days of February, when we couldn't keep the propane coming fast enough, they had to retreat to a family members house. Now that's commitment!!  With all that on our minds, Dan and I just really want to see the marvelous couple enjoy this coming winter in the comforts of their new tiny house. 

We arranged to come help them out some Saturday. With the markets winding down and the weather closing in, we committed to a weekend. We headed out that morning, all layered up, tools in hand, pencils behind the ears, ready to put in a good days work. We showed up to help at a great point in their build too-- they were beginning the interior finish surfaces. We can SO relate to this couple on a level that is hard to describe to anyone who has not faced this kind of project. I remember the utter joy that pulsed through me as we put up those first few beautiful blonde planks of pine. AT LAST! No more bloody insulating! No more ugly insides of the walls to stare at! This is our finished wall! 

We quickly split into teams. Justin and Dan went to work on putting up the rest of the ceiling insulation- up to the bathroom, while Jenny and I worked on installing the first pieces of dry wall in the bedroom area. They have a goose-neck trailer, and like many with that trailer type, decided to put the bed up in that space. I was excited to see a goose-neck design in person. 

By the end of the afternoon, Dan and Justin had completed the ceiling insulation, and started putting up the ceiling sheets. Jenny and I completed all drywall in the "bedroom" and the step down area up to the front door. It was so much fun working with them and getting back to a project like this. Don't get me wrong, I love to bake, but it was a welcome change of pace for the day. Follow their story and root them on as they race to move in before the snow slows them down! Checkout their blog here

Just last weekend, we did our semi-annual flip of the compost piles. I was quite amazed to see how quickly the first year's pile shrunk. The compost bay that was mounded over full this April, only had inches of material left! Our second bay was nearing full, and could use a toss and a good infusion of carbon materials, so we flipped it into the first bay. Dan slowly tossed segments of the pile as I tossed in buckets full of leaves. It was a perfect time-- ample leaf piles had collected along the road and driveway. The material had already started to darken and breakdown. A rich earthy smell rose up from every new stab into the pile. 

This was mounded over the top just 6 months ago!
It's amazing in a way- to stand in front of a years worth of your own bio-material. It doesn't add up to as much as I thought. I had my worries about managing the actual mass of our heap when we first began. I don't know why I thought we would produce mountains of the stuff! Turns out that two compost bays measuring roughly four feet by four feet is enough for the two of us. It took us minutes to assemble using recycled (and totally free) pallets.

Ready for another year's worth!

We got lost in the numbers as we worked the heaps, calling out how much water we saved, how much energy saved for water that didn't need to be treated...the amount of chemicals that never got dumped into the water....the rippling waves of benefits seem to extend out into oblivion. All through such a simple, humbling practice. I am glad we chose to do this. I am glad we did not cling with fear to the porcelain bowl. An effect I didn't anticipate is perhaps my favorite: I feel so much more connected to everything around us, now that we are completing the true nutrient cycle...what we cannot use, we put back. 

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Our THSC 3 Experience and A Month of Milestones

Steppin' it up a notch for our Anniversary dinner
October just seems to be our month for making things happen!

I'm flat out amazed that it has been over a month since my last seemed like just last week! I have a very poor sense of the passage of time these days-- which in some cases is good- but in other ways, it's a bit troubling. I hope we find some balance and a steadier pace soon. 

The last we all spoke, Dan and I were headed up to Deek's Tiny House Summer Camp 3 for the weekend. We had another stellar time, and as soon as we returned, the swift currents of my life swept me right back up again. Not to mention, we entered October, a month full of milestones for us. October 1st marked two years of living tiny! I'd say we are fully converted at this point- I rarely ever find myself longing for extra space or wishing I had this or that available at all times. In fact, I find myself wanting to continue paring down my belongings!

Three years ago this week! WOW.

I'm astounded by the versatility and resilience of people all over the world. I see the homes they have, the environment they live in, and I think- "Wow, I couldn't live like that.." But now, that reaction has started to change. I look at the decisions Dan and I deliberately made, how radical of a change it was, and I realize we made the shift in easy strides! We went from a two bedroom apartment with unlimited running water, full bathroom, unlimited electricity, unlimited internet, and excessive spare spaces for junk to crop up to a box on wheels with no plumbing, solar electricity, and mobile hotspot ting through our phones for internet. Some people would consider our way of living to be a lot more work. I disagree- it simply requires a lot more intention and presence here and now...these are practices I am very grateful to have as new habits.
Rollerblading! Fun times! (Pre-dog-bite that is..)

Just nine days later, we celebrated our first year anniversary as a married couple! We wanted to do a little weekend get away, but simply couldn't get the planning together in time. So- we decided we would take a full weekend "away" from all of life's responsibilities. We did whatever the hell we wanted all weekend long. We hit the pause button on everything- our business, our chores, our projects...and just enjoyed one another. We went rollerblading, biking, walking through the woods so I could take photos, stepped it up a notch and went out for dinner, and plenty of just laying around with good food and good movies. 

The only picture I thought to take that night!
I guess I was enjoying myself thoroughly :)

And one last milestone to note- our first Tinies Double Date! We had our first pair of dinner guests at the tiny house! And they too are tiny housers! Justin and Jenny are in the midst of building their tiny house in Southern RI. We knew of them for quite a while since Justin started following us online. He was always right there with a compliment or comment to boost our morale, and we can't wait to return the favor. Once we started the business, he was also one of our first loyal customers at the Haines Park market! I was super excited to meet them both, and the friendship quickly blossomed from there. If you want to follow along with their progress, check out pics on Justin's facebook page "Transition Tiny" and updates on their blog.

As soon as they arrived, they were both like kids in a candy store. Despite working towards this dream for the last two years, they still had not set foot in a tiny house. We were happy to take that V-card from ya, guys! (hehe) It was really great to see how visibly amped they were just to be around our homestead and pick our brains. 

We shared a great dinner on the deck as the stars came out, then moved inside to keep warm and keep chatting....or laughing. I honestly think we did more of that! We had a great time with these two- they are funny, humble, generous, and kind individuals. We truly hope they can realize the dream of staying their first winter in the tiny house. For the past two years they lived in an RV...and let me tell you, the winters were not easy. We plan to head over there on Saturday and give them a boost to finish the inside!

Now let's back it up to September. We had a market on Friday and Saturday- but we just couldn't afford to miss both markets so we decided to give up Saturday and leave a little early on Friday. We baked late Thursday into Friday morning's wee hours. Loaded up the car, headed home, slept for about 4 hours, then headed to market. We had a pretty busy day which was great, but meant we didn't get going as soon as we wanted. Finally, we packed up our booth, raced back to HQ, unloaded the booth and products, prepped and stored leftovers, then raced home. We had Dan's truck partially packed, but we still had plenty more to do- which we did- in turbo mode. 

We hopped on the road around 3:30-4 pm and headed north. I knew we were headed to the boonies of VT so I had the foresight to screen capture all of Deek's very specific directions for finding the site. Boy am I glad we did, because we lost all reception just as we started to enter the gray zone for GPS too. We had only Deek's directions for the last 20 minutes...and the sun had just about set. 

Fellow tiny houser Ethan Waldman singing some original tunes,

The directions were spot on- Thank you Deek! - and we arrived at the site just as the last remnants of the sun left the sky. We were surprised to roll up on an impromptu parking lot of almost 30 cars! We had no idea how people were going to be here! And many of them were a part of Deek's ever growing gang of tiny housers that often come along to speak to the group, chat with individuals, and help out with the build. 

After quickly setting up our camp site, we headed down to the fire pit area. We simply listened for the commotion and headed that way! We came upon the full group, in the midst of lively conversation, all tucked around a great big fire. Just to the left was one of Deek's larger structures on the property, a cabin that sleeps 6+ people. To the right was one of his smaller structures, serving as a stage for speakers and singers. 

We jumped in right away- saying our hello's to Deek and the Gang and then plopping down by the fire. We spent that first evening drinking and sharing our story - piecemeal and off the cuff. We answered questions without hesitation or hampering. We were honest, light-hearted, and funny in our approach to building and living tiny- and I think that's just what a lot of those attendees needed. I saw subtle changes in attitude and spirit as we shared stories and answered questions for each of them. 

The next day was a madhouse of awesomeness. I also got to truly appreciate that magical plot of land he's got. Everywhere you look is something colorful, funky, and quirky whether it be the angry goose crossing, the random turtle statue off the side of one of many winding trails, all leading to one sweet structure after another. Deek had FOUR different projects going at once...and located in different areas all through the woods of his land. By the time the day was through, Dan and I had helped with each and every one of them. I spent most of my time helping out with the super secret tiny tree house. You can't even see it until you are practically right in front of it! 

I had fun, getting back to just brute labor for a day. I helped haul in supplies to the tree house location, helped organize an assembly line for getting boards measured and cut (by hand) and taught some people how to properly use a saw. Toward the end of the day, I met up to see what Dan was working on and helped finish a the second outhouse with him and the others.

Experiences like this make me really appreciate my youth. All of these skills that seem like common place knowledge to me, really never even cross the minds of most people. Then again, why would it? If you don't live in the sticks or heat with wood, why would you know much about a saw or a hatchet. We all live extremely different walks of life- and not a one of us can say which is best- so I respect them all. It was really nice, though, to have so many aspects of my "walk" highlighted and even revered during this weekend. 

Palo, you are a crazy mo'fo! It's not a truck!

By Sunday, we had had two nights full of drinking and conversing, so all of us were moving a little slower. I honestly didn't know how far we would get, but the tree house was pretty much complete- save for some finishing work, the outhouse was completed, the rustic single sleeper was completed, and the mobile structure Deek planned to take to a show in NY was pretty close too. He ended up finishing the thing on his own after the workshop ended.

All in all, it was another great time in the woods of Vermont. We made more great connections with new folks, shared some of our baked goods (which got very positive reviews from all!), learned some amazing life stories, and gathered more inspiration and hope for the future of tiny living. 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The 100% Recycled Outdoor Shower - And Other Little Projects

This summer's tiny house projects are meager
compared to the last two years.

But, that is bound to happen as you near the end of that "Must Have" list and start venturing
into the "Nice to Have" list, which seems can always be pushed to a later date. Couple that with a new business and generally active/social lifestyle and you don't see the same kind of pace as in years past. C'est la vie! I have learned to embrace the constant juggling of projects rather than the neat, clean chronological completion that the anal retentive side of me so desperately craves. 

Shower stall wood, ready to go.

Last year we spoke often about getting an outdoor shower together, but we had too many other far more pressing needs. This season we had a little help and inspiration. One thing I didn't mention about our week in VT at the Strawbale workshop with Andrew Morrison was the awesome outdoor shower set up that our hosts, Tyler and Tara, created. I wish I had taken a was a simple and quick set up. They wrapped tarps around a small circle of trees, filling the ground within that space with small smooth pebbles. A wonderful treat for achey feet! A small cement circle stone stood just below the shower head. A tankless water heater, 20 pound propane tank, huge water tank, and a shower head were all hooked up to provide us bathing capabilities.
Love working with fallen trees!

Let me tell you- after putting in an 8+ hour day of straight busting ass, your body covered in dust and dirt and straw, that shower experience was other worldly. There is just something about being out in the elements as you wash away the grime that brings a level of refreshment unlike any other shower. After that week, Dan and I were determined to get a shower going at home. As with all of our projects lately, we used all recycled and salvaged materials. 

Dan's Dad was doing some work on his store roof, so more free wood was available to us. We picked the best pieces, organized and chopped them into relative lengths and planed them. Some pieces still have remnants of paint, but I plan to paint a funky mural inside the stall, so we didn't spend excessive amounts of time getting the paint off. 

Next, we headed out into the woods and collected several fallen trees. Dan got his first taste of working with a hatchet and how to properly chop wood. I'm always amused in a special kind of way when I teach someone a skill that any kid in the Northern woods learned by the age of 10. I appreciate my upbringing more and more as the years go by. Isn't that always the way?! 

After collecting enough fallen logs, we headed back to the house. We gave each log a clean chop so they would rest flat on the cement. We cleaned out the small section of the dairy barn remains just behind our tiny house. Conveniently, this slab of concrete has a drain right in the middle with a sloping floor.

We held up each small timber and nailed boards one at a time, then we would connect the next timber, then the next set of boards. Given the floor was slanted for drainage, we said to hell with levels and built the stall to work with the floor. This thing isn't meant for a hurricane shelter, just scrubbing stink off.

Next we searched through the old dairy barn and snagged a few pieces of old metal dairy equipment. One slid perfectly into the wall remnants next to our shower and provided exact placement for our solar shower bag. We dug through our scrap pile and created a little raised platform to stand on while showering. 

We both giggled with glee as we used the shower together for the first time, and discovered some of our hilarious design the gaps between boards being a little too big....and lining up on all the wrong places of Jess's body. It was too funny to be frustrating. If I stood in the right place, it's like a black bar was placed on all the wrong sections of the body. Good thing I'm not a prude! Flopping my towel over the side of the stall fixed this problem pretty quickly. 

We still need to add some hooks, a shelf or two, and a door, but we have a way to bathe people! Outdoor showers rock! 

Shower stall!

In other news- we also managed to sand and stain all of our recycled pallet siding (the stuff that's on the house anyway) so it's looking WAYYY better and behaves much better when it rains. Before, the pine pieces would swell and at times cause some rubbing on the front door. 

The perfect hanging point for our shower.

Ahhh! All stained and protected! Thank goodness!

We also took our home gym up a notch by installing a hang/pull up bar. Again we used part of a fallen timber and some heavy duty rope. We drilled holes in the loft edge and the bar, simply knotting each end of rope to serve as the stopper. This thing has been a lot of fun since the moment we installed it. We are both considerably stronger even just a month later. I can now do 5 full extension pull ups! Not to mention all of the other gravity resistance moves we can do!

Next up, I will recap the awesome weekend at Deek's Tiny House Summer Camp 3 this past weekend!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Video Tour With Deek Is Up!

At long last! 
The tour is up! 

Some of you might remember that I did a tiny house (and homestead) tour of our place with the one and only Deek, in mid June. Deek Diedricksen of is one of the first tiny house personalities I came across and quickly admired. I still remember the days before we even put the first cut in a two by four, combing through youtube videos, collecting ideas and excitement for our build. Deek has been into tiny structures for a long time and has a couple of books, multiple guest appearances on radio, TV, and more... and HGTV shows! It was a silly little dream of mine for him to come tour our house. YAY! He travels all over hosting workshops, taping tiny house tours, and has started to infuse art into all aspects of his endeavors. Check out his videos and his art! Wonderful stuff! And a DOUBLE YAY for us being invited to speak at his upcoming Tiny House Summer Camp 3! We are headed up to Vermont on Friday. Can't wait!

He's a goofball like me, so we had our fun while taking a look around! Enjoy the jokes and the tour! Share away!

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